EASTBAYTIMES.COM: October 6, 2016
If you like sleeping under the stars but aren’t keen on camping — think about giving the H-word a try. Houseboating is the perfect fall activity, when summer lake traffic has slowed to a trickle and offseason prices kick in.
In fact, if you sit right back, you’ll hear a tale — a bit like Gilligan’s Isle. Only in this story, three moms set sail, recently, for a three-day tour of Lake Shasta and its roughly 400-mile shoreline.
The weather was perfect and will be, well into fall — with daytime highs in the 70s and water temperatures to match. Our ship was the Cascade, a modest-sized houseboat with four beds, stocked kitchen, bath and two decks. We rented it from Bridge Bay Marina, received our briefing and confidently pulling away from the dock.
Turns out you have to untie your moorings before you can leave the landing, so that was lesson number one. But the skipper and mates soon learned how to navigate the floating hotel and we charted our course to a “hidden” waterfall at Little Backbone Creek.
A houseboat glides through the water, creating almost no wake at its top speed of 15 miles per hour. This allowed us to take turns piloting the boat while we explored the lake’s coves, crags and pine-covered shorelines. No wonder they call this the houseboating capital of the world. We passed all manner of watercraft, including the Titan, a luxury boat with three decks, private state rooms, a sunken hot tub and spiral tube waterside. Houseboat envy can set in rapidly out here.
Still, we loved our Cascade, which we lovingly called Sloop Dog even though houseboats don’t have sails. Its small size let us tie up close to the creek so we could hike to a spectacular falls that splashed over a natural “slide” and into a deep, azure pool of water. And we had it all to ourselves.
Little Backbone is one of some 20 waterfalls in the region, said Scott and Julie, our innkeepers the first night we stayed on the lake. We rented a cabin at the upscale Tsasdi Resort in Lakehead, letting us explore the north shores with their complimentary kayaks before resting up for the houseboat adventure ahead.
We needed it. Ole Sloop Dog got stuck in the cove near the falls and took all of us pushing to free it. We quickly learned to find deeper water for tying up and bedding down for the night.
We also learned that not all coves have cell service or Wi-Fi. If you feel safer “connected,” stay within range of the lake’s eight marinas. If not, unplug. Take a deep breath and enjoy the solitude of nature where every star gleams in the vast night sky and the water laps gently against the bow of your private deck. This is where secrets are shared and deep, meaningful conversations devolve into giggles as you realize the houseboat across the cove is sending you flashlight signals.
Some things to explore on the lake include Shasta Dam. Obviously, don’t get too close to it, but enjoy — from afar — the second-largest concrete dam in America. There’s also Shasta Caverns, where you can see nature’s humor with formations like cave bacon and draperies. And it’s worth piloting your boat to Merle Haggard’s old Marina, Silverthorn, and the nearby Jones Marina, where they rent the Titan and other big boats.
For us, the Cascade was big enough. And unlike the gang on Gilligan’s Isle, we returned our boat safely to its dock and were back to the Bay Area in no time.
What are your favorite local adventures? Drop me a line, and I’ll share them with readers. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at http://www.ginnyprior.com.
If you go
You can find year-round rentals at Bridge Bay Houseboats: http://www.bridgebayhouseboats.com.
Upscale cabins start at $125 a night at Tsasdi Resort: http://www.tsasdiresort.us.
Explore Lake Shasta Caverns website at http://lakeshastacaverns.com.
Find more vacation tips at http://www.shastacascade.com and http://www.visitredding.com.