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Northern California

The ultimate summer vacation

Mount Shasta Resort offers lovely views of Mount Shasta. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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The first thoughts when California comes to mind are San Diego, San Francisco or Yosemite National Park, and many overlook the northern part of the state which is about a nine-hour drive from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. This beautiful area of the state has fun attractions, stunning natural scenery, a giant mountain without all the crowds surrounding the larger cities and national parks. Plan to take an earlier summer trip before temperatures begin to soar.

Mount Shasta Resort -- This will be your base for touring the area. This lovely resort is nestled in a forest overlooking Lake Siskiyou with stunning views of its namesake Mount Shasta. This is a full service resort with restaurant, spa and challenging 18-hole golf course on 126 acres. Accommodations include the choice of chalets with kitchens, living and dining areas with separate bedrooms and a large deck or the woodland rooms, which are large hotel-style rooms. Splurge for a lake view. The resort has a homey feel with a nice, friendly staff. Insider Tip: Ask about a fun new style of golf at the Pro Shop called Whing Golf. The rules are similar to regular golf, but instead of needing lots of clubs and other equipment to play, all you need is a Whinger, a putter, and a golf ball. Basically, you throw the golf ball with the whinger until you get to the green, and then you use the putter. Super fun and can be played alongside traditional golfers.

Mount Shasta Resort, 1000 Siskiyou Lake Blvd., Mount Shasta, California, 530.926.3030,

Shasta Mountain Guides -- Shasta Mountain Guides offer a fun climbing day which is perfect for the whole family. It is designed for climbers with little or no experience. After checking in at the office to get equipment we followed our guide to Cantara Crag. From the parking area it is a five-minute walk, the crag is nestled next to flowing water and a nice swimming hole. It makes for an enjoyable location if you are not climbing. Our guide, Joey Iosue, was the perfect instructor for two teenage boys. Iosue has over nine years of experience rock climbing and it shows in the easy way he quickly had the ropes set up. His instructing style was fun and laidback while being completely safety conscious. Within a short period of time, both boys were quickly scrambling up the side of Cantara Crag. Iosue started them out on a simple route and once that was mastered moved them on to a more technical climb. After mastering rock climbing and working up a sweat, it was time for a cooling dip in the swimming hole. It was a great way to end the day. Shasta Mountain Guides can set up the perfect trip for your family adventure whether you want to climb for a few hours or the whole day.

Shasta Mountain Guides, 230 North Mount Shasta Blvd., Mount Shasta, California, 530.926.3117,

Bellarmine Preparatory School student Charlie Cleveland masters rock climbing. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

Day Trip to Redding -- Spend the morning touring the Turtle Bay Exploration Park which is like five attractions in one. The 300-acre site features the museum, forestry & wildlife center, arboretum, botanical gardens as well as the stunning Sundial Bridge. There are plenty of outside spaces and hands-on activities children will love. The summer 2018 exhibit is "The World's Largest Dinosaurs," which will captivate the whole family. Have lunch at one of the many great burger joints such Bartels Giant Burger, which has been a Redding institution since 1975. They source their food from local small businesses as much as possible. In the afternoon, head over to Waterworks Park, because it's not summer without at least one trip to a waterpark. It is on the smaller size but it has many of the newer thrill rides seen at larger parks and is easy to access from Interstate 5. Insider Tip: The Sundial Bridge is a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.

Turtle Bay Exploration Park, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 844 Sundial Bridge Dr., Redding, California, 530.243.8850,

Bartels Giant Burger, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, 18509 Lake Blvd. E., Redding, California, 530.243.7313,

Waterworks Park, summer hours vary, 151 Boulder Dr., Redding, California, 530.246.9550,

Splurge on a Houseboat -- Take a few days to "Disconnect to Reconnect." According to Howard Weinberg, CEO of Bridge Bay at Shasta Lake, "Houseboating is the quintessential ‘Americana' vacation. It allows us to hearken back to simpler times, when an outdoor vacation was not interrupted by the technology of today's world. Houseboating is camping on the water. At Shasta Lake, in particular, one has the ability to depart from Bridge Bay marina on a houseboat that comfortably sleeps 10 people and then cruise up one of the arms of Shasta Lake to a cove, where one can dock on the shore and spend several days enjoying Shasta Lake and the Shasta/Trinity National Forest." There are over 300 miles of shoreline on Shasta Lake and plenty of private coves to anchor or beach for the night. Spend a few days on the water and enjoy ski boats, jet skis, SUP paddleboards, fishing and swimming. At night, sit by a campfire or watch the stars. Insider Tip: Bridge Bay at Shasta Lake offers a 15 percent military discount.

Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark -- The Lake Shasta Caverns are a network of caves located near the McCloud arm of Shasta Lake. This is an old school tourist attraction and it is just charming. Located on the banks of Shasta Lake, your tour starts with a boat ride across the lake. If you decided to rent a houseboat you can dock it on the other side of the lake to take the tour. Once you arrive it is a short ride to the bus waiting to take you to the top of the hill where a narrated trip which shares tales of local history and information on the wildlife in the area awaits. When you reach the top you meet a guide who will take you on a tour of the caverns, which are nice and cool on a summer day. In addition to the tours, the company offers weekend dinner cruises. Insider Tip: Even big kids will like the Sandy Creek Mining Sluice. Sluice for gemstones and fossils while working in the trough.

Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark, daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 20359 Shasta Caverns Rd., Lakehead, California, 800.795.2283,

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area -- This is one of the highlights of the area. The crystal-clear, blue waters of the lake are fed by mountain streams. The natural features of the park include mountains, four waterfalls, and 70 miles of trails. The lake offers beautiful beaches with kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals. For a quieter experience take one of the many dirt roads around the lake and find your own private cove to enjoy a picnic and a swim. If you are a history buff, check out the Tower House Historic District and learn about the California Gold Rush. Walk through the area and view the interpretive exhibits and see the Camden House built in 1852. On Sundays during the summer season, take a Ranger-led tour and learn about the Camden Family, tour the home and then try some gold panning in the creek. Make a visit to the website before you visit Whiskeytown for Ranger-led activities which are free. Sign up in advance for Kayak and Stand-up Paddle Board tours (boards and boats included), or plan to join a moonlight kayak trip. There are also evening star and astronomy programs. Insider Tip: Make sure to stop at the visitor center when you arrive. Great views of the lake and interpretive exhibits about the dam are very interesting. Inside, get maps, brochures and tips on how to spend your day. Make sure to pack a picnic as facilities are limited.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 14412 J.F. Kennedy Memorial Drive, Whiskeytown, California, 530.246.1225,

A quiet cove, in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, is perfect for a picnic and swim. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

In addition to all these activities, there are cute small towns near the Mount Shasta Resort such as Mount Shasta, Weed and McCloud which are fun places to go get an evening meal or explore the local businesses. Don't miss the McCloud Mercantile. Mount Shasta (the mountain) provides plenty of opportunity for hiking. The hike to McCloud Falls is beautiful with an easy trail perfect for families. Fishing is very popular in the area with plenty of lakes and streams filled with fish. For a bigger city experience, Redding has everything you need in the way of shopping and restaurants. For more information on planning a trip to the area, visit: and

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