Etna, California Shamrock Tour®: Paradise Found

Text: Brian Shaney • Photography: Brian Shaney, Kris Shaney

“How long have you been delivering supplies up here?” I ask. “Oh, about 20 years now,” replies Roger. Cora jumps in, eager to add more to the story. “Roger was a logger up in these mountains before that.” “Yeah, that’s true,” Roger says. “But I wasn’t gonna make much of a piano player.”

Roger holds out his hands to show that his second and third fingers are fused together. “Born that way,” he explains. “I could hold an axe and a shovel, but playing piano wasn’t in the cards.” He pauses, then asks, “Where are you folks headed?”

There’s Snow in Them Thar Hills!

Rewind to the previous day: Kris and I are preparing for our first day exploring Northern California. With sunny skies and afternoon highs forecast in the low 80s, the weather couldn’t be better. Our Shamrock Tour® starts as we depart from our overnight stay at a friend’s cabin near the small town of Coffee Creek. Northbound on SR 3, our Day 1 loop begins in earnest.

Kris and I are riding Ducati Scramblers. While Kris is astride a 2019 1100 Special, I am piloting a 2019 Desert Sled variant. The twisty two-lane blacktop is free of traffic, giving us the opportunity to open the throttles a bit. Both bikes exhibit rather enticing growls and together create a fantastic harmony. As our Italian stallions charge on, the theme to the movie Rocky resonates inside my skull: “Duhn duhn duhn! Duhn duhn duhn! Duhn duhn duhnnnn . . .”

The sublime Gazelle Callahan Road leads us east, and following a series of switchbacks, we pass several well-kept farms and pastures. As we round a corner, the snow-covered Mount Shasta appears in the distance. With cattle grazing in the lush green fields, the setting is ideal for our first photo stop of the day. Mount Shasta, part of the Cascade Range, rises to 14,179 feet. A potentially active volcano that the U.S. Geological Survey ranks fifth on its list of 18 high-threat volcanoes, this Northern California landmark is quite popular with skiers and climbers.

Just south of the town of McCloud, we enter into the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, where we stop to explore the three-tiered McCloud Falls. Parking is plentiful at each of the three locations, and paved trails lead to the overlooks. After spending an hour or so exploring the area on foot, Kris and I are eager to get back on the bikes and are soon heading north on Pilgrim Creek Road.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the July/August 2020 back issue.