Last weekend Quinn and I set out to explore the first stage of Life of Water. Our vision has been to create a 500 mile route from Mt. Shasta to the Bay Delta by way of the Sierra Nevada. Sure there are roads, yeah it’s “possible”, but what we learned was entirely different. Look in Our Laboratory for a quick summary.

Here is the section of the route we got into.


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We began with Mossbrae Falls.


This spring fed waterfall feeds into the Upper Sacramento River and is well worth the jaunt to find it. Everything about the falls is enchanting except the hike along an active rail line out to them. It’s as though Union Pacific laid tracks right past an edge of Eden. While we whole heartedly recommend giving two hours to hike the tracks, find Mossbrae and get primitive with the Sacramento, but you won’t find a tour of these falls on Life of Water.

In Mt. Shasta proper we met with our first potential host, the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center. This grassroots non-profit works to protect, restore, and honor the origin of the Sacramento river. In their words their work is ‘holding sacred space.’

“…this means a healthy bioregion surrounding a Mountain shining in its white robe of snow, mantled by the ancient Shasta red fir forest and other lavish flora and wildlife encompassing five life zones (from arctic alpine down to sonoran), waters running crystal pure and unpolluted skies, with responsible stewardship and enjoyment by human beings.”

In 24 years of community stewardship, education and restoration projects on Mt. Shasta these folks have staved back ski-condos from sacred lands, backed down water barons, geothermal vampires, and kept the mountains forests out from under the blade.

The center has built coalitions between the Winnemem Wintu and other indigenous tribes to establish two traditional cultural districts in the region. Medicine Lake (above) and Mt. Shasta itself.

We learned the Winnemem Wintu occasionally speak and participate in the centers annual restoration faire in the Fall. If we’re lucky and everything fits we’ll align with one of these special events as a starting point for a Life of Water tour. That was the take away from our meeting with the centers executive director, Michelle Berditschevsky.

Q&I quietly walked Mt. Shasta to let the ideas settle. We are off! Thanks Michelle for having us in last minute at 5:00pm on a Friday. You work hard at great work!

From there we filled our jars from the headwaters spring and picked up the route.

It’s 50 miles of downhill to this campsite

Nested upon a ledge overlooking the confluence of Hawkin Creek and the McCloud River, this campsite is second to nothing we’ve seen lately. We figure this where Day 1 ends. After a six of Lagunitas’ Harry Eyeball we had dreamed up everything from the nights meal plan, ride guide topics, and where the group would be at after the days happenings. Day 1 looked picturesque, pure WM flavor.

Then we woke up to Day 2…

It’s 8%+ grade, loose pack dirt with baby heads over and down the first ridge!

So here’s the rub: To follow the water, to really see, we’ve gotta ride service roads built nearly a century ago. If you’re familiar with old carriage roads then you know back then folks built roads to reflect the unyielding fortitude carried in their black and bitter hearts. Traversing pocked backroads along the Pit and McCloud river systems does not make a vacation- it’s the fodder of endurance races but not necessarily what we’re after.

This route follows the rivers to a backdoor of Mt. Lassen and passes antiquated powerhouses from the New Deal era. It’s beautiful, peaceful, challenging and nothing we’d trust average cyclists to ride.

WINNING SOLUTION #1 We make Life of Water a series of tours (just like our brewery tours) and follow different river systems though a diverse spread of regions for unique causes. This feels like a perfect answer to create tours folks can connect to, ride, afford, give time for, and enjoy in their memories.

So Life of Water now slated to become a several tours. Collect ‘em all! Watch for updates on this new direction.

WINNING SOLUTION #2 Bikepacking! Lately, we’ve been frothing for dirt. Bikepacking is what’s next! As we look to the future you can expect to see more small group expeditions going after routes to take you from the backroads and into the backwoods. We have a dirt route though the Sierra Nevada. Watch for a bikepacking option to Life of Water. We can’t help ourselves after seeing the possibilities.

This is Tim. He’s one mellow gentlemen with a helluva a mean remote control toy. That Pape whole tree chipper there is replete with rotor, chipper box, and feed system that is “strongest around,” according to Tim. This rig turns out high quality Biomass chips custom sized from 12 to 32 mm. If you can find the trees “this is good for the loggers and good for the environmentalists, what more do you want?” Well…

We ended our scouting mission with an 80 mile detour around a snowed in pass and this thought: Bicycle tours are a means to deeply understanding place.

Though site tours, service, discussion with experts, ceremony, reflection and direct action we are aiming to create an event that is both empowering and enriching.

Keep tuned to our laboratory as we roll out ongoing development of Life of Water. And drop us a line if you’ve got a route or a cause that could line up with this project as it matures.

Thank’s for riding,

WM