The Willamette Valley of western Oregon separates the Coast Range from the darkly forested ridges of the Western Cascades. Both the Coast Range and Willamette Valley formed about 35 million years ago on a slab of old seafloor on which most of northwestern and western Oregon is built.
Today, I traveled the length of the Willamette Valley with Peter R., a colleague from Atlanta visiting Portland. We left the city around 8 am and after getting through the rush-hour traffic headed south on I-5 toward Eugene, Oregon.
In the geologic past, before faulting opened the valley, the Coast Range to the west extended eastward to the Cascades. Today, the valley narrows to the south until Eugene, where the two mountain ranges once again meet.
We continued south on I-5 past Eugene through the merged ranges. Near Roseburg, Oregon, we first encountered the Klamath Range, where the mountains become higher and more rugged. Further south, as we approached Medford, Mount McLoughlin, a large, steep-sided volcano, came into view, promising even more exciting vistas ahead.
In Medford, we stopped for lunch and I had a bowl of what is quite likely the best chicken soup I've ever tasted at the Kaleidoscope Pizzeria and Pub. Continuing on, we gained considerable elevation as we traveled further south still, until we reached the Siskiyou Mountain Summit which, at 4,310 feet, is the highest point on I-5.
Soon afterwards, we entered California. The Klamaths are basically the northern extension of the Sierra Nevadas, offset to the west from the rest of the moutain range. Traveling through the Klamaths in California, Mount Shasta (14,162 feet) soon presented itself, first in teasing glimpses over other mountains, and then finally in plain view.
We stopped for the day in the intriguingly named town of Weed, California. However, it turns out that Weed got its name from one Abner Weed, the founder of the local lumber mill, who bought the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill and 280 acres of land in 1897 for the sum of $400.
From various points in and around Weed, we were provided magnificent views of Mount Shasta until the sun finally set.