Since 1923, the Shasta Alpine Lodge has been the last stop before the summit.
On July 4, 1923, Miss Aurelia Harwood — soon to be the first female president of the Sierra Club — broke a bottle of ginger ale on the doorway of a one-room stone cabin, pronouncing, "I christen thee Shasta Alpine Lodge and dedicate thee to all lovers of the great out-of-doors."
More than 80 years later, the humble structure 8,000 feet up on Mt. Shasta's south flank is still an important way station for thousands of outdoor enthusiasts. Now owned by the Sierra Club Foundation, the building was recently refurbished with a new roof and door made of recycled and reclaimed materials.
Though it's used both as a rest stop for dayhikers — who can peruse its small library or take a load off at the table and benches inside — and as a base for climbers, no one actually sleeps at the "lodge." Overnight visitors instead pitch their tents in nearby Horse Camp. Seasonal caretakers answer questions, keep the campground clean, and help in rescue situations. "It's demanding, physically and mentally," says 27-year-old caretaker Ryan Johnston. "When you start in May, there's still ten feet of snow. It takes a different kind of person to enjoy that."
The setting, however, is easy to enjoy. The cabin is right at treeline, affording unobstructed views of the famous peak. Wildflowers abound and cold mountain springwater is close at hand. Says former caretaker Michael Zanger, "It was easily the best job I've ever had."
[Question:] "Conservationists would probably belong to what organization — The Elks,The Sierra Club, or Mathletes?"
[Answer:] "The Sierra Club"
— a Trivial Pursuit Junior card
"The [Toyota] Prius has set itself apart with a geek-chic look — a thick, curved body, a high back end and glittering computer displays on the dashboard. It's the car of choice for image-conscious Hollywood celebrities — Larry David, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz are among the faithful — and the favorite ride of the Sierra Club with its EPA-rated 60 miles per gallon in city driving."
— Washington Post, August 23, 2004
"Top Outdoor Organizations:
1. Sierra Club"
— Backpacker, February 2005,
"Readers' Choice Awards"
"In 1908, explorer Ernest Shackleton brought the first car to Antarctica...[He] hoped to use it to give himself a head start to the as-yet-unreached South Pole, but as soon as he lowered the car from the ship's deck, it became clear that the trip was going to be more Sierra Club than NASCAR."
— Mental Floss magazine, November/December 2004
Each summer, the Sierra Student Coalition leads weeklong training programs for high school and college students who want to become environmental leaders. Participants learn how to start and run a campus organization, plan campaigns, and get their message out to the public. They also enjoy hikes, games, guest speakers, tasty vegetarian meals, and "general hanging out with good people."
All programs cost $120 for Sierra Club members and $145 for nonmembers. Some need-based scholarships are available. The trainings will be held in June and July in state parks in Tennessee, Illinois, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
MORE INFORMATION: To apply for a training, visit ssc.org/t/sprogs.htm, or call (888) JOIN-SSC. Registrations will be accepted until May 15 or until the programs are full.
Grassroots by Reed McManus
California: COURTLY TREES
When the largest trees on Earth are in your backyard, you tend to get protective. That's why members of the Tehipite and Kern-Kaweah Chapters of the Sierra Club have been tireless in defending 328,000-acre Giant Sequoia National Monument. In January, the Club and other groups sued the Forest Service, charging that the feds' management plan allows extensive logging in previously protected old-growth habitat in the name of wildfire prevention.
"This plan specifically targets trees big enough to sell, undermining the whole purpose of the monument," says Carla Cloer, chair of the Club's Sequoia Task Force and a Tulare County resident who has championed
sequoia preservation for 25 years. That may seem like an awfully long time in the trenches, but it takes on a new perspective when you're looking up at 2,500-year-old trees.
New Mexico: THE MINNOW WOULD BE LOST
If not for the courage and hard work of the Rio Grande Chapter and other New Mexico environmental groups, the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow would have been cast away. The fish's remaining habitat is a 160-mile stretch of the river that routinely runs dry because of excessive diversions. After a five-year struggle, the groups reached an agreement with the city of Albuquerque on how to help the tiny fish survive while ensuring adequate municipal water supplies.
Albuquerque will set aside 30,000 acre-feet in an upstream reservoir to help preserve the minnow and improve habitat, and invest in a water-leasing program to provide additional river water. Says Richard Barish of the Rio Grande Chapter, "This is an important step toward ensuring the survival of this mythic river."
Hawaii: MANY HELPFUL RETURNS
Hawaii's new bottle-deposit program began in January, and it's already having an effect an ocean away. As part of an effort to relieve the backlog of bottles and cans that residents had stockpiled while waiting for the law to be implemented, the Sierra Club's Hawaii Chapter teamed up with other groups and businesses to collect the recyclables and turn over the nickel-per-container deposit to a UNICEF fund for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. The weekend project yielded $7,500.
"About 150,000 bottles and cans got a new lease on life," says Jeff Mikulina, director of the Hawaii Chapter. "And the beauty is, some of the stores participating fought the bottle law, but they couldn't say no to this." Under the program, Hawaii is expected to increase its container recycling from 20 percent to as high as 80 percent.
Contact Us: Spotlight Sierra Club
activism in your area by writing to Reed
McManus at Sierra, 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3459;
e-mail email@example.com; fax (415) 977-5794.
Shasta Alpine Lodge photo by Chris Marrone; used with permission.
Illustration: Debbie Drechsler