The Search for Sanctuary

The Hunt Is On!

We talked our way through the many mini-decisions and major issues. We decided that Liza would come back to the U.S. with me in February 2010. We would then go to California to look at the lots that I had preselected. We would make a decision after the tour about what, if anything, to buy. We had high hopes and low expectations. Prices were all over the chart from low to high. Adjoining lots had wildly different prices for no apparent reason, giving me the feeling that the lots were owned by speculators with no experience in the area. There were many issues to be investigated.

There were clearly bad roads in the form of cinder and sand tracks instead of gravel surfaces in Mt. Shasta Vista and MacDoel areas. We got stories from residents in Mt. Shasta Vista about being stuck for days after rains and snow and unable to get help because tow trucks would not come to their aid for fear of being stuck themselves. The KRCE was better, but even there, the majority of streets were unpaved and the gravel was slippery and rutted on some roads, especially in the eastern parts of the KRCE. Lake Shastina was all paved and maintained well.

The issue of floods from Mt. Shasta, the Klamath and some of the smaller creeks was a concern in Mt. Shasta Vista and a little in KRCE. I had downloaded a video of a major flood that flowed off of Mt. Shasta's western flank, across highway 97 and into the Mt. Shasta Vista's eastern sections. One resident in the eastern section said, "That happens every year in this area. A hard rain does not readily soak in and the runoff flows like a sheet of water across the lots around us." The KRCE flood risk was relatively low, but the talk of dam removal made the risk higher. When the dams are gone, there is nothing to stop a major surge, even though the risk is relatively low. We reasoned the KRCE flood issue is bad for their campground, but that we could easily avoid any issues by wise lot selection, if we found anything there. We learned of the Dwinnell Dam problems and how Lake Shastina was simply "not there" anymore. This would lower the value of any lots in that subdivision. As the question of who would pay to remove the dam was looming, it seemed that Lake Shastina was a remote probabilty for us.

Water availability and quality was a major issue. No matter who we talked to we were warned away from Mt. Shasta Vista. Drillers told us they did not like drilling there for fear of losing their drill bits and pipe. And horror stories were told of truckloads of concrete being used to fill underground caverns that prevented well-sealing for certification of the well. And arsenic "is everywhere and unpredictable as to where it will show up". We learned the costs of drilling ranged from $23 to $50 per foot regardless of success. Pumps and piping were extra.

February 11th 2010: View of Mt. Shasta from Leyfield Road in Mt. Shasta Vista. A really great reason for living here - if you can overcome the obstacles.

Photo by Will

We were told repeatedly that Mt. Shasta Vista was bad for wells and the related issue of percolation tests. I commented on the sand and was told that was the problem. Sand on the surface and rock a short ways down would prevent a septic system installation. Septic water often had no where to go that did not 'feed back' into the wells drilled nearby. Lake Shastina had its own water system of wells and tanks. The nearly dry lake made me concerned for that system holding up during the coming drought that everyone was saying was either 'more to come' or 'almost over'. KRCE required wells. Some folks in KRCE had arsenic, most didn't. There was clearly something in the creek that flowed under Desavado Road where it began the climb up the hillside. There was a green-blue algae (usually triggered by fertilizer run-off) growing in the stream and rust colored glaze on the rocks when we toured the area. Not good signs...

We passed through Iron Gate and CopCo subdivisions when we drove around the reservoirs behind the dams on the Klamath. The homes out there were few and far between - they looked lonely. We eliminated those places at the outset. We were told that they were in existence before, or about the same time that, KRCE got started. That small number of houses told a story of 'failed' subdivisions. We initially rejected KRCE due to issues with the Board of Directors of the Owners Association. Our Realtor was very dismissive of the Boards' actions in a recent misguided counter-lawsuit that had gone "very badly" for the KRCEOA. We did not want to 'buy into' those problems.

For 10 days in February 2010, we doggedly went from lot to lot. We grew more and more frustrated as we grew desparate for a good set of final choices. But, our first 35 on the list were all eliminated within three days. We had additions from Erik to look at in the KRCE. He prevailed upon us to accept that the KRCE was probably our 'best' choice overall. On our 7th day we were very discouraged. We went to dinner at the Black Bear. I brought our scraps of notepaper along and laid them out in an orderly fashion. We went through each one again. We referred to our photos on the computer as we went through the listings. We set the worst ones onto the seat for disposal. The 'semi-keepers' we left on the table. We began to use the 'issues' as the criteria to eliminate, or keep, a lot for the 'finals' list. We got down to three lots: one was an FSBO in Lake Shastina, one was a pair of back-to-back lots in Mt. Shasta Vista and one was a 'wild card' on Aztec Lane in Big Springs. We decided we would take one more deep look at each of them over the next two days.

We went early the next day to the two lots in Mt. Shasta Vista. There had been a slight amount of rain and some snow during the night. The road into the lots was generally 'OK' with some muddy spots, but the roads on both sides of the lots were barely passable. We walked in. I took a camper shovel because i wanted to see how deep the sand was on these two lots. After going down two feet, I hit lava. Two more test holes with shovel and/or kicking the sand with my foot proved the lots had little chance of a good perc for septic.

We went next to the Lake Shastina FSBO lot. This lot was also a 'wild card' for us. I had found a flyer that had been on a stake on the property when it was listed with a Realtor. The listing had lapsed. The asking price was $59,900. The owner was living in Las Vegas. The current 'note' on the stake was from that owner asking anyone interested to call a certain number. I did and got transferred digitally through some kind of switching network to a non-working number in Las Vegas. I had asked Erik about the lot on a previous occasion. He said the price was way too high and that the owner would not budge. I tried to find information from the Shastina Owners Association office. They would not give details. They handed me the CC&Rs for Lake Shastina and the costs of living there. I guess it was the fact we were in muddy blue jeans that led them to believe we were not 'worthy'. I kept the materials for reference. Lake Shastina was very expensive for annual fees and for costs of water, sewer, fire and police - about $900/year, in 2010.

February 11th 2010: View of Mt. Shasta from StoneCrest Road in Lake Shastina subdivision. This view was the absolute best we ever saw of the lots for sale at this time. But $60,000 for a 1/4 acre lot overlooking a dying lake, was too much.

Photo by Will

Aztec was really a crazy idea. It was super cheap at $2,500. But upon careful analysis of the lot maps, the actual location of lot markers, the condition of the road, and the junk yard across the road, it became clear that it was not going to work. We were done! NOTHING worthwhile after 9 days of looking. We planned to stay in Yreka that night and leave early in the morning for Lake Almanor to tour a log cabin owned by a log home manufacturer to see their work quality. We called Erik one more time to see if he had anything new come in. He reminded us again that we had seen a number of 'reasonable' lots in the KRCE. Give him credit, he tried! We said, "No" and said to keep in touch.

In the morning, as we were packing the car and getting ready to leave the room for breakfast, Erik called. He said, "A great lot just came back on the market, last night about an hour after you told me you were giving up. It was too late to call so i waited until now. Glad I caught you...." i cut him off with a curt, "Where is it?". He said, "KRCE." I said, "We told you Erik, we are not impressed with the KRCE for all the reasons you told us it was not a great place." He replied, "I never said KRCE was 'great', but this lot IS and you will be really mad if you miss it! It'll take you an hour at most to drive out and see it." I briefed Liza. She nodded 'OK' and I got the directions from Erik. I told him we would call him after looking at it and we would 'get back to you later'.

There was a slight drizzle and foggy patches over Interstate 5 as we headed north, the WRONG direction from where we intended to be going, and I was grumpy. But, I had committed to 'go see it' and I would follow through. We found it soon enough. As we drove onto Mountain Street and the road levelled out onto a southerly course we were surrounded by fog. The fog dissipated within a few hundred feet and there was the 'For Sale' sign. I drove directly onto the lot and stopped. I was instantly 'hooked' by the sight of Mt. Shasta. She was shrouded on top by a cloud layer. Only her lower flanks were showing, but clearly we would have a great view from this lot. Then my eyes swept from east to west. The hillside to the east had one house about 400 feet away, great, not too close! Directly down the hill to the south was another place, shrouded in fog at the moment, but also far away, Great! Then I looked west, there was Black Mountain standing head and shoulders above the fog and basking in a few beams of sunlight, a GREAT promise!

We got out and walked around. Mud everywhere made it not a good idea to do much walking into the field. We returned to the car and drove up to the cul-de-sac of Mountain Street. We turned around and drove east again, stopping at a point where a large Juniper on the west side of the lot line framed Mt. Shasta as the cloud was lifting off her. We smiled at each other. We drove around the north and east sides onto Greentree Place. We turned around in that cul-de-sac and slowly drove back along the east line. I could see there was a graded house pad, exactly where I would have put one if we had the chance years ago. We took photos so we would be able to recall the plot if anything worked out. We stopped back at the original point of entering the land. Liza got out, walked about 50 feet onto the land, stopped and put her hands on her hips. She stood facing Mt. Shasta for a moment, tilted her head back, smelled the air and slowly turned around to face me. She said, "Let's buy it". I said, "You do look 'at home'".

We called Erik and told him to write an offer for us on certain terms and e-mail it to me. We would sign it when we got back to Utah in a week.

Go to the "Deal" section


February 11th 2010: We visited Lot 767 on Ruff Way mid-morning. The view of Mt. Shasta was spectacular. I was very impressed with the slope of the lot. It presented a good building site along its northern edge. From the height of 10 feet above ground the view would be even better. A successful conventional percolation test had been done just a few months earlier. Electric power would be a problem if we were required to connect to it since the closest poles were at least a 1/2 mile away, or more. We wanted a total solar home. The unobstructed view to the south was great for solar. The southwestern arc was open to the late afternoon sun as well. And, since there were no neighbors above us in any southerly direction the glare from the panels would not bother them. We marked this lot a strong 'like', but the price was $25,000 - too high.

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