Dunsmuir exit offers beautiful surprise

 st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } When I got off I-5 in Dunsmuir, California, I was just hoping to catch a glimpse of the town and maybe find a rest stop, but I found myself taking a winding one-lane road toward the Dunsmuir City Park and the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens. Who knew it was there? When I think of Dunsmuir, just south of Mount Shasta, I think of a few little motels and restaurants and a railroad museum, but there’s more to see.

The road opened out into 10-acre park with trails along the Sacramento River, a playground area for kids, a pool and ball field, and a beautiful garden. The gardens, first opened to the public in 1992, are run and supported by volunteers. They feature local native plants in several specialty gardens, including a children’s garden with colorful annuals intermixed with playful statues; Kelly’s Garden, filled with white-only blooms from dogwoods, hydrangeas, bulbs, perennials and annuals, and a butterfly-hummingbird garden. The trails lead through hostas, rhododendrons, Shasta lilies, Japanese Maples, milkweed, ginger, and more, all blooming and fragrant in late spring and early summer.
The gardens are open anytime for self-guided tours, although you may not be able to drive all the way in during snow season. To reach the gardens, take the central Dunsmuir exit #730 off I-5. Turn north and enter the park at the fountain. For more information, visit www.dunsmuirbotanicalgardens.org.
After walking through the gardens, I could have spent all day just watching the river, but I had more miles to drive before nightfall. Next time, I plan to stay longer. You never know what you’ll find if you take an exit off the freeway and see what’s there.