"The Rock" In Mount Shasta
● By Gary VanDeWalker
By Gary VanDeWalker
Photo: Taryn Burkleo
At the foot of Black Butte, the small cousin of Mt. Shasta, traffic moves north on Interstate 5 with eyes gazing through windows at the majestic mountains of Strawberry Valley. Passing the Abrams Lake offramp, these eyes for a moment see a smaller feature which combines nature, the affections of local citizens and the compassion of an engineer who helped put the interstate through this valley. Dwarfed by the mountains and trees stands a monument on the landscape, known as “The Rock.”
Charlie Moss was born with the freeway in his blood. “My father worked for the state and our family was living in a tent along Highway 99 at Sweetbriar during the time I was born,” Moss says.
Moss was raised in Anderson, spending his summers working for the state highway system as his father did. He spent three years at Chico State University, then took a year off to help build the expressway from the state line to the Klamath River. He finished his engineering degree at the University of Nevada.
Moss excelled at his work and found himself the resident engineer over the new Interstate 5 in the Mount Shasta area. He directed 18 engineers as they determined the location and ensured the specifications of the new roadway, built over the existing Highway 99. Moss and his team inspected all work and guaranteed the quality of the roadway.
The Rock’s existence was there centuries before memories can place her. Even as vehicles roared down Highway 99, local youth painted their thoughts and desires on her hard face. Declarations of love, football rivalries, political statements and silly faces could be found there. Her demeanor changed quicker than the seasons.
The note came to Moss during construction. The boss, the Redding District head engineer, instructed the engineering crew to remove The Rock. Moss turned to his superior and interceded on The Rock’s behalf. “I told him it was a landmark, that he was about to cause a lot of hard feelings with the community youth,” Moss says.
The district engineer relented. The freeway would stay away from The Rock and it would remain a landmark.
Millions of vehicles pass The Rock each year. For a while, she was a yellow and blue minion. She has helped young men propose marriage. She declares fierce political statements. But if under her rough exterior and inches of paint there is a heart, it is warm for a now retired engineer who lives but a few miles from her, and his thoughtfulness which saved her life.