Categorized | Northern California

Getting Smashed in Mount Shasta

I decided that I was going to take a trip to the mountains about 10 days before the trip actually transpired. I was going to be facing a very messy situation the weekend before.  I didn’t know if the outcome would be good or bad, but whatever the outcome, all I knew was that when this situation was behind me, a trip to the mountains would be critical to recovery.

The situation was indeed bad. Very bad. I would really, really like to lay the blame squarely at the doorstep of the other person, but I wasn’t exactly my best self either.

So there.

That behind me, I called my friend Teresa to go up North to Shasta with me for a few days.  Teresa has accompanied me on many of my post-apocalyptic road trips, and was needing a road trip, so off we headed.

From Sonoma County, the trip to Shasta takes about five hours, including breaks.  We stopped about three times for snacks, lunch, bathrooms…arriving in Shasta at about 3:00 pm on Friday afternoon.

Mount Shasta Street Scene

We rolled into town at around 3:00 pm

Mount Shasta is actually a volcano. It is the second highest peak on the Cascade mountain range and the fifth highest peak in California. Mount Shasta consists of four overlapping volcanic cones.  The mountain sits alone and looms over the town of Shasta, even though it is nine miles away from town.  at 14,000+ feet in elevation, we started seeing it from Highway 5 for several hours before we even arrived.

laundromat and shasta

There is no escaping the mountain.

Year round it is snowy at the top.  The winter climbing season for Mount Shasta runs from April to October.

Originally, the gold rush and the railroad brought fortune seekers, tourists and mountaineers to Mount Shasta. To this day, it remains a popular tourist destination.

Mount Shasta Railroad

The railroad line on Old McCloud Road

Part of this fascination is because Mount Shasta has developed a reputation as an “energy center”, a vortex, and a place of mysticism and mystery. Many call it one of the most sacred places on earth. There are stories, legends, and visions associated with the mountain, and Mount Shasta attracts gurus, shamans, healers, masters, and students.

Mount Shasta

Native American Legend: Volcanic disturbances at Mount Shasta were caused by the spirit chief who came down from heaven to battle with the spirit of the below-world

Native American Legend: Mount Shasta was the stepping stone that the Sky Spirit Chief created so that he could get down from the sky and create the world. As he walked down the mountain, every step he took created a river and where he lay his hand, a tree grew.

native American Medicine Wheel

The lost city of the Lemurians: The Lemurians were from a sunken continent and lived in the mountain in a series of jeweled tunnels.  Their city is names Telos. Occasionally they are seen in long white robes walking or and near the mountain. They are supposedly 7 feet tall.

St. Germain: We saw the St. Germain reading room in downtown Shasta. Although I would have liked to have stopped in, it was not open when we came by. In 1930, a gentleman named Guy Ballard was hiking on Mount Shasta when St Germain came to him and started training him to be a messenger.  Guy Ballard published his experiences and that was the start of the I Am Foundation, which is still active and which owns property in several areas of the country, including by the Mossbrae Falls, which Teresa and I visited in Dunsmuir on our way home.  I have read a little bit about the I AM Foundation and remain baffled regarding its mission.

flower essences for Animals

Flower Essences for Animals

There are also tales of Bigfoot, UFO’s, invisible elves, and of the side of the mountain opening up and devouring airplanes.

John Muir himself was taken with the sight of Mount Shasta, writing in 1874, “I was fifty miles away, afoot, alone and weary, yet all of my blood turned to wine and I have not been weary since.”

When I got back, a friend of mine who has studied shamanism and energy healing told me that when he was at Mount Shasta he felt great waves of energy coming off the mountain.  He asked me if I had felt the energy of the mountain when I was there.  I had to tell him “no”.  I felt no energy, no special heightening of the senses, no connection to a higher source.

Shasta Mysticism Store

There were a lot of stores that looked like this in Mount Shasta City

On the other hand, I tend to be one of those people who live clearly and completely on the earthly plain.  Whether or not this is ultimately a good or bad character trait remains to be seen.

After driving into town, Teresa parked the car and we decided to do a little exploring. We had no reservations anywhere – having decided to wing it – but I did want to stop at a Starbucks or at something like a Starbucks, and Teresa thought that was a good idea, too.

We wandered down the main drag looking in vain for a cafe. Teresa asked a woman who was sitting on a bench if she knew of any cafes and she directed us around the corner to The Gallery – explaining that there was a cafe inside.

What a great piece of advice that was! The Gallery in Mount Shasta is a big building filled with beautiful, local arts and crafts. And sure enough, in the far corner was a sweet little cafe.  Teresa and I each ordered an almond milk mocha, which was delicious. There were other people milling around, some looking at the store, others stopping for something to drink.  Evidently there was also an art walk going on, so refreshments were laid out on one of the cafe tables. Inexplicably, someone was doing drop-in iridology exams the whole time we were there, but I figured it was part of the Mount Shasta experience.

mocha in Shasta

The mocha at the Gallery in Mount Shasta was our reward after the long trip north.

The woman we had spoken with on the bench decided to follow after us into The Gallery. She came by our table and we talked for awhile. She told us that people would spend years driving up to the mountain every evening and sleeping there in their cars, trying to pull in some of the energy.  She also told us that there were two types of residents in Mount Shasta City.  Well-heeled retirees and low income people with no work.  From our brief drive around Shasta City, it did indeed appear that there was also a significant tweaker population.

The Staff of The Gallery in Mount Shasta

Owner Lesa Michel and her mocha maker barista made us feel right at home in Mount Shasta

The owner of The Gallery heard us talking about needing a place to stay, and recommended the Mount Shasta Inn and Suites, a motel that was right down the road. We were relieved, as we didn’t know where to go, and weren’t sure if we would find a room.

As it turned out, finding a motel with a vacancy was not a problem. Everyone had vacancies.

When we arrived at the Mount Shasta Inn and Suites, the manager told us about the hardships of not having had a true winter up there in three years.  In our trip up north, we had seen how terrifyingly low Lake Shasta was. The effects of the drought and of these last few mild winters were having a severe economic effect on the town. The summer tourism and the spiritual tourism were not enough to keep the town going year round.  Although we were there in what was considered to be “winter” in Mount Shasta, the weather was warm and dry.

Mount Shasta Inn and Suites

The Mount Shasta Inn and Suites were clean, quiet, and affordable.

Our location was fantastic.  We were within short walking distance to downtown and to other restaurants and cafes down the road in the opposite direction. That first night, we strolled down the street to the local family-run Phuket Thai Restaurant and had some delicious vegan dishes, cooked and served by some very nice people. BTW, it’s pronounced “Poo-ket”.

The next morning, we walked into town and had breakfast wraps and almond milk mochas at Yak’s in downtown Shasta. I took a couple of photos of this cozy cafe, which, somehow, have disappeared.  Only this photo remains.

Peace Love Adventure Graffiti

This is a good time to mention that Mount Shasta City is an extraordinarily friendly and hospitable town. The only other town that I have run across that equals it in friendliness to strangers is Ferndale. Across the board, everyone in Mount Shasta City was warm, kind, and in a good mood.

Garden Gate in Shasta

The door is always open in friendly Shasta City

Teresa and I both love thrift store shopping, and decided that it would be a great after breakfast diversion.  We ended up going to Shasta City’s three thrift stores. Favorite thrift store name:  “Snip’n Save”.  The “Snip” referred to the fact that all proceeds supported animal neutering.

Snip and Save Mount Shasta

Teresa found some earrings in one of the stores, and I found a camera bag in Snip ‘N Save, and later in the day I found a pair of outstanding hiking boots in the third thrift store, which I wore the next day for a hike in Dunsmuir. Total spent between the two of us? $12.50.

After that – to the mountain.  We thought we were driving in the direction of Lake Siskyou, instead we found ourselves going in the opposite direction and ended up on the Everitt Memorial Highway, which goes straight up Mount Shasta. We decided to go for it and followed it up to Bunny Flat, elevation 6950’. This is where the plowing ended, leaving the rest of the road snowed in.

sking at bunny flat

Skiing on the snowed-in road at Bunny Flat

This was a wonderful weekend to be in Mount Shasta.  It was too late for winter and too early for summer.  So no one was there. Maybe 50 cars or less were parked at Bunny Flat and there was plenty of room for more. People had scattered and there were very few of us hanging around in any one place.

The road that continued up from Bunny Flat was still snowed in and every once in awhile a skier or a snowboarder would slide down at a sedate pace.  Teresa and I wandered separately and together. We spotted someone meditating on a rock. It looked like a good idea we decided to go our separate ways to enjoy some quiet time.

The View from Mount Shasta

The view across the valley from Mount Shasta

It was beautiful.  There was a breeze, there was snow, trees, clean air, and silence.  We each sat on our respective rocks and finally breathed.  Every once in awhile, the crunching of snow alerted the us to the fact that someone was coming down the road behind us. Down the side of the mountain a bit, a young woman was scritching and scratching with a stick in the snow. I wasn’t sure what she was doing. When I came out of my meditation, I realized that she had succeeded in gathering up enough snow to build a small snowman.

Everyone does what they need to do at Shasta.

Upon driving back down the mountain, we saw Siskyou Lake down below us on the other side of town so we headed straight there.

Teresa likes to fish and was interested in scouting out an area for early morning fishing the next day.  We arrived at Lake Siskyou and drove through the still-closed-for-winter campground, looking for a fishing hole. Teresa said she was going to take her fishing pole and fishing license with her in the morning and continue her explorations.

Lake Siskyou

We returned to the motel, exhausted.  I don’t know why I was exhausted, Teresa had done all the navigating and driving, but a nap sounded like a good idea.

We settled in for our leftover Thai food and our respective tablet computers.

Teresa had brought a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream from home, and although I am:

1) A vegan who does not ingest dairy products and

2) a non-drinker,

I went ahead and chugged that shit all evening like it was water in the desert. On an empty stomach. The events of the weekend before had taken their toll on me, more than I wanted to admit.

That said, I slept like a baby.

Teresa headed out to try to go fishing the next morning, promising to be back at 11:00 am for checkout.  I was totally hung over. I shuffled around the room for awhile. My hands were shaking uncontrollably and I was dropping everything I picked up.  Getting dressed was a tad challenging. At one point, I decided that warming up my heavily caffeinated leftover mocha from the day before was a great idea and I drank that also on an empty stomach.  Wonderful decision.

Ladies Night Sign

According to this sign in downtown, every night is Ladies Night in Shasta City

Somehow – God knows how – I made it out the door.  I headed to the Berryvale Natural Food Store downtown for breakfast and to pick up some vitamins. I continued dropping things throughout the store.  Luckily the clerk didn’t notice, as he was giggling and managed to drop one or two things himself as he was checking me out.  Perhaps he was hung over also. Let’s face it, there isn’t a lot to do on a Saturday night in Mount Shasta City.

Mount Shasta Liquor Sotre

Next time I won’t bother dragging liquor all the way from Sonoma County

The grocery store has a great little dining room attached to the side, and I would have liked to have taken a picture of it, but in my hungover state, I was doing the best I could just staying focused on breakfast.

I took a seat near the front and started eating my dolmas and tabbouleh.  Not being the most observant person, I hadn’t really paid attention to my surroundings or I would have noticed that I was probably the only person in there who wasn’t a tweaker.  Two men were arguing loudly at one of the tables in the back, when suddenly the man sitting at the table next to me shouted out “Shut up, I’m trying to fucking meditate”.

There was a moment of silence in the dining room. Some shuffling around and movement from table to table.  Then the clearly stated commentary from an unknown fellow diner:  “that’s what too many mushrooms will do to you”.

The food was good, and yes I would go there again to eat – in spite of the obviously tweaky crowd that hangs out there. However, next time I am sitting up closer to the cash register and the grocery store staff.

berryvale grocery

Teresa and I met up later at the motel, she had not found a legal place to fish after all, but in her wanderings had run across someone who had told her about the Mossbrae Falls in Dunsmuir.  It was time to check out, so we packed up the car, dropped the motel keys in the slot, and headed for Dunsmuir and the falls.

Kind of sad to leave Shasta – as short as our visit was, we had met some very nice people there and I felt an emotional bond to this quirky little town.

I’m going to let Kanye, Rihanna, and Paul take on the rest.

2 Responses to “Getting Smashed in Mount Shasta”


  1. […] morning of our departure from Mount Shasta City, Teresa had run into someone who told her that the prettiest falls in the area were Mossbrae Falls […]

  2. […] morning of our departure from Mount Shasta City, Teresa had run into someone who told her that the prettiest falls in the area were Mossbrae Falls […]

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