The day arrived. The call of Mt. Shasta was upon me. I woke up early, loaded all the necessities into my car, and headed to Dutch Bros Coffee because, well, you need coffee before entering a mystical mountain. Duh.
Naturally, I ordered the Peach Cobbler (thanks, Mom!). It was delightful just as the hour and twenty minute ride to Mt. Shasta was. I traveled on the I-5 Highway which eventually twisted and turned enough so that I could see the stunning snow-capped beast loom on the horizon.
Fun sight: I saw roadkill–a black bear. That was unusual and kinda sad. It’s the closest I’ve come to seeing a bear in the wild. Not sure how I feel about this.
As I drew closer to the mountain, I drove through a misty cloud. Obviously, it’s a totally natural element, but given the nature of Mt. Shasta it created a very mystical atmosphere as I drew closer. It’s almost like I could feel the fierce power of the mountain reaching out, drawing me in.
I drove through a very tiny town at the base of the mountain. It was still asleep as I was passing through about 8:00 in the morning. I made a note to check it out later as I drove past a very small high school. Their mascot? Black bears. I dared not tell them I might’ve seen their mascot dead on the road a few miles back. Poor school.
Anyway, I drove up the side of the mountain, careful to keep my eyes on the road instead of staring at the wondrous sights because, well, one wrong move would probably mean death. So. That was fun. Anyway, I was trying to get to a place called Panther Meadows. Apparently, it’s this place with pure crystalline springs. It’s also deeply revered by Native American tribes with reported sightings of tall people from inside the mountain, faeries, gnomes, and UFOS because obviously. One book I read about this place charged people to not visit this sacred site unless they felt the “spirit” calling them there.
I mean… is research a spirit? Because… I had to see this place. That being said, I was sad to arrive only to find the road to Panther Meadows closed. I guess I wasn’t called! I parked at a camping site at the base of the closed road and decided that I would hike. I came all this way, so might as well explore.
It was in the 40s. Cold. Thankfully, I had my rain jacket from yesterday and my new handy-dandy walking stick. I geared up, grabbed my stick, and ONWARD! I marched confidently up a path, electing to take a route that promised a 2.4 mile hike. There were other people around me, so I didn’t feel isolated as I was hiking. To be safe, however, I shared my GPS location with a group of close friends so they could see where I was at all times. I want you to keep this mind as you continue reading. Write it down if you must. In the parking lot, I was at an elevation of 6,897 feet. Memorize that number. Okay. Let the hike begin…
The trail was beautiful. Towering, ancient trees stood all around me with neon green moss hugging their trunks. A cool mist was receding as the sun continued to rise. Here and there, some of these ancient trees had fallen, broken on the sides of the paths like defeated giants, shattered by an unknown force. The more I hiked, the less people I saw. I did see a cairn, a manmade tower of stones, on my journey. It was a hint at the mysticism I was about to encounter. To be fair, it was hard to not walk this trail and just feel a majestic aura about this place–to marvel at creation all around me.
The trail was marked with pink ribbons tied in bushes and trees. I obediently followed them until suddenly the ribbons stopped. I was a little disheartened because I knew that on the other side of a steep, earthy hill I would see the Mt. Shasta summit. So, I did what any person who wanted adventure would do. I left the trail. Now, before you start preparing a lecture to chastise me, I did cement landmarks in my mind and I used my walking stick to carve symbols in the ground so I could find my way back.
Also, I decided to test my handy dandy bear mace spray. Good news. It worked.
Anyway, I huffed my way up a grassy incline, stepping over rotting tree trunks, and climbing on large rocks. It was deathly silent. Just me and the forest around me. Nothing else. The only sound was my heart pounding in my chest as I drew in deep breaths. I couldn’t shake the feeling that somewhere out of sight something was studying me, watching as a lone hiker traversed wild grounds. But I was here for adventure. And I had bear mace. So, don’t worry.
You might also point yet that snakes should be a huge concern. After all, where did my fear of these reptiles fit into my journey? Well, it was at the back of my mind. However, I figured with the cool forty degree weather, it was unlikely I would encounter Satan’s spawn. I wasn’t sure if they were even this high on the mountain. If they were around, I didn’t expect they’d be super active due to the temperature. Then again, I wasn’t 100% certain of that. Most likely, I was wrong. Regardless, I used my hiking stick to prod rocks and the other side of logs before placing my feet down. Better to be safe than sorry, right? If I were to be bit, there was nobody anywhere near me. I had to be smart even though we all know what I was doing was not smart.
I traveled for miles. The grassy hill turned into a steep incline of dirt and branches before leveling out into a dew-ridden plain of neat looking plants. I pushed on, seeing a crest not too far off where I was certain I’d see Mt. Shasta. The journey led me up into a rocky rise. If there were snakes, certainly they’d be here.
There was a moment in my journey where I hiked into a small green area with twisted tree trunks and weaving leaves. I froze because I was fairly certain I either heard a low growl or the huff of some beast. Instinct told me to leave that area. I decided to take the rocky incline because it did allow me the ability to see all around me whereas where I had heard the noise, my sight was limited. Of course, I’d be in the open so I’d be easy to see too. At least I’d have the chance to prepare for attack in the open–less chance of being taken by surprise.
As I continued, I heard something else.
In all reality, these voices were probably other daring hikers. However, I couldn’t see anybody at all. Voices of hikers? Or mysterious beings of the mountain? I’ll let you decide.
I continued my journey. Up. Up. Up. Banging my walking stick on the rocks, loudly announcing my presence to any reptiles that may lie in wait. I figured neither of us wanted to encounter the other. I was doing both the snakes and myself a service by banging my stick around. That or I was calling attention to my location for a hungry bear or mountain lion. But bear mace. I’m good.
Anyway, during this hike I was texting my dearest friend Amanda. She was with me in the cyber world, watching my journey. It was reassuring to know that she was actively monitoring my progress. I was alone, but I also wasn’t. I kept sending her pictures of my journey. At a particular point she texted me saying, “Uh, you know you’re on a ridge, right?”
Nope. I did not know that. However, I could see that ten feet from where I stood was a drop that would mean death. I tried not to think about that as I pressed on, heart catching in my throat a few times as I slid on rocks that weren’t embedded in the ground.
Once, I thought I heard a rattle, but it could’ve been my imagination. Probably. Hopefully. Maybe.
I eventually reached a ledge that I’d set as my goal, hoping to see the peak of Mt. Shasta. It was literally just on the other side of the ridge. But the strangest thing happened. I was encircled by a cool cloud of white. The sun didn’t reach me. My visibility was limited to maybe 30 feet all around me. I was surrounded, my sight obscured. Pure silence.
It was terrifying and amazing all at once. It was as if the mountain had placed me in a prison of mist, deciding what to do with me, watching, waiting. I nervously asked Siri what my elevation was, my voice sounding unnatural in this hazy vortex. Her response? 8,690 ft.
If you kept track of that number earlier, you’ll realize this meant that I had gone up nearly 2,000 feet. I would have never thought I’d do this. Ever.
After breathing in this moment just a few more minutes, I began my descent. That posed a whole set of new challenges, forcing myself to test my weight as I danced down stones. A few times I lurched forward, sliding on smooth rocks. I kept my distance from the ledge. Regardless, if I did fall, I’d still rock over sharp rocks. It wouldn’t be pleasant.
When I finally made it back to one of my landmarks, I turned and entered the silent forest once more, climbing down the embankment. It was then that something caught my eye. Blue. Not a blue natural to the forest.
I had to investigate, so I veered in that direction where I found an abandoned blanket, maybe a jacket, and some other clothes. Not too far away was a pillow. I wondered what story this told. Whose was this? What had happened to the owner? Why would they leave this in the middle of the forest? A weird sensation of being watched creeped up my spine once again and I pushed forward.
But, alas, I didn’t quite recall where I was. I mean I knew that going down was good, but was I facing the right way? How was I to know? I was a little turned around. Whispering to myself to not panic I continued moving down until finally I recognized a fallen giant.
Then I came across my crudely drawn symbols in the dirt which led me to the familiar pink ribbons of the trail. I was going to make it. No bear attacks. No mountain lion snacking. No snake bites.
My legs were pure jelly as I walked the trail, smiling a little too happily at hikers passing me. The sights were still bedazzling even on the hike back to my car. I had to have traveled at least 8-10 miles on Mt. Shasta.
I decided it was time to get some food because hiking was draining. On my drive back down the mountain, I turned onto a dirt path to explore a little bit. I came across a woman and an old man. They were performing some sort of ritual, the man lightly banging an erected gong as the woman stared intently into the wilderness until her gaze fell on me. She looked annoyed. I turned the car around and left these people to whatever it was they were doing. I would’ve taken a picture, but I truly didn’t want to be disrespectful to their ritual. I later learned that this is not unnatural to find on the surface of Mt. Shasta.
But if you think that’s weird, wait until we enter the small town of Mt. Shasta.
I need to preface the events you’re about to read with a snippet of my story idea. My story, as you may know, will be tied to Mt. Shasta. In fact, I have plans to have a crystal from the depths of Mt. Shasta play a key role in the origins of my four superheroes/antiheroes because, well, one of the four is a jerk and not a hero type. He’s so much fun to write. Anyway. Crystals. I felt I should buy some kind of crystal from this town for reference.
So after I parked my car I saw a little shop called Crystal Matrix Gallery. Figuring this was a good place to start, I tried to open the door. It was locked despite the fact the store was clearly open. There was a sign saying I should ring a bell as the worker was doing something in the back. Figuring it really wasn’t worth all that trouble, I moved on. Not even ten steps later, the door swung open and a strange old man appeared. There was something quirky about him. Short gray hair, large nose, beady little eyes that seemed to look beyond you. Strange.
Feeling obligated, I entered his shop. It was small and there were so many beautiful crystals. The man, Mazebah (obviously the name of a wizard, if you ask me), went to various crystal conventions/markets and collected crystals and rocks from all over the world. I saw tokens from Australia, Africa, Brazil, Chile, etc. Beautiful things locked behind clear cases. No wonder he kept the front door locked. What made my experience all the more unnerving was the way he constantly studied me as I moved about the store. If I suddenly moved out if his line of sight, he’d shift his body so he could watch me.
It quickly dawned on me that most of the items in this shop were very expensive. I’m talking $60-300 for pieces of crystal and rocks. The other thing that became clear to me was that if I left the store without buying anything, he would certainly put some sort of curse on me. I just knew it. So I began to seek out some cheaper items. I found potential in some black rock of which I can’t recall the name. Pieces ranged from $4-21. This was probably my best best.
Then dazzling green and blue glass rocks called my eye, drawing me near. Turns out they were volcanic rocks from China. They were absolutely stunning. The color was so pure and mystical. I had to have one.
“These are amazing. How much are they?” I asked the beady-eyed man.
“$1 a gram.” He apparated next to me.
Pretending I understood what that meant, I nodded my head. I mean how many grams were these things? I wasn’t about to agree to buying one without knowing. So I asked, “And… how many grams are they?”
“Oh, only about 100 grams.”
Only. Only. He saw the look on my face and smiled before saying, “You have to understand. These are special crystals. If you choose the right one they can elevate you to the Elemental Plane.” He paused. I stared.
“And I happen to be one of the very few people in the world who knows how to get people to that plane.”
OH MY GOSH! HE WAS A WIZARD! I KNEW IT!
The words, “Oh. That’s really… cool” exited my mouth. He snatched up two smaller rocks, one blue and one green. He weighed them. They were about 75 grams–$75. He really wanted me to buy one of these. However, what if he was a dark wizard? I wasn’t taking chances.
So I said, “I’m just gonna buy one of those rocks.” Rocks were safe. He hadn’t offered to transport me anywhere with a rock. So I spent $8 to at least appease the wizard-man in hopes he wouldn’t cast me into another dimension or something weird. As I left the store, I could feel his gaze on me.
I wish I could say things returned to normal from there.
You have to keep in mind. I’m in the town of Mt. Shasta. This mountain is known for its superstitions, mystical properties, and elevated planes/realms. It’s a holy and sacred site for a ton of people and, as such, it draws a lot of people to it.
I entered the Mt. Shasta visitor center, grabbing some fliers about the area and buying a hiking book and a book on Telos–the lost crystal city inside Mt. Shasta. I also grabbed some pamphlets on the mystical properties in the area. I really need to look at all the things for my book. Tying my story to these elements will only enhance the story, I think.
Anyway, I tried to find a place to eat. As I was walking along, happily studying the very small town I watched a middle-age woman pull out a recently purchased necklace. From a leather band hung a pink crystal that glimmered in the sunlight. To her friend sitting next to her she said, “And this! I bought it and it has been charged full of energy that will let me connect directly to the Lemurians.”
I wish I could tell you she was joking. She was not.
Naturally, what choice did I have but to enter a store called Spiritual Encounters? New Age? Check. Crystals? Check. Weird artifacts? Check. In I went, where I was surprised to see the varied customers inside the store. What I’m about to say, please know I don’t mean it in poor taste. I’m just trying to help paint a picture. Let’s just say there were lots of people who seemed like they would be good buddies with Wizard-Man Mazebah from the crystal shop, people who totally belonged in a store like this. I mean nothing ill by that. Then there were people that appeared normal in every aspect of the word. There was even a young group of fraternity looking guys in the store, one of whom thought it entirely necessary to blow into this tribal horn causing a random unleashed dog to run around the store. Nobody paid the dog any attention, just another normal day in Spiritual Encounters.
Conversations ranged from stars aligning to Lemurians to chakra to visions. It was crazy. The mood was set by ritualistic music over unseen speakers. I stumbled across a set of animal tokens. They looked cool, each token engraved with a golden animal. Lo and behold I found one with a Tyrannosaurus Rex on it. Due to my obsession with the Red Ranger on Power Rangers and his T-Rex zord, I had to buy it. Each animal represented something different. This one meant lizard king. Not sure I’m a lizard king, but I’ll go with it. I also found an orca stone and then a cool-looking unicorn one. Funny. The unicorn stands for individual/unique–kinda like my trip in a nutshell.
I also couldn’t resist picking up the cheapest Lemurian crystal I could find. It promised to allow me to connect to the ancient beings in the mountain and bring peace. Apparently, if you walked around sacred sites with the crystal in hand, it’s supposed to do some weird mystical stuff to you. I bought it for research so I can model the crystal in my book after it. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated with Lemurians and Atlantians.
After shopping a bit more, acquiring a cool wolf necklace, I decided to check out. The woman at the register rang out my items. Then she touched my Lemurian Crystal. Out of context, that sounds weird. Good thing you’re reading this in context. I hope.
“Oh. Oh my. This is a great crystal. Powerful. The crystal is speaking,” the woman said in a vibrant voice. “You’re going to have great results with this.”
For the thousandth time, I could only stare dumbly and say, “Oh… that’s cool. Yay.”
Good to know the crystal I have speaks. The moment I hear an other worldly voice coming out of this thing, I’m going to toss if off the nearest cliff face and go into hiding. So if I ever vanish unexpectedly, blame the talking Lemurian crystal.
The thing is, in all seriousness, the people in this area genuinely believe in this stuff. It’s curious. They are very friendly, nice people. I find their beliefs and traditions unique and kind of neat. I personally don’t buy into all that, but if it makes them happy, who am I to impose?
After grabbing some food, I decided to make one more big journey for the day. McCloud Falls, another well-known waterfall location.
Let me say that I know this post is a bit long. But the day was epic. So, if you need a break–go for it. If you’re ready to live in the beautiful falls with me, and encounter the daring thing I did, then read on.
McCloud Falls is known for having three parts: Upper Falls, Middle Falls, and Lower Falls. Each area encourages people to swim in the deep blue river waters. More on that later.
To see all three falls, you’d have to walk three miles. Bring it on! I parked in the parking lot that gave me direct access to the Middle Falls. A viewpoint allowed me to look straight down, maybe 40-50 feet down (I’m honestly bad at guessing distance) to peer at crashing falls and people swimming in the water. It was gorgeous. I had to get down there.
I followed a path that led me along the face of the mountain. On my left were jutting rocks and trees and on my right was a steep drop to the river below. I eyed my left side, suspicious for snakes.
I found the Upper Falls, another beautiful sight. People were swimming below and, again, I had to wonder how they got down there. I couldn’t find a trail that would lead me down there.
I did, however, find a lizard. If this is the only reptile I see on this trip, I’ll be fine.
Deciding I missed a trail somewhere, I started back the way I came. I asked people I passed by on how to get down to the river. One guy informed me that some people seemed to make their own path. By the Upper Falls, I found a steep dirt path that led down to the river. I went halfway down it, but it got too rocky and congested for my tastes. I really didn’t want to chance it with wildlife. I decided to find a way to the Middle Falls instead.
Thankfully, I found a trail that led down to the Middle Falls. Excited, I wound my way down the path until I emerged upon a rocky outcropping that stretched over to the blue pool, glistening water columns feeding it from above. A young lady sat nearby with her dog and I asked her how I could get to the water. She told me I had to climb around the rocks and she assured me there haven’t been any reports of snakes in the rocks.
Excited, I clambered over the rocks. Sliding into crevices, finding footholds, and hoisting myself up until finally I made it. People crowded the rocks in bathing suits. I beheld the sight in awe. In the sunlight, it was amazing. I had to stand in the water and play with my underwater camera some more.
As I took off my shoes and socks, a young man leapt into the water, swimming the twenty feet to the base of the waterfall. He came back with a look of pain, pulling himself out of the water. He growled, “Man, I don’t think I’ll have kids. F**cking cold!” I laughed and slid my feet into the water, staying ankle deep.
It was freezing. He was not lying at all. I took a few pictures before climbing back onto the rocks just to take in the view. The young man returned with the girl I’d talked to earlier; they were a couple. Together, they jumped into the water and I had to smile. She freaked out at the iciness of the water, swam halfway and came back while her boyfriend again swam to the waterfall and back. She got out of the water, hugging a sun-soaked rock and saying, “C-c-can’t b-b-breathe. S-s-s-ooo cold.”
And so I watched, letting my feet dry in the sun, watching some other visitors brave the cold pool.
Oh boy. I began to realize that I’d come all the way to California, to this place, and… well, shouldn’t I make the leap into the water, too? Was putting my feet in enough of an experience? My body told me yes. My heart said otherwise.
I recalled my missed opportunity the other day with Alicia and her invite that I declined and regretted. I didn’t want to relive that regret. I couldn’t.
I was on an adventure. I was doing things I may not normally do. This included jumping into a freezing waterfall pool in Northern California. Even if that meant I had to take off my shirt and show the people around me just what eating a lot of pizza does to your body, especially compared the guys around me who all had abs. Ugh. Oh well.
I asked the couple if they would take my picture saying, “I will regret this, probably. But I have to do it. I came all the way from Pennsylvania.”
The “freezing-my-balls-off” guy said, “Dude! Pennsylvania! Hell yeah! You definitely have to do this. I’ll let my girl take the picture.”
I took my shirt off, stood ankle-deep on a rock that dropped off into the depth of the dark pool, and I contemplated my newest life decision.
This was going to be cold. I mean shouldn’t waters in California be warm? I looked back to the couple, nervous. I counted and then I propelled off the rock.
I screamed at the frigid touch of the pool. It. Was. BITING. Regardless, I forced myself closer to the waterfall. I was halfway there when I understood just how hard it was to breathe. The cold waters made such a simple function a chore. I wasn’t going to make it to the base of the waterfall. That was okay. I’d done the unthinkable. I’d jumped in the water. I just needed to avoid drowning. I spun around and flailed back to the safety of the rocks, hugging their warmth.
“Y-y-y-ou w-w-weren’t k-k-idding,” I stammered to the guy, who laughed.
But I’d done it. I took the leap. It was a physical leap, but maybe it was also metaphorical of my entire trip. Jumping into the unknown, navigating, propelling myself forward even if it’s hard to digest or breathe at times. It didn’t matter. I was doing it.
I drank in the sun’s warmth on the rock for almost an hour, just watching the falls, addicted to their roar. Such peace. Such tranquility. I watched as a husband and wife (graduates of Ohio State) enjoyed the cold waters with their three little girls. We had friendly conversation and helped each other take pictures in front of the falls. They were such a nice family and I was glad for their company, even if I never got their names.
After my time there, I started my journey to the Lower Falls. It was a bit of a hike through the forest and I started to realize that it was after 6PM. Daylight was fading. I didn’t want to be caught in the darkness on these trails. I walked as fast as I could, making my way to the Lower Falls. I spent less than five minutes there. Enough time to take a few photos so I could hightail it the mile or so back to my car before daylight ran out. I was fine, returning with plenty of time to spare.
The rest of the day was nothing special. I drove back, got a Fire Lizard tea from Dutch Bros (strawberry, banana, orange SO GOOD), tried to go to a bar, but everything was closed, and so I ate leftover pizza and watched two more episodes of The Boys. Such a good show; a very dark take on superheroes. Love it.
This has been a long post, but I feel like this was my favorite day yet. It was ripe with adventure. I’d forced myself to step out of my comfort zone many times from hiking alone in the mountains despite my paralyzing fear of snakes to jumping into frigid waters. The day was full of beauty, wonder, and power. Mt. Shasta did not disappoint. It met my expectations and then some. It was everything and I felt like I conquered so much on both a physical and personal level.
This trip is everything. I’m enjoying it and I’m honestly sad that in less than a week it ends. But, hopefully, this won’t be the last trip like this.
I will return to Mt. Shasta tomorrow (Tuesday). The Panther Meadows will be open then, and I plan to explore its sacred beauty.
Thanks for taking the time to read my adventure. I’m still processing yesterday, adrenaline from the day still racing through my veins.
Until next time…