Monday, October 13, 2014

Climbing the Sacred Shasta Mountain, or What Can One See From The Foothills



Once Birdie's paid slavery (=residency in Connecticut with only 3 months of good weather each year) was over, we decided to pursue our dream and explore Northern America for the perfect place to live. We chose to start from happy California: sun-deprived for the last 3 years (and the 8 years before, living in gritty grey NYC), we were ecstatic to go to a place with no winter. We packed all our belongings into storage containers, stashed them into a garage alongside our car, made certain arrangements about our furniture, and off we went to travel for the next 2 years in search of the perfect place to settle - weather-wise, people-wise and energy-wise.




I'd lived in San Francisco before and didn't really enjoy it: most of the time the city is enveloped in heavy foggy clouds, and the sole reason for us to escape to California was the sun... so the city was out of the question. South California, though warm and sunny, was very dry and barren, and Birdie likes the lush forests of the Nepali jungle, so we came to Sonoma County, the jewel hidden between the Northern California hills, where there is no gloom and no rain, almost 365 days a year (it's true, it hasn't rained once in 4 months we've been here - the valley is perfectly protected from adversities). The incubator weather conditions are the pride of the locals and the reason Sonoma grapes, the delicate and finicky berries, are so good. These weather conditions are also a great background for adventure and travel.




We decided it's a perfect opportunity to visit the revered Sacred Shasta Mountain, since it was so close to us now. We rented a sleeper van not to be limited to one location, and off we went, in search of the miraculous.

We read stories about Lemurians - a magical people living inside the mountain since the times of Atlantis and randomly seen by town dwellers and unsuspecting tourists. We were jokingly hoping to see a Lemurian, even though nobody has ever confirmed their existence. But the mountain had more interesting mysteries waiting for us...

We came to the foothills of the mountain and prepared for an ascension. Water, backpack, sweaters, sneakers and a lot of zeal - we felt ready for the day under the intensely blue sky. Our dog Ava went along, unsuspecting of the hardships she had to face in the hours to come...







We had a very approximate map of the mountain and decided to just follow the path - but at some point the path has disappeared, and we had to intuitively find our way. We decided to reach the apex of the mountain which looked like the crater of the volcano (Shasta is an active volcano that last erupted about a hundred years ago - there are lots of volcanic matter and a whole plateau of pumice on the way to the top).





I noticed that Birdie wasn't anywhere near: he is more adept at climbing mountains and more physically fit, so he's usually way ahead of me, but when the rocks got steep and dangerous closer to the crater, he chose a safer path around the hill. My balance, on the other hand, is way better than his, and though it was really dangerous to move forward, I decided to climb straight up - the top seemed so close! 20 minutes more and I would be on top! My ego didn't let me stop. I needed to get to the top!!!


I got pumped up by danger and the proximity of the mountain top, my energy level jumped up, I felt like a gazelle climbing almost vertically, choosing more stable rocks to step on and not kill myself... I didn't hear anything and didn't see anything around - the desire to get to the top devoured me... Only 15 minutes later I realized that I don't hear anything. Absolutely nothing. I stopped for a sip of water and tried to listen. Nothing. No sound, no noise, no footsteps, no rock slide. I tried to call Birdie but he didn't respond. Then I heard his faded scream... somewhere very, very far away. I screamed back, but he didn't hear it - there was a mountain ridge between us that prevented the sound from traveling. My voice is soft, so I had to try really hard to be heard. I screamed my lungs out... I saw Birdie run from the other side of the ridge. He was so frightened of my possible demise that he stopped climbing. He saw how dangerous the rocks were and thought I slipped and killed myself.



His fear of losing me was so strong that it ruined the rest of the day, and even though I was so-so-so close to the top, I decided to abort my mission. I was so close but... who cares. I didn't come here to set the world record...and we went down. Ava was so exhausted at this point that we had to carry her back. Her little foot cushions got all red and swollen the next day - she'd been a real trooper and climbed all the way up with us, but the rocks were too hard for her city paws!

When we descended a little bit, we had the most horrific realization to make: the crater that we were trying to reach so painstakingly was yet a small ridge on the side of the mountain. We couldn't see the real apex from where we were - so the ridge seemed like the ultimate top and looked oh so tempting. We almost killed ourselves trying to reach the top that was not the top at all...



The lesson that the Mountain taught us was much more valuable than any magic: if you don't know the way, if it's your first time walking the path, you have no way of knowing whether the path is right. If you have a map drawn by someone who'd already been there, your chances to reach the top are way higher. But if you go by yourself trying to find the way intuitively, there is a high chance to get deluded or completely lost, like we did. You will never know until you reach there. If somebody tells you they haven't been there but they know how to get there nevertheless  - take their statements with a grain of salt, or rather find a more experienced person who has walked the walk...

I remembered Alejandro Jodorowski's The Holy Mountain again, and, truly, Shasta has become our Holy Moutain and taught us a brilliant lesson, it gave us answers we didn't know we were looking for. In fact, the most important lesson we needed to learn at this time on our path...

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