The flat open valley floor meets the mountains on the horizon and greets me with waving grasses and rock formations that call out for climbing and standing on the look-out. This place screams openness, emptiness, possibility. I love this place. Towering over this valley to the South sits Mt Shasta. This summer I walked 14 days on the Pacific Crest Trail in a wide arc around this mountain, the tallest one (14,610 ft) of the Cascade range. I walked with the spirit of the mountain as she showed her white self on every ridge I climbed, and through openings in the woods where I hiked. The local Karuk Indians call Mt Shasta, Úytaahkoo, which translates to “White Mountain”.
On my two-week hike I encountered steep snowfields. Shasta mountain gave me back memories of climbing her steep sides years ago and I remembered how to traverse what was in front of me. When the trail became confusing, the mountain helped me orient myself. When the sun was blazing on the ridge, Shasta looked at me from beyond the ridge with a cool white eye, reminding me that “this too will pass”. Mt Shasta is the epicenter, the umbilical cord of what I call “my place”. A place I chose after wandering around the planet for the first trimester of my life.
Why this place? Does the mountain have “a spirit” as the Karuk say? A spirit that calls me to this place? Whatever place you choose doesn’t become “your” place until you spend time, shed sweat and tears, accept its good and bad, and slowly form a relationship that enters your bones. I have walked here when I felt overwhelmed, when I was distraught; I have walked when I was curious, happy and hopeless. By walking I always find the heart of what moves me forward in life. As I walk, breathe and carry, my life is reduced to the basics of living at two miles an hour at the base of a mountain in a place I call home.