“When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.” -John Muir
At just over 14,000 feet, Mount Shasta is a stratovolcano that is California’s fifth highest peak and the second highest in the Cascade Range. The native inhabitants believed the summit to be occupied by the spirit Skell, and settlers from many cultures have attributed the mountain spiritual power over the past century and a half. My reaction upon approaching Mount Shasta from the old Siskiyou Trail (Highway 5) was like that of John Muir above. I felt magnetically pulled, my eye drawn to its glaciated peaks, the mountain’s silent presence oddly trumping all other thoughts as we spent the weekend visiting our old friend, the architect Kurt Melander, whose cabin sits nestled between two swiftly flowing rivers, in direct view of the southwestern elevation of Mount Shasta.
We discovered the wildflowers to be at their peak as we hiked to the river’s sources, two alpine lakes at about 7200 foot elevation, about three or four miles from Kurt’s cabin, an ascent of just 2000 feet. The day was crystal clear, with a dry, cool breeze coming down from the remaining snow melt, and we all felt the giddy disorientation of the high altitude, pristine beauty around us. Of the dozens of wildflowers blooming beneath old growth ponderosa pine, mountain hemlock and cedar, here are a few of the more plentiful blossoms growing alongside the rivers:
an alpine lake at 7200 feet