Climbing the Mountain: An Endurance Pilgrimage of Devotion Photo Journey
All Photos are Intellectual Property of Srimati Arya Moon. Copyright Srimati Arya Moon, 2022. All rights reserved.
Nearing the end of October, I began having visions and dreams of Mount Shasta erupting. The dreams, at first, terrified me. As someone who has, for years, had many spiritual dreams and visions, I knew that dreams could have many varieties of meanings, but I still felt and experienced the doom of an impending volcanic eruption.
When we first moved to Mount Shasta, and over the years since, I had these reoccurring dreams frequently. They were always very strange. I'd be caught in the midst of the eruption and experience the terror of pyroclastic flows, lahars, and lava flows coming toward me and I needed to run and flee immediately. I'd concern myself with grabbing what was important, my pets, family, important artworks, a pair of shoes, and clothes (don't forget clothes), and getting out as quickly as possible. The landscapes would change drastically and I would watch vents open up, the floors crack in two, and lava beds creek across the land. Inevitably I would touch or walk into the lava and get burned. In one strange dream, I saw Mount Shasta give birth to all of California, surrounded by dinosaurs. Each dream brought with it an ancient felt experience. It was as if I felt these ancient, primordial strings of deep time that ran through the ground beneath me. An older Earth and her many eras.
Since I've been initiated as a Shamanic Priestess, every time I experience dreams, I feel a sense of curiosity for the medicine they are sharing with me. I don't take volcanic dreams at face value as a prediction for an eruption (although at some time in the *hopefully far, far, far away* future, that is bound to happen). It is, rather, about the felt experience and the merging taking place. Because I am so connected to the Earth, I always feel a sense of merging that comes from these experiences. I am receiving a deeper communion with the land. And the land shares her medicine with me.
It had been years since I experienced these dreams. I haven't had a volcano dream in well over five years. I'm not really sure why they stopped. Perhaps I had reached a place of security with my home and felt so safe here that I doubted it would or could happen. So it surprised me that during one of my routine nature merging meditations, a Kundalini Yoga meditation called Long Chant, I saw a vision of Mount Shasta erupting. After the vision came and went, I felt a little insecure. It was enough that the image was with me.
Later I told my husband about it and the feelings it brought up—fear, anxiety, uneasiness, doom. I was insecure. He reminded me that my visions were not always what they seemed and I agreed. Later that night we were listening to an episode of one of our favorite podcasts and the hosts were talking about a man who had a dream of a volcanic eruption that later came true. I looked at my husband anxiously and laughed "well, I haven't had a dream about it at least, it was just a vision during meditation." Later that night, I had a series of intense dreams that the volcano was erupting. Each dream felt more prophetic than the previous one. I woke up in a hot sweat, crying, and told my husband we needed to get the heck out of this city because the volcano was going to blow! He held me and assured me I was safe and that we were safe.
Over the following days, the dreams stayed with me until I no longer had dreams of volcanos erupting. I haven't dreamed of it since. Every day, I have felt a little more secure than the previous day. The medicine the dreams and vision held was given to me and it is still growing in me: volcano medicine.
Merging with the Land
I experienced a deep merging with the land in the days since that has only grown in intensity. It started with a feeling of "not enough". Not enough time, not enough experiences, not enough seeing, not enough presence, not enough being here. I looked around the Earth and realized I had taken so much of it for granted. If this mountain did erupt, everything would change. I felt deep pangs of sorrow consume my being. I looked at the mountain differently and wanted to merge more deeply with her. I communed with her and cried with her. I ached for her. How was it possible that I had lived on this land for as long as I had and I never really, truly saw her? She was a background character, always looming over us like a protectress. In reality, she was our mother who birthed the Earth we lived on. I hadn't truly seen or known her.
I felt deep sorrow at the thought that I would never be able to be close to her again. Her gates had closed for the winter. Every late October, the gates to old Ski Bowl are closed. Old Ski Bowl is the highest place to drive to get as close to her top as possible. Right near the top at Ski Bowl, there is a sacred meadow held in reverence to the local Native Americans called Panther Meadows. This meadow is home to a sacred spring that comes from the mountain ground and runs down the mountain. The native plants include beautiful arnica, heather, and Indian paintbrush. I felt such sorrow to think that this land could be extinguished and all of the living plants and animals could be destroyed. I imagined a scene similar to the Rings of Power when Mordor is born.
That is when I knew I needed to get up there one last time before the snows came. I needed to be close to her. I needed to lay eyes on the meadow and offer a blessing to the Spring.
So I set the intention to get up there the only way possible. To hike up there from Bunny Flats. The hike up to old Ski Bowl and into Panther Meadows is 4.2 miles, plus the 4.8 mile hike back down (4.8 miles on the main, closed road). The elevation climb is about 1350 feet. This was easily the most challenging hike I've ever taken on and I had no idea if I could even do it. It didn't matter though. I knew I needed to go. My very soul was telling me "go!"
Pilgrimage of Endurance and Devotion
On October 25th, during the Full Moon Solar Eclipse, we traversed into the 11th moon cycle with the Clan Mother Walks Tall Woman. Walks Tall Woman is the Mother of Endurance and Physical Fitness. I knew that on my hike, I would need to summon her and her Spirit to make it through this hike.
On October 29th, my husband and I set out to Bunny Flats at approximately noontime. I originally intended for an earlier hike, because I knew I would need to pace myself to get there, probably approaching the hike like a HIIT workout with intervals of rest and intensity. One thing to know about Walks Tall Woman is that she teaches how to keep our bodies and minds flexible and in good health through advancing and retreating. Advancing and retreating. Intensity and resting. This is how I was going to do it. Although I love to hike, my hikes are all much easier than this hike and I have rarely ever hiked over 4 miles in one day. The elevation hike was also the highest I have ever done to date. I knew I would be working parts of my body I wasn't used to exerting!
Arriving at Bunny Flats
We arrived at Bunny Flats and walked to the trailhead, first stopping to use the restroom and grab important items we'd need on our hike: cold weather jackets, water bottle, trail snacks, phones with trail map, emergency kit, and life straw. We followed the first trail up to our first trail marker and up we went.
Immediately, I was challenged. My calves ached and burned and I was exerting my legs and glutes. As we climbed higher and higher, I had to rest more frequently. My husband asked me if I was sure I could handle it and suggested we turn around. I told him no, I needed to keep going. I held my rosary close to my heart and said a prayer to the Earth. I asked her to give me the strength to complete this journey. At one point I believed I couldn't continue. I told my husband it might be time to turn around, but he ushered me on and encouraged me to try a little further. Every hiker on the trail passed us by with ease and I felt slightly self-conscious. At one point, a tall athletic woman and her beautiful dog ran up the hill with little effort and I thought for sure I staring at Walks Tall Woman. If ever she was present in front of me in human form, this was surely what she would look like. Later on the trail, she passed me again as she ran back down, her dog right beside her. She smiled at me kindly and nodded reassuringly, almost as if telling me I could do it. It felt like a wink from the Mother, telling me she was there watching over me and cheering me on.
Hiking Through the Forested Trail, Bunny Flats Trailhead to Old Ski Bowl, Mount Shasta
The trail was incredibly beautiful, albeit steep and rocky. In some places, more gentle and sloping. In others, it was like climbing up staircase after staircase, with large steps up big rocks. The sides of the trails were adorned in magical evergreen trees of all sizes, all of them quirky looking due to the high elevation and deep snow winters.
Close to the opening near the top, we were passed by an older gentleman who was also struggling to make it up the hill. He was recovering from a heart injury and doing his best to get to the top. I shared my trail map with him and we encouraged one another that we could do it. He and his son passed us by and climbed ahead of us. I was inspired by his perseverance and knew if he could do it, so could I.
Emerging from the Forest to Bunny Flats-Old Ski Bowl
When I finally broke out of the forest and toward the path where Ski Bowl met Bunny Flats, I was so thrilled. We did it! I did it! I climbed a steep mountain and made it to the top of beautiful Mount Shasta to see her one more time before she was snowed in for the season. The medicine she gave me in my dreams and vision told me that every day could be our last, so we must treasure our time with our precious loved ones while we can. And here I was, there to be with her as closely as I could. Daniel and I basked in her beauty. We were alone at the top, just the two of us and what seemed the last hikers up there for the day. The world was an ocean up here. It was chilly and breezy, but the sun was shining upon us. We turned to Mount Shasta. Just above her head was a large cloud hugging her. I wished I could be that cloud and give her a hug too. I was grateful to be there.
Coming to The Top of Old Ski Bowl, Mount Shasta
Once we rested and enjoyed the views, we knew we needed to hike back down into Panther Meadows before it got any darker. By this time, we were heading into the late afternoon. It had taken me several hours to make the 4-mile, 1350-ft elevation climb. We only had several hours before it got dark again and we needed to hike another 4.8 miles or so to make it back along the road.
We climbed down the curved road to upper Panther Meadows and followed the trail to the Spring. There we stopped. I had made it to my pilgrimage point! I only had about ten minutes to rest and stand there before we needed to keep going again.
Upper Panther Meadows Sacred Site. Mount Shasta
Daniel and I held hands and said a prayer. I blessed the Spring and the mountain and gave thanks to the mountain for all she does for us. I blessed the lands for future generations and offered myself, emptying my heart and soul into the Spring. I blessed the water and every place it touched as it made its track down the mountain.
Once we finished our blessing, we hiked back into a small forest and down to the main trail that took us to lower Panther Meadows into an abandoned campground. We were the only two people there for miles on end. Alone in the middle of one of the most sacred places in Mount Shasta. I knew this journey would be a trust fall. I trusted that we would make this hike and be safe. I felt the Earth move through my feet, giving me strength to preservere. My feet and legs were so tired from climbing rough and ragged terrain, climbing up big rocky steps, and climbing back down on uneven rock surfaces. It was tough to hike not just for the incline and the length, but because the terrain was so uneven and rocky.
Hiking down into Lower Panther from Upper Panther Meadows. We arrive at the Abandoned Camping Ground in Lower Panther Meadows. Mount Shasta.
As we passed into the abandoned campground and made our way back to the road, there was a sort of sorrow present. Both Daniel and I felt the heaviness of this challenging adventure that taxed both of our ability to endure. We still had a four-mile track back to the trailhead at bunny flats, but at least we would be walking on a stable, solid, paved road. Nonetheless, although we were no longer hiking uphill, the walk back down the road was still challenging since it also required using muscle groups I wasn't used to working out walking on relatively flatter, more even ground. We needed to hike down another 900 feet or so!
Coming onto the Abandoned Road at Lower Panther Meadows, Mount Shasta
As we walked, all was silent. We still saw the occasional chipmunk and bird, but nothing surrounded us but rocks, mountains, and evergreen trees. In the far distance, we saw the mountains across the Western and Southern horizons. It was strange to be in a place so isolated from people. The descent down was long and lonely. Both Daniel and I were tired and the charm of the place had worn off. We were eager to make it back and rest.
We kept walking, kept descending. Every stretch of road we hoped would be our last, but our hearts dropped when we saw another turn and another stretch. I pulled up my map and saw that we had many more curves and straights to make. Four miles on tired feet is quite long.
Feeling a Sense of Isolation with a bit of Hope Near the End. Descending to Bunny Flats Trail Head. We Arrive Just Before Sunset.
Mount Shasta at an Abandoned Everitt Memorial Highway in Late October 2022.
When we finally made it to our last stretch, we saw a family hiking along the road. The first people we had seen since long before we made it up to Ski Bowl. I took some pictures and we crossed the gate to the finish line, to the car. We sat in our old 2007 Ford Escape and laughed and sighed in relief. We still had 1-2 hours of sunlight and we made it without any injury to body.
We Finally Make it Back to the Trailhead at the Closed Gate at Bunny Flats Trailhead. Mount Shasta.
On our way back home, I had time to think about this journey. Thoughts entered my mind about my why. Why did I make this journey? Did I really believe this mountain was going to blow its top before I could see it again next summer in July? Or would something happen to our family that would take us away from this land and this would be my last pilgrimage into Panther Meadows for a long while yet? I wasn't sure. I only knew that I needed to go. I needed to see it all one last time before it was gone from my eyes for the next few seasons. Before any of it was gone from my eyes for good! I needed to offer one last blessing at least.
Mount Shasta is Weird
To finish off this story, I am going to segue. Recently, Daniel told me about a funny thing; Mount Shasta was voted the most supernatural place on Earth. I thought that an odd fact given I had heard so many ghost stories about other, seemingly more haunted places the world over. For all the years I have lived here, I have yet to come across anything too strange. I haven't seen any UFOs or had any encounters with Big Foot. Visitors come to the area to experience the magic and mystery of the Lemurian legends and tales of Telos. They ask about vortexes and extraterrestrials, and if I have ever laid eyes on a Lemurian. I always laugh, because I find the idea so funny. Most people come to this land having little idea of the true magic it holds. That magic is much more mundane than they realize and it is existing right in front of them. It is in the flowers, the rocks, the trees, and the ground they stand on. It is here, where Earth and sky meet Mountain.
Recently where I work at the Visitor's Center I met a man from Shanghai China and I told him if he wanted to visit a sacred site to go to Sisson Meadows, a wetland just behind the Middle School a few blocks down my street. It's an incredibly gorgeous location filled with beautiful blooms from Spring well into Summer. It is a protected land owned by a local Land Trust that has a cool boardwalk running through it. I go to this meadow almost every day and take a walk through the boardwalk and sit on the bench. I watch the sunset and cry while communing with the Heavens and Earth. Sometimes during full moons, I come here at night and sit and moon gaze. On new moon nights, it is the most wonderful place to star gaze.
I have met many wonderful humans here who have shared in the sheer beauty of this space. I have laid offerings of flowers at trees and by a small waterfall that trickles underneath a tiny wooden bridge connecting back to the main road. Funny thing is, I'm not sure if you'll find this site in the Sacred Sites book sold at our Visitor's Center. Yet I think it is a very sacred place to feel the communion of Earth and Sky. Here I have had many conversations with the stars, moon, and Heavens. I have talked to trees, birds, and other animals. I have given my blessing to every last square inch of ground.
Sisson Meadows between Spring-Summer, 2022 at Various Times of Day
The man from Shanghai said sure, he'd check it out. Later that night as I was on my evening walk, I was taking pictures of the mountain from one of my favorite spots. I saw the man from Shanghai, walking with his wife who was about ten feet behind him. He was on his phone the entire time and barely looked up from off the trail. I prayed in that moment he'd get the chance to be kissed by this land and experience its magic.
The Medicine in Mount Shasta
In my time living here for the past 16 years and with the medicine Mount Shasta gave me in the dreams and vision I had of her explosive birthing power, I've realized Mount Shasta's medicine isn't so much about Lumerians and vortices, but about something much more truthful and wholesome: a holy communion in which the land, the volcano, the Earth has shared herself with me and invited me to sit with her, commune with her, and know her. I felt her heat, her power, her kindness. I experienced her magma chamber that was like a hot womb. I saw this chamber connected with the inner Earth, not as a secret city of strange alien beings, but as a body with internal veins and chambers that circulated across the world. I experienced her inner chamber as her, while the mountain itself was an extension of her. Her real secret presence lay inside the mountain. The mystery of her medicine is deep inside the Earth, where her womb connects with the inner Earth that is Mother Gaia.
What I received from this communion with the mountain might seem terrifying (and it certainly was in the sense of what the medicine is and represents). But it was also incredibly, profoundly heart-opening. I communed deeply with Mama Mountain and received the knowledge that a volcanic eruption is like a flower blooming. It is the Earth herself blooming. While so many draw on the image of rage and anger with a volcano, this is not necessarily what a volcano represents, although that anger can be a part of it. It actually represents birth and transformation. Volcanic eruptions are how the Earth renews and births herself, providing the land with new growth and new Earth filled with rich minerals and fertile nutrients. The inner chamber of a volcano is like a womb. The land birthed into existence is an entirely new life. Volcanic eruptions completely transform the terrain. As with all birthing, there is also death that exists beside it; there is destruction, hot fluid, pain, sorrow, and even anger and rage. In the process of the death and rebirth cycle, it is death that coincides rebirth. As we forsake one life, we are able to be born into a different one. The Earth moves through similar cycles with all her functions, and volcanos, perhaps, personify this perfectly. The land forsakes its life to be born again and transformed. We can look to Mt St. Helens as an example of this. The eruption that took place there May 18, 1980 (exactly five years before my own birth!) totally changed the landscape of the area.
When I think on these things, I enter a deeper state of presence and reverence with this land and I realize how utterly precious every day, every breath, every moment with this Earth is. I know that when this mountain eventually erupts, much of this land will die and change. I have spent much time with this land here in Mount Shasta, visiting these various sites, laying down offerings to the Earth, foraging nature offerings and collecting plants, rocks, sticks, and soil. There is a deep sadness in my heart to know that someday, this land will no longer be as it is. The life that is here is fleeting. The trees, the many botanicals, the charming city, and the people are all like a heartbeat in the grand scheme of this ancient Earth that stretches back into deep time.
Volcano medicine transmitted this understanding to me, helping me to know just how precious these moments are. This has sparked in me an intense desire to remain in deep community with my ecology. I find myself spending more time outdoors touching the ground, inhaling the air, and taking in every site I can with deep reverie. I soak it all in with total awe, my heart Is open and connected to the Earth and Sky. I find myself desiring to spend as much time with my many beloveds here (the trees, the plants, the animals, the sky, the sacred sites, my husband, and my child) as possible. Every day is a beautiful blessing. Every moment is so savory. Holy communion is known to me in this space and spirit. This land is my family and I feel the grief of its passing, as time passes, as things change.
I write this not to bring sadness to your hearts, but to open them. Life is truly fleeting, and we are here to experience this. To know the marriage