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New Years Journey to Spring Hill: Climbing an (for me) Unclimbable Mountain


Spring Hill in Mount Shasta, California
Spring Hill in Mount Shasta, California

It was January 1st, 2023 and I was feeling shut in. My family had been stuck inside for weeks between work, school, and the torrent of snow and rain storms that had passed through our small town here in Mount Shasta for most of December. January 1st brought with it some beautiful clear, sunny skies and the recent rains had washed away much of the snow in the lower elevations of the city and hillsides.


At the visitor’s center where I work, I had been mulling over different hikes in the area. I had my favorite spots which always deeply nourished my heart, but I was feeling lament over a particular spot I had never dared venture: Spring Hill.


Spring Hill is a smallerish, parasitic cone a few miles west from the base of Mount Shasta. “A parasitic cone (also adventive cone or satellite cone) is the cone-shaped accumulation of volcanic material not part of the central vent of a volcano. It forms from eruptions from fractures on the flank of the volcano. These fractures occur because the flank of the volcano is unstable. Eventually, the fractures reach the magma chamber and generate eruptions called flank eruptions, which, in turn, produce a parasitic cone” (1). Hundreds of years ago, Spring Hill flew off the flank of Mount Shasta and landed in its current position in a violent volcanic event that also produced pyroclastic flows.


Spring Hill is something to be admired. It is one of three major geographical and geological points of interest in our small town of Mount Shasta. About a mile to the north of it is Black Butte, a much larger series of dacite domes formed 9,500 years ago from the peaks of Shastina, a subsidiary cone off the flank of Mount Shasta. So, these three geological structures, Mount Shasta, Black Butte, and Spring Hill, form a triangle that, one could imagine, creates this high energy convergence between the three points. In the very least, they make for very interesting and beautiful photographs!


Photos of Mount Shasta, Spring Hill, and Black Butte taken from the same vantage point.


Spring Hill has several neighborhoods surrounding its south and east sides. To the west is the city park where the Big Springs Headwaters is located that falls down into Big Springs Creek. To the North is Black Butte and open land with several industrious type businesses sandwiched between. To the Northeast is the Shasta Trinity National Forest spotted in conifer trees.


Spring Hill has an elevation climb of 650’ with a beautiful switchback trail to summit it. It’s a popular hiking destination, particularly because of its cool views of Mount Shasta, Black Butte, and the surrounding town. It has also some pretty unique geological features on its east facing flank called Rocky Point.


So Daniel, my husband, and I got to talking. I was very interested in finally hiking Spring Hill, mainly because I had never attempted the hike in my 15 years living in Mount Shasta City (I’m ashamed to admit!). The reason why is because I never really believed I could. It’s a 1.5-mile uphill hike summitting over 650 feet in that shorter distance. For some, this is child’s play, but for me, a person living with chronic illness (RA and fibromyalgia) it’s kind of a nightmare hike. My usual trails are much more moderate in elevation climb and offer more balance between uphill, downhill, and level hiking.


Yet on this day, January 1st 2023, I was feeling adventurous and curious. In late 2022, I had hiked Bunny Flat to Old Skill Bowl and down through Panther Meadow. That hike took me uphill 900 feet in 4 miles, and then downhill another 4 miles to get back to the parking lot. It was the most ambitious hike I had ever done. So I knew that with a little determination and a lot of sweat, and possibly some tears, I could summit Spring Hill’s 650 feet. Altogether, I was looking at about a 3.5 mile hike with the inclusion of a little side trip out to Rocky Point, which added another .5 miles to the hike.


I decided that for sure I wanted to hike Spring Hill. One reason was out of sheer determination. Another reason was because I wanted to forge a connection with Spring Hill and the spirits of this small habitat that seemed to be calling to me. Another is that I wanted to experience the hike for myself so I could do my job at the Visitor’s Center with more confidence when talking to visitors about this particular hike.


I told Daniel of my plans and he humored me and we agreed that we would go. So we drove out to Spring Hill, just about two miles from our small, simple house in the suburbs to the south east of the small hillside.


We arrived a short time passed noon and began our hike at the trailhead. I was feeling a bit anxious about this hike, wondering if I would begin hiking the steep incline and feel the need to give up immediately. Lately, I had been having bad fibromyalgia and RA flare ups that made the idea of hiking even moderate trails overwhelming. I knew this hike might make my joints ache. But I wanted to see if I could do it.


So up we went. The first quarter mile was probably one of the most difficult parts of the hike, as the incline here was much steeper. I had to stop and rest every twenty steps or so. Daniel was kind enough to be patient and wait with me while we watched other hikers move passed us without any trouble.


View of Mount Shasta from the first lookout bench on Spring Hill


Our first stopping point was a sweet little bench lookout point that had a unique view of Mount Shasta. Spring Hill had several of these bench lookouts along the trail, which were fun to stop and rest at.


View of Mount Shasta from Spring Hill Vantage Point, Revealing a Heart Shape on the Mountain


Although I was really thinking about turning back past that .25 mile mark, I was also determined. And when I get determined to do something, I tend to follow through no matter what. So we kept going, up and up we went to two other bench points.



I became fascinated by several spots below and began using my zoom function to takes pictures that seemed artistic to me. There was a bench we made it to where we could see some really interesting views of Mount Shasta, and thanks to the high zoom in function of my 120 mega pixel camera, I was able to get some spectacular photographs of far off points.


Zoom-ins from Bench Vantage Point


Some of the trail had slippery snow still taking up space on the path. I didn’t let this deter me, but when we ran into a group of young men hikers using ski poles to navigate the slippery terrain, I had to admit they really made a smart move and I thought it should be a good idea for me to get my own pair for these challenging and possibly risky hikes.


But being the expert snow hiker that I am, we managed to get up the slippery snow with no problem!


We came to the fork in the trail that lead to two different destinations: rocky point loop side track or straight to the summit. We decided we would hit the loop on the other side on the way back and go straight to the summit first. Here, I began to really make connection with Spring Hill and its unique habitat. I realized that whatever animals we’d encountered really had their own little domain here on this hillside, which was covered in trees of all varieties. The vegetation was pretty lush when compared to the Black Butte domes.


By the time we hit this point on the trail, I was a fatigued, yet thrilled that I had almost made it! I knew I was going to get there!


Views of the Western and Southern Mountains from the Summit of Spring Hill


A short distance later, we arrived at the summit where a picnic table awaited us. Here we took more pictures. Then, Daniel and I stepped out to the lookout of the summit that peered out to the south. On the ground, Daniel noticed a small heart shaped rock and said how sweet it was to be there. We held hands over the rock and performed a blessing on the hillside and on Mount Shasta and the city. We thanked the land for this special little excursion and adventure and that we could have the opportunity to pray on the summit. We communed with the hill and experienced the beautiful grace that was present there. Then, headed back down towards Rocky Point.


Slippery Rocky Point Path plus Views of the Mountains and Sky


Rocky Pint was a bit challenging to navigate because it was covered in snow and was uphill around the loop. I thought I’d be hiking back down the rest of the way, but was surprised with a steep, rocky, snow-covered trail we had to hike up to get to Rocky Point.


Views of Black and Mount Shasta with Zoom-ins from Rocky Point Loop


The views here were absolutely worth the hike up the slippery hillside! It was breathtaking up there, with the gorgeous blue skies and beautiful mountains and conifer’s surrounding us in all directions. There was an especially magical moment where a large flock of crows emerged from the beyond the hillside and flew up and around us. The crow is one of my Spirit Animals and had been guiding me to this area near Spring Hill well before that day, so it felt like a special confirmation about this land and the locations surrounding it, which I had been doing Shamanic work on.


Daniel and I at Rocky Point


Up here, Daniel and I shared a moment and a kiss, grateful that we were able to take such a wondrous hike and that we had the health to do it. I am reminded in these moments that even though I don’t always have pain free days and I often don’t feel so good in my body because of my disabilities, I still feel so blessed and grateful for the health I do have to do things like hike and practice yoga. It may sound cheesy, but leaning into gratitude here and experiencing the bliss I can gets me through the very difficult moments of intense pain.


After our stop at Rocky Point, it was time to come down from Spring Hill. The downhill journey was just as challenging as the uphill journey, as it seemed to work out different but equally challenging muscle groups in my legs and challenged my hip joints. As we came down the hillside, I was excited to see the moon glowing in the midday near Mount Shasta and I used my zoom function to take a few up close and personal portraits of La Luna.


Zoom-in of the Moon


As we were near the finish line, Daniel started teasing me with some silly jokes that I can’t even remember, only that he had me laughing and giggling near the end, which really helped me persevere. By the time we made it back to the car, we were both totally exhausted and could barely walk. We sat in the car and sighed in relief.


So I did it. I hiked this (for me) unhikable mountain and proved to myself yet again that I can do hard (yet fun) things, even in a body suffering with chronic illness! And I know that being with my partner really made this hike possible. Connection is the key for me in doing challenging things. Doing it together with others makes it possible and so much funner!


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