Mount Shasta

Camping on my own has been something I've had apprehension about for a while, but I finally tackled it. I could have tackled it in a warmer and less extreme manner, but it probably wouldn't have been nearly as beautiful.

On my way down from Portland to the Bay Area for Thanksgiving, I opted for a campsite that cost about as much as the average sketchy motel. I drove to the city of Weed, followed instructions which led me down a few dirt roads, and then arrived at the site just in time for sunset.

I had found a site where land owners rent out their private property to campers. Some are just little sites in backyard gardens, but some are in unadulterated sweeping valleys of dry brush with unbeatable views of Mount Shasta. You can guess which I went for.


There was a distant hint of the property owner's rooftop, but aside from that, it was raw as far as the eye could see. There was no snow on the shrubby ground, but Mount Shasta itself was very close and very snowy. I could feel the bite as it got darker and darker, so I soon bundled up in my car for the night.


Despite the protection of a down sleeping back and heavy comforter, I was cold to the edge of my endurance level. I read by lantern light for a little while, but soon decided that I'd rather just be unconscious for most of the dark and cold hours.

An alarm woke me up just a little before sunrise. I pulled on extra layers, admired the thick layer of ice that had formed both inside and out of my car, and then got out to explore.


Everything was spiked with frost and pink from the intensely saturated sun rising. I climbed around up a rocky ridge just beside my site. The owner had sent me a message saying that this ridge was created by an old lava flow and had been used as a Native American ceremonial site at some point. It was certainly a good place for it, I thought. The ridge afforded a panoramic view of the surrounding valley, where sweeping shrubby slopes gave way to distant bumps of hills poking up through pink low-hanging fog.


Eventually the pink flush cooled down to blue. I kept going along the ridge and found birds eating frosty juniper berries. My fingers and toes started to go simultaneously numb and painful, so I decided it was time to go back to town and get some warm things.