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Story by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tales

                  

SHEDDING LIGHT ON THE MOUNTAIN
A Traveler Confronts a Mystery on Mount Shasta

© 1997 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved

 

"Lonely as God and white as a winter moon!"
     Joaquin Miller, "the poet of the Sierras," on Mount Shasta

I’ve visited many strange and beautiful places in my travels, but never have I encountered such a fusion of majesty, mystery and magic as is vested in this mountain called Shasta. At 14,162 ft., Mount Shasta dominates the southern Cascade Mountains in Northern California. Its snowcapped peak is sometimes visible from as far away as 200 miles. At the base of this great, dormant volcano, the City of Mount Shasta (population circa 3,700) hosts a considerable New Age community. Spiritual seekers and gurus alike are drawn to the mysterious alp like moths to a light, beckoned by a spirit that seems to have as many personalities as the pilgrims themselves.

Indigenous Native Americans have long considered the mountain holy. Depending on whom you talk to around town today, Mount Shasta is simply a convenient tourist attraction, a place of unique beauty, or else it’s one of the earth’s main spiritual energy vortices, a UFO re-fueling base, a channel to the spirit world, or the abode of saints, angels and Lemurians. (As I understand it, Lemurians are the ascended descendents of the great, ancient civilization of Lemuria, which is the Pacific’s variant of the Atlantis legend. These highly evolved beings are said to live inside Mount Shasta. They can materialize or dematerialize at will and occasionally appear to worthy devotees up on the mountain.) Unexplained lights and eerie sounds seem to be a common occurrence up there, as well.

I myself encountered a very peculiar light on Mount Shasta. Ultimately, it led me to some surprising discoveries about this mountain, the people around it, and myself.

I’d been traveling cross-country in a small motor home with my 12-pound canine companion, La Rosa Española de Sevilla ("Rosa" for short). Soon after we arrived at Mount Shasta, we were van camping in the upper-most parking area on the mountain, a little more than half way to the summit where the road ends at around 8,000 feet. The broad ledge on which the parking lot perches blocked my view of the town far below, but I enjoyed a stunning vista of the peaks and valleys beyond, and a close look at the high slopes of Mount Shasta above me. This was before the first autumn dusting of snow, and I discovered some fine day-hiking: wildflower-studded alpine meadows with clear, cold springs, glaciers of hard-packed snow/ice, evergreen forests rustling with wildlife, and everywhere stark mounds of shattered stone. But it was after dark that the singular light to which I refer first manifested itself.

The many strange tales I’d been hearing about the place were fresh in my mind when, on my first night on the mountain, I observed a pale, bluish-white glow flashing quickly across the mountain face. It repeated itself at what seemed to be regular intervals. I timed it with my watch and found it actually pulsed every 5 seconds, precisely. Although it appeared to be coming from a point higher up the hill (where there is supposedly nothing but barren rock and ice), the source baffled me. The angle of the light didn’t make sense when compared to the topography of the slopes. It almost seemed to emanate from inside the hill itself!

The morning after seeing this apparition I scoured the slopes, hiking as high as the lower glaciers with the hope of locating the light’s source. But I found no surveyor’s beacon. Nor did I uncover any hint of what might have generated that unearthly loom.

The second evening, I enjoyed some music and camaraderie around a campfire down at Panther Meadows campground. By the time I drove back to my campsite at the uppermost parking area, it was past 11:00 p.m. As soon as I doused my headlights, I could again make out the strange, pulsing radiance on the mountain face above. But I was tired and I soon fell asleep watching.

During the next few days, I asked numerous locals, campers, pilgrims and forest rangers if they had any idea what could have caused the phenomenon. Answers varied from lights at the distant ski resort (impossible in that landscape), to passing aircraft (nope!), to the ubiquitous UFO’s and Lemurian mountain spirits (Hmmm!).

I left the mountain for a couple of days and when I returned, I resumed my post at the top of the road. So it was that on my third night up there, I awoke at 1:00 a.m. and lay in my bunk watching the strange light once again. This time I thought I also saw a faint surge of light on the 2½-second count, in between the 5-second shimmer - but not every time. And there! Wasn’t that an odd, diagonal beam of light bursting momentarily from the hillside in the midst of it all?

Well, this was becoming too much to take lying down. I decided to investigate; to solve the mystery of these lights once and for all. I climbed out of bed, donned hiking boots, jeans and a sweater (it’s chilly up there at night), and grabbed a powerful flashlight. I also brought along a camera, just in case I had an opportunity to capture a UFO on film for the National Enquirer. And I left a note on the kitchen counter in my camper explaining where I had gone and leaving a friend’s telephone number back East so that, should I inadvertently be abducted to Alpha Centauri, someone might ship my little dog, Rosa, to a safe haven.

I set out with some trepidation, climbing slowly up the steep, dark slope. My mind teemed with the myriad myths of the mystic mountain. I imagined aliens, Lemurians, black bears and Bigfoot himself, all lurking just beyond the shadows. A million stars blinked indifferently as the flashing loom beckoned me onward. Picking my way among the rocky debris by flashlight and breathing heavily in the thin air, I made my way higher and higher.

Eventually I found myself on a level ridge above the tree line. I stopped and switched off the flashlight, which left me instantly night-blind. Nothing moved and the silence was deafening. I suddenly felt very alone way up there on the spirit mountain. Gradually, my eyes regained sight. The irregular white outlines of the glaciers reappeared; then the star-lit rubble of the steep slope. And finally the vision of the loom returned with maddening persistence, splashing its ghostly pallor across the mountainside. From here I could see most of the alp’s south face and should have been able to spot the source of the light. But I could not. The way the light illuminated the upper slope of the mountain made no sense. It seemed to defy the laws of linear travel, unless…

I turned around almost casually and gazed southwestward, down into the valley toward the town now visible far below. There, miles away yet plain to see from my high vantage point, as regular as a metronome, was a large but otherwise ordinary revolving spotlight, a promotion, perhaps, for a local automobile dealership, or a grand opening for a shopping center. Even at that distance its powerful beam swept across the mountain face, momentarily bathing the slopes every 5 seconds with a faint, ethereal glow. And in between, its backside beam provided a mini-burst of light at the 2½-second count. Standing there shivering at 10,000 feet in the wee hours of the morning, I felt more than a little foolish now that I had solved the mystery of the loom of Mount Shasta.

So I retreated to my camper, simultaneously relieved and humiliated. I had gone forth to confront the aliens, and instead had experienced a close encounter of the first kind, coming face to face with my own childish impressionability. Rosa discreetly held her tongue as I pulled off my boots, put away the camera and crawled back into my warm bunk. But surely, the ancient Lemurians were laughing it up inside the mountain that night!

~ End ~

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