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“Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there.” ~ Jon Anderson and Steve Howe
To get their mountain high, people love driving up to Tahoe, or flying off to Colorado, Montana or Idaho. All amazing places, full of big sky, open spaces, rivers and wildlife.
Yet there’s a magnet of a mountain that – lately – feels more and more like my true north and it’s located more or less in a straight 275-mile line up I-5 from San Francisco. That would be 14,179-foot-tall Mount Shasta, of “Harmonic Convergence,” stratovolcanonic and Shasta soda fame. (Did you know that Shasta was the first soft-drink brand to market their product in cans and to feature low-calorie drinks?!)
The second tallest of the Cascade chain of volcanoes and rated by the USGS as “high threat,” Mount Shasta dominates the landscapes. You can see it as far as 140 miles away and you’d better believe it can see YOU, but it’s sneaky that way.
That’s why it puts me in mind of that old Yes song, Roundabout, with the lyrics “In and around the lake, mountains come out of the sky and they stand there.” Whenever I drive there I’ll be listening to a podcast or music or talking hands-free on the phone and just minding my own business and – BAM! – there’s Mount Shasta towering over everything in my path.
Huge and coated with snow like a strobile of Tastee Freez against a perfect blue backdrop. Emerging from the fog and haze as big as the sky itself. Wrapped in a glamorous chiffon swirl of lenticular cloud.
The closer you get, the sneakier Shasta becomes. In the little town of Mount Shasta City – where you’d have a front row seat in case of (and in the way of) a pyroclastic flow – you can lose sight of the mountain altogether. “Where is it?” I find myself saying to myself.
Driving around the valley and in and out of stands of trees and around bends in the road, the volcano disappears only to pop up right in your face. The first glance of it in the morning is truly awe-inspiring and grounding. Saying goodnight to it is always bittersweet.
If you haven’t bothered to behold this National Natural Landmark, you really should do something about that. As soon as it’s safe for you to travel, point your vehicle north and keep going for about four hours or so, up I-80 to the 505 to I-5, past the rice fields and orchards. Wave to Mount Lassen (a worthy destination all its own) visible to the east. Proceed beyond Shasta Dam and climb through the upper Sacramento River canyon where – suddenly – your destination will be right on top of you. You can’t miss it.
Photo Credit: Bryan Goff
Author and RealEstateTherapy curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit KindredSFhomes.com for more information on San Francisco real estate.