Mount Shasta lies in close proximity to the fictitious town of Meteor Falls. I wanted to immerse myself in the area that has inspired my book. It was a stealthy sort of visit in that I hoped to maintain my anonymity in a place where I once lived for five years.
“I’ll just be down the road,” I told Wayne, since we live a an hour and a half north of the city of Mount Shasta. He supported me wholeheartedly in my quest, and we agreed to celebrate my birthday when I returned.
The Shasta Inn was rustic yet comfy, super-friendly and somewhat Twin-Peakish, surrounded by gigantic Douglas fir trees. My room had a bed with a carved wooden poster frame, and there was a collection of large stuffed animal heads in the bar.
The first morning I picked up some supplies at Berryvale, my favorite groovy grocery store, then drove over to McCloud and hiked the Lower Falls to Middle Falls trail – an easy 4-mile round trip. It was a quiet, sunny Thursday morning with a comfortable sprinkling of other people so as not to make me feel too lonely, (even though I still feel spry and quite capable of behaving like a wild animal if cornered).
I told myself the entire story of "Meteor Falls" to date, inside my head as if someone were actually listening. It really helped organize my thoughts! I came back to town later and saw that a lenticular cloud was motoring toward Mt. Shasta. I drove up Everitt Memorial Road to Bunny Flat, which is a popular trailhead where people begin their climbs to the summit. It was a mellow parking lot that day, warm in the 70s and people relaxing in folding chairs by their cars, and others tending to their climbing/skiing equipment. Since there was still a good deal of slushy snow on the trail, I hung around the parking lot taking pictures. The lenticular cloud was good, but not a super-bombastic one, so I came back to town and sat at one of those tables outside the hotel and wrote for another hour. Then I ordered Mexican food from Casa Ramos across the street, and holed up again in my room writing.
On Friday, my actual birthday, I decided to go to the Black Bear Diner in Mount Shasta. At the risk of outing myself, I’m the one who creates their newspaper-style menu covers. It all began for me in Mount Shasta, when they had a mere three restaurants. They have 118 of them now, all franchised-out and sprinkled widely throughout the western states. My graphic arts career actually began in newspapers, specifically preparing photos and art, so this has turned out to be a most satisfying business for me. I opened my laptop while waiting for breakfast and saw that there was a message from someone at Black Bear Diner Corporate Headquarters, now in Redding, California. Even though I was taking the day off for my birthday, I responded, as is one my most important tenets of business communication: “Yes, I heard you.” I added, with a note of exuberance, “I just happen to be having breakfast at the BBD in Mount Shasta!”
This is somewhat of a departure, as I usually like to remain incognito when I visit a Black Bear Diner, (although Wayne is always happy to announce proudly to the servers that I’m that menu cover person). When I went up to pay, the manager said, “It’s on me.”
Very sweet. Corporate had called him while I was eating.
Then I went shopping. Since I lived there from 1997-2002, a number of crystal shops have emerged. I would be willing to guess that there are more crystal shops in Mount Shasta per capita than any other place on earth, although I’ve not been to Sedona, Arizona. I did find a few gifts I liked that weren’t crystals. The face of the town has changed a bit. I would be lying if I said there weren’t a number of empty storefronts. Even so, the culture of eco-tourism seems to be thriving. Most of my old favorite stores and restaurants were still open, and someone I liked with an aesthetician business now occupies the office on Castle Street where me and Dana once worked.
Afterwards I drove back up to Bunny Flat in hot pursuit of another lenticular cloud, and sat in the passenger seat of my car writing for another hour or so. Coming back down, I stopped at Berryvale and picked up more treats for my birthday. I brought my laptop into the hotel bar for happy hour and wrote for a while in front of the huge fire-pit, then returned to my room for a Jeopardy! break and wrote for a few more hours before falling asleep.
All in all, it turned out to be a wonderful writer’s retreat. I managed to fill in almost all of the plot holes in "Meteor Falls" that were either missing or in need of a re-write. I highly recommend this kind of retreat to my fellow writers in the Ashland Novelists' Group.
I would be remiss in not telling you that the city of Mount Shasta still has the best water on Earth! You can drink it straight out of the faucet and it tastes wonderful. I am also happy to report that I rediscovered the blithe, touristy, open-hearted awe I once had for Mount Shasta before I moved there.
Other highlights which took place since my last posting include painting the trim in our bedroom with sparkly paint; staying at goal in Weight Watchers for an entire year; passing the eye-test at the DMV without glasses; adding the B-52’s classic, Love Shack, to my Skiing Tunes playlist on my iPod (why I hadn’t done this a long time ago is a mystery—it was a total blast!), and skiing as a chicken on Animal Day at Mt. Ashland.
—and thanks for reading!