Life is an intricate tapestry of interwoven threads. The threads consist of our journeys, not only physical journeys, but spiritual. mental, and emotional as well. Sometimes we travel alone, sometimes with others. Sometimes we gather to share our stories.
This is a story about journeys that converged on Friday July 27 in Mt Shasta. It involves a cross country adventure by automobile, PCT hikers, fire, vortices, flying saucers, sasquatch, friendship, marriage, church, nature, and the unfolding discovery of life’s purposes and possibilities.
One of the journeys began in late 2002 when I met a talented young songwriter named Shannon Fratanduono at a coffee shop named the Year of the Rabbit in Bowie Maryland and we became friends.
Over the years our friendship grew and developed even thought we have made many separate journeys along the way. Shannon went to Flaggler College in St. Augustine Florida to study art and then returned to Maryland. I moved from Maryland to California.
Yet through the years, we have kept in touch. My wife Linda and I made a journey to Florida and visited her while she was at college. We had reunions when I was back in Maryland. Shannon helped me to get started painting. We had many conversations on the phone sharing our insights, ideas, and experiences.
After Linda and I sold our house in Maryland and moved permanently to California, Shannon made a journey west, first by plane to visit another friend Rosa in Los Angeles. Rosa was a best friend of Shannon’s in Maryland who also used to come to the Year of the Rabbit. Shannon then came north by train to visit Linda and I, and then by bus to visit another friend in Portland.
Several years later, Shannon came West again to do organic gardening at Trillium Farm near Jacksonville in southern Oregon. One day she came down to Mt Shasta with her roommates from the farm and I hiked on Mount Shasta with them. I also visited Trillium Farm and together we explored some of the area around the Applegate River.
This year, Shannon decided to drive cross-country by car. She traveled though Tennessee into Arkansas where stopped to pick up quartz crystals in Ouachita Mountain. Then she drove through Texas to Taos, New Mexico where she stayed in an “earthship” dwelling fashioned by Michael Reynolds out of recycled materials (ie. a home made out of garbage).
Next she went to Sedona Arizona to experience the beauty of the red rocks and the energy of the vortices.
Then on to California. First she visited relatives in San Diego. Then she visited her friend Rosa who is preparing for the release of Alita: Star Warrior, in which Rosa plays the starring role.
Then she travelled north on Hwy 1 though Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco, and Mendicino before cutting over to Hwy 101 where she spent a night in Benbow.
Shannon planned to drive over the Coastal Mountain on 299 and then north to Mt. Shasta. Hwy 299 was closed west of Redding because of the Carr Fire so she took route 36 instead. Hwy 36 also had a temporary closure, so during her delay, she went back down to Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park to cool off in the Redwoods.
After reaching Interstate 5 and heading north, she was shocked to see the black cloud of smoke with an ominous underlying orange glow ahead. She pulled off at a Redding exit to get gas. Eerily, all of the gas stations, shops, and restaurants were closed and abandoned due to evacuation. It was intense, strange and overwhelming, and Shannon burst into tears.
Back on I-5 heading north, she was horrified to see the wall of flame to the west of the highway. She had never imagined the hellish intensity of an out-of-control wildfire.
Nonetheless, Shannon continued north and arrived in Mt. Shasta about 10 p.m. where she checked into the KOA for a nights rest.
The next morning, Linda and I woke up in Burney. The air was filled with smoke. As we traveled to Mt Shasta to rendezvous with Shannon, the air was filled with smoke. When we arrived in Mt Shasta, the air was filled with smoke and you couldn’t see the mountain. Most of the smoke in Mt Shasta was from fires that had been raging on the California-Oregon border.
Driving into the downtown area, we saw Shannon walking on the sidewalk. We found a place to park in front of the vacant store where Village Books used to be and headed in the direction we had seen her.
On the way, we met two people on a different sort of journey. They were PCT hikers. We briefly introduced ourselves, then Linda spotted Shannon across the street just as she also spotted us. So we rushed to the corner and when the light signaled “walk” we met and embraced in the middle of the intersection.
Shannon had to take something back to her car so I returned to talk with the hikers until Shannon joined us.
One of the hikers bore the trail name One Step, I suppose because he was taking the trail one step at a time. He was from the United Kingdom. He began his hike in Campo on April 27.
The other was Slip and Slide who had been hiking north since April 7. His motto is “The last one to Canada wins.”
It is actually a profound motto, because not everyone who sets out makes it to Canada. Some stop for physical reasons; some stop for emotional reasons, some stop because they run out of time; some stop because they are delayed, injured or distracted. Finally some stop because the snows of the northern Cascades close the trail.
The first one who makes it to Canada holds a special place. The last one to make it to Canada occupies a special place. Yet there no shame for any. In my view anyone who hikes the PCT for a long distance deserves some kind of a medal.
In any case, Slip and Slide’s is from Redding California. His real name is Zach Winchell. His mother had evacuated her home in Redding the night before. So our conversation turned to the fires. He was in touch with his mom. She was okay, but they were not sure about the house. Zach was faithful and optimistic that all would be well. He was containing north hoping that the fires would be contained and the smoke would clear.
After talking a bit we spent time in one of the shops talking with Sandy, a woman very knowledgeable about crystals and native history. She was Native American. Though she was not Navaho, her family had lived on the Navaho reservation for generations. She was on a spiritual journey.
Shannon wanted to get to Ashland by evening and to Grants Pass by bedtime, so our time was limited. She asked if we wanted to go up the mountain and hike, a suggestion to which Linda and I readily assented in spite our not too spy physical condition.
As we ascended, we rose above the smoke. At Bunny Flats the sky was blue and we had a clear view of the mountain. We continued on to the parking lot at the old ski area.
For the sake of time we decided not to take the upper trail to Panther meadows but to go back down to the campground where there was a trail to the lower meadows and several other trails.
When we arrived we were greeted by a cheery young man named Jesse who had recently come from a farm near Trout Lake, Washington. Trout Lake is a small community near Mt Adams. Jesse told us that there was a lot of UFO activity in the area and that he had had several dreams of Sasquatch. According to Jesse, Sasquatch are interdimensional beings.
“That’s why you will never catch a Sasquatch,” he said. They can appear and disappear at will.
That’s as good a theory of Sasquatch as any that I have heard.
The last time I was in Shasta when our daughter Hana Lyn was visiting I met and prayed with a lady named Paravati who was working on achieving a Shamanic journey into the center of Mt. Shasta so she could meet Adamas the High Priest of the Lemurians.
The point is that many people one meets in the energy vortex of Mount Shasta have interesting experiences and ideas.
We continued down the trail into the campground and veered left toward a clearing thinking it might lead into the meadows. Our path took us to a campsite where a tent was set up.
“If there’s anybody there,” I said, “I just want you to know that we are just passing though.”
“Okay,” the tent said.
We walked to the edge of the clearing and the trail stopped.
“We’re looking for Panther meadows,” I said.
“Go south,” the tent said.
So we retraced our steps, went past the bathrooms and took another trail that lead to the southern reaches of the meadow. Shannon wanted to go deeper into the woods, so we took another trail that lead to a pool by a small stream.
Linda stayed to rest by the pool while Shannon and I went back to descend a steep downward trail to the “drinking springs.”
I told Shannon that I had gone far enough. The trail was steep; I was concerned about time; and I didn’t want to leave Linda for too long.
Shannon rested for a few minutes on a tree and then said she would like to explore just a little bit further down the trail.
I sat on the log as Shannon descended around a bend into the forest.
After about 25 minutes, I began to worry. Shannon hadn’t returned and Linda was probably wondering where we were.
Then I remembered the verse, “Do not be anxious about anything. Take your prayers and supplications to God with thanksgiving and He will give you the peace that passes understanding.”
I closed my eyes and began to pray. As peace descended upon me I heard rustling. I opened my eyes and saw Jesse and two friends appear from behind a tree. They approached me with friendly smiles on their faces and Jesse introduced me to his two friends, Silken and her husband.
As it turned out, Jesse and Silken’s husband had been friends for years since they had been youths in the Phoenix area. They said that their paths often crossed, just as they had today in this synchronistic meeting on Mt. Shasta.
Silken’s husband was one of those PCT hikers who had never made it to Canada. He had been hiking the PCT several years ago when he ran into some delays in Ashland. He liked the area around Shasta and Ashland so he just stayed and became a part of the community.
Silken also had an interesting tale. She and a boyfriend had been driving up I 5 several years ago when their car broke down. The got it going and it broke down again heading into town. Then it broke down again once they got into town. She stayed.
I learned that Silken and her husband had known each other as high school students at Glendale High School in Arizona. Silken’s parents are Canadian and she had returned to Canada with them, so she had her own journey but she eventually returned to the US.
She met her friend from high school again. He decided that she was the girl that he wanted to marry and they had just recently celebrated their wedding. They spend part of the year in Phoenix and summer is Ashland.
Shannon returned and joined the conversation. We started back up the steep ascent to the trail where Linda was. My knees were hurting so I told them to go on ahead at their faster pace so Shannon could check on Linda.
As I traipsed upward a heard a man who appeared to be an aspiring shaman yelling at an elderly couple, “You are the sickest people in the world I have ever met. Be healed.” I’m not going into that story.
Finally Linda, Shannon, and I were united and we sat to talk while I gained my breath.
As Linda and I made our way back to the car, Silken came up to us once again. She shared more of her story and Linda and I shared some of ours. We said a prayer together for her marriage and for world peace.
Then, Linda and I drove Shannon back to Bunny Flats where she had left her car. We had a fond farewell and Shannon took off to travel through Oregon on her way to Orca Island where she hoped that she could spend some time with the whales before driving back to a family gathering on the Atlantic seashore.
As Linda and I drove back down the mountain, Linda said, “We have to stop at the Gathering to see if anyone is there.”
The Gathering is the sister church of Word of Life Assembly of God in Burney. Recently, Cory Yake, the assistant pastor at WOLA, had moved to Mt. Shasta to grow the church. Linda had seen the church as we drove by on our way up the mountain.
Sure enough when we got there, we met Cory’s wife. As we were talking Cory drove up in a pick-up truck together with Pastor Ken Frazier from WOLA in Burney. They gave us tour of the church and showed us their community garden from which we plucked several cherry tomatoes and radishes.
Then we closed with a prayer that the Gathering might be a focal point for people to come together to experience God’s love in a spirit of reconciliation. As we left, Pastor Ken came running up to the window with two bottles of water for our journey home.
Praise God! It was an amazing day of journeys and gatherings.