Decisions, decisions. Will it be the Chocolate Candied Bacon Burger? Or the Arnold Alpha Burger, with extra hickory smoked bacon and double grass-fed patties in honor of ex-California governor Schwarzenegger? You can order it pink, no pink or hockey puck.
On the other hand, the Chili Lime Sriracha Aioli looks awfully good. So does Wllie’s Duck Chili. As we look over the menu, trying to decide, we’re awarded a special free treat: a slice of My Mother-in-Law’s Sticky Bunns. A couple dozen locally made craft beers are available to wash down all this yummy stuff, from Rogue Stout to North Coast, fresh from the Russian Wilderness and described on the menu as “old Rasputin on nitro.”
Rodeo and I are at Yaks artisan made-from-scratch burger shack in Dunsmuir, featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ and rated by YELP as one of the top restaurants in the nation in 2015. I’m a bit wacko-delirious at all these delectable choices, so when the waitress drops a plate, I holler out: “Hikers! PCT special. For half price we eat it right off the floor!”
I’m having fun, or at least my odd brand of it, but the point is a serious answer to that perennial hiker quiz question: Who makes the best burger on the PCT? No contest. It’s Yaks.
We’re in Dunsmuir partly because of the Carr fire, which erupted not far from the PCT a few days ago and exploded from a few acres to more than 20,000 virtually overnight. On Friday, July 27, it is twice that size and spreading fast to the east. Parts of the city of Redding are burning and more than 37,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. A plume of smoke has spread in all directions, most dense over the PCT north of Old Station and well beyond.
To escape, we jump forward to the next major stage of the PCT – the so-called Big Bend, where the trail abruptly veers south and west through Castle Crags and Klamath National Park near Dunsmuir, at mile 1502, then loops north for 200-odd miles to Seiad Valley and the Oregon border. The problem: Big Bend – one of the most visually dramatic sections of the PCT — is also blanketed in smoke. And it’s not just the massive blaze to the south. To the north, the Hendrix fire in southern Oregon is sending smoke this way — a forest fire stereo effect, with us in the middle.
Like other hikers, we’re trying to figure out what to do. Some decide to hang in Dunsmuir. Most go on to the larger town of Mount Shasta, as Rodeo and I do. A fine place for a zero, I decide.
Dominated by the snow-covered 14,180-foot mountain that bears its name, Mount Shasta has its unique counter=culture vibe. Walk down the few blocks of its main street, and you’re immediately struck by its Soulfull Connection. In fact, that’s the name of the first store I come to. Then there’s Crystal Matrix. The Crystal Emporium. Crystal Keepers. Middle Earth Crystal Room. Shambhala Meditation Center featuring (naturally) the central rolee of crystals in universal Oneness.
So, what’s with the crystals,already? Not to mention the New Life Health Institute. Or the course posters in the windows of Mount Shasta University: Shamanic Journeys to Telos and Beyond. Spiritual Psychology Coaching. Holistic Healing. As for the town slogan, waving from street lamps? Mount Shasta — Where Heaven and Earth Meet.
As it turns out, Mount Shasta figures large in local Indian myth as the home of the Creator. More modern myth-spinners report encounters with what they call “ascended masters,” reincarnated beings who have lived many lives on earth and, for one reason or another, have chosen to make their home on the mountain.
Or in it. You see, among the Mount Shasta legends is the tale of Telos, a crystal city hidden inside the mountain inhabited by “higher dimensional” people called the Lemurians, well over seven feet tall and themselves survivors of an eons-ago natural catastrophe, possibly thermonuclear annihilation. One was reportedly sighted not long ago wearing white robes and sandals and stocking up at the general store.
You might think the Shastafarians would by now be able to distinguish a PCT hiker from an other-worldly alien. After all, the Pacific Crest Association just officially designated Mount Shasta as its newest PCT trail town.
As for those crystals, they are used locally to communicate with Lemurians. Perhaps PCT hikers should routinely be issued one too?