Lake Siskiyou

There are a few moments in life that become significant memories to someone. When you look back your entire being either aches as if you are still mourning for a past that no longer exists, or all the blood rushes to your heart where it suddenly begins to beat a hundred times faster than usual. It almost feels like its about to burst until a slight pause occurs where finally, the release of a feeling you were waiting for arrives. You recognize that bliss has surfaced as your heart and mind are recalling a warm memory.

A California landmark has solidified itself as an experience I’ll treasure forever, as my heart swelled a hundred times over the course of two days in Siskiyou County.

I can’t believe Mount Shasta is in California.

I want to go there so bad, it’s on my Google saved.

Wtf let’s do it.

I’m so down.

I was under the influence of weed when I suggested we go, but the temporary impairment induced by drugs I was experiencing at the time did not impact my sincere desire to visit the state’s landmark. Still, I had to be sure my friend and I were on the same page:

Are you talking about going on the mountain, or like being near it, seeing it from a distance? Because I am not about to play Donner Party.

Whenever I’m high I require specificity from people, for language tends to become misconstrued and pretty soon I end up in my head trying to decipher if what someone said to me has a double entendre. However, once my friend and I established we were on the same page of having a picnic somewhere that overlooked the white summit, we began to set up a date in which we could embark on our getaway. It was decided we would go on the last week of May, after school ended for both of us during the spring semester.

The discussion occurred in December over winter break so for five months I would go to sleep dreaming as though Christmas was pushed back to spring, because for whatever reason the thought of going to see a big snowy volcano from the distance seemed to be the best gift anyone could ever ask for. When I think back to what triggered my suggestion of going to Mount Shasta, I remember a late night Monday where I was sitting in my room and drinking out of a Crystal Geyser water bottle, trying to quench the cotton mouth I was experiencing due to the edible I had eaten. I recall getting distracted by the design of the wrapper because it was transparent, but ended up reading the label which showed the fact that the company’s source of water is located below “Mt. Shasta.”

It was a bright Sunday afternoon when we placed all our bags in the trunk of my car and drove off. I sped across the Bay Bridge and onto interstate 5, but instead of circling around the bay to head down south to Los Angeles I headed up north towards Oregon. It felt strange to be on an interstate I was so familiar with in terms of its southern direction, but the fact that I was driving the opposite way and towards uncharted territory made me excited. The road began to blur past us and soon enough we started to come across endless pastures of nothingness whose colors of yellows, browns, and greens replaced the sceneries of cityscapes. “Do you drive your parents around?”, asked my friend.

“Yeah, why?”

“They know you drive like this?”

I was going 90 miles an hour and kept glancing towards my rear and side view mirrors at five second intervals to make sure I wouldn’t be surprised by the flashing lights of a cop car following us. The incessant need to quickly arrive to my destination wherever I go has always been prevalent, and I know this feeling will stay with me until I reach the final destination I so desperately yearn for in my life. Underneath the enthusiasm I felt to be able to spend some time in nature was my true desire to get away from the city I have a love/hate relationship with. San Francisco has lost and gained its appeal to me a hundred times over, and I believe it’ll stay this way until I finally break the cycle and move away where all that will be left is the lingering feeling of a great first love.

The farther I drove the less I thought of back home and began focusing on arriving to the destination I believed would become a place of temporary refuge for me. The road kept changing colors as we drove in and out of cities, past crop fields and through back roads which seemed to never end, and I knew that we had finally reached the rural part of California.

“Would you ever live in a place like this?”

“Absolutely not. Like, what is there to do here?”

It’s interesting for an individual to have the ability to discern whether they’d abide living in a place that is the entire opposite of where they come from. I knew with absolute certainty that I would not survive if I were to have been born in the small towns we were driving past, because I come from a city that spans forty-seven square miles whose population averages 900,000, yet the generous size of both land and people is not enough to make me feel as though I am not trapped in a 7x7 square. I began to fixate on a reality other than the one I was living in, where I’d be the resident of a place that was so far removed from everything and everyone knew each other. The only pastimes to satiate ones ennui would quickly lose their appeal, and an individual would have to become ingenious to avoid insanity. I could never live in a place like this for even the thought of suburbia scares me.

We kept driving past tree-lined roads and valleys whose flatness gave us 360° views of mountainous regions that replaced the silhouettes of skylines, through cities that would appear and disappear intermittently, and crop fields where workers picked off the growing fruits and vegetables of each stem under the hot sun. It felt like we’d never reach Mount Shasta until we finally saw it in the distance, and my heart began to expand with relief. I started to accelerate through the winding path even more as we ventured uphill towards the snowy peak, and we eventually arrived to the small town that sat underneath it.

In the course of two days we acquainted ourselves with the place whose population averages about 3,250 in an area that spans 3,700 square miles. Various parts of the town gave great scenic views of Mount Shasta, but the allure of being in nature when we both came from bustling cities drew us into the forest where we ended up at Lake Siskiyou. Nature provides humans with a distinct sense of peacefulness that we tend to take for granted, solely because the routines of our lives are filled with everyday occurrences that are engrossed with responsibilities. However, I was 282 miles away from the urban landscape I was so desperate to get away from, following a trail that led me closer to earth’s core, and for the first time in a long time I finally felt at peace. The beauty around us seemed to have a rare effect of helping one become grounded amidst the uncertainty of life. I was finally living in the present, looking at the tall trees that rose above us and led one’s eye to the glowing orb within the sky, listening to the sound of twigs and leaves snap beneath our feet, while the saturation of earth toned colors encased us in warmth. The atmosphere was ever so still, and I knew this experience would be a short lived phenomena that could never be emulated again. Nothing is ever as good as the first time, but I still wanted to believe the feeling could be kept alive somehow.

We rented a boat on our second to last day there as the weather permitted for a nice afternoon outdoors, and as we paid for our small rental the clerk lady asked:

“It’s just you two who will be in the boat?”

“Yeah,” we responded simultaneously.

“Oh, you girls are gonna have fun.”

Two months have passed since the trip took place, but two decades will come and I will be forty-four thinking about the fact that I experienced beauty in its physical form on a late Tuesday afternoon. I will close my eyes and think about the quaintness of such a place, how everything felt so silently homely that it made you forget noisy cityscapes exist. I will remember the cool freshness of the air from all the nature that engulfed us, with its lush greenery and pigmented terracotta soil. I will fall into the deepness of the color blue that surrounded us all over; below the small fisherman boat we rented to sunbathe on, and above where the sky saturated planet earth with a heavenly hue. I will relive the memory in which a friend and I spent the evening wading on Lake Siskiyou, a man-made reservoir that spans 430 acres whose vastness made me feel like it was just us two in the world with a snowy volcano overlooking our existence. We were in a small oasis where the sun engulfed us in its warmth, all while swaying atop the water as the boat became a hammock. The wind softly cooled us down while the shade helped us avoid the blinding brightness of the sun and we were able to witness a gleaming arrangement of light shimmers reflect off the surface of the lake to create a glowing effect. This natural beauty was occurring all around us as we read our books while music from a speaker softly emitted in the background. I was reading A Mind At Peace by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, while she read Just Kids by Patti Smith.

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