The atmosphere around Mount Shasta seems to glow on a gorgeous December morning.
Here in Mount Shasta, the year of our Lord 2018 was another beautiful circuit around the sun. The mountain remained much as it always is, massive, imposing and reigning over the landscape in splendid isolation. It continues to be one of the most beautiful landmarks in the region, just as it has throughout recorded history and beyond. Yet, in the air around the mountain, 2018 saw some of the most spectacular scenes and most tragic events. This past year was among the most beautiful I can remember in terms of lights, clouds and conditions. I captured more lenticular events than any other year past, in addition to plenty of tremendous sunrises and sunsets. Yet, for all the beauty, the fires in Northern California cast a gloomy pall over the mountain. We were left living in a land with no shadows, the smoke obscuring the light and darkening spirits. Nonetheless we persevered and we now have another year to look forward to. May it be a blessed one.
January started the year off with some wonderful cloud activity. It was cold but not too much snow had fallen. Nonetheless, the mountain cast its spell on the weather and there were many beautiful comes and goings of the sun, and a few lenticulars to enjoy. We waited for snow but enjoyed what there was.
Simply stated, I think February saw the highest concentration of epic lenticular displays that I can recall. It wasn’t just that there were a lot of events but the ones that did occur were particularly memorable. Things remained cold and some snow fell but not as much as we would have wanted.
Though late in the winter, March finally brought a large amount of snow to the Mount Shasta area. It was not an enormous deluge but it was enough to not call the winter a bust and it helped us limp through the coming summer. It was a welcome presence just before the spring and did set up some frigid outdoor fun.
April was a beautiful month in Mount Shasta this year. The snow was gone off the low country but the higher peaks were blanketed in snow. The temperatures were warming and it was time to start emerging from winter’s hibernation. Though Mount Shasta looked notably snowy, it was obvious that the snow was not as deep as we would want it was going to be an interesting summer.
The thaw was in full force through May. The snow was melting quickly and the rivers were full and furious. The wildflowers were out by the legion and life was good in Mount Shasta. The time to start hiking in the high country was just about upon us, with many trails opening up. It was easy to be optimistic about the summer.
As we approached the midpoint of the year in Mount Shasta, summer was in full effect. The trails in the Trinity Divide were open, the high country was largely accessible and the conditions for being outside and enjoying the scenic bounty we have here was nearly optimal. Mount Shasta still hand a good amount of snow on it, though this was now melting rapidly. The skies did not disappoint either, though, oddly enough, my images of June show an unusual number of interesting clouds and sunsets over the Trinity Divide rather than Mount Shasta. That made for a beautiful change of pace!
It was in July that the year started to take an ominous turn. It began in the usual, beautiful fashion of a Mount Shasta summer. The Old Ski Bowl opened up, the temperatures in the high country were ideal and the air was clear. Mount Shasta celebrated its installation as the inaugural Pacific Crest Trail Trailtown (a fantastic event!) and all seemed well. Yet up to the north, the Klamathon Fire burned, sending drifts of smoke to the south. It was not too much but it was the unfortunate augury of what lay ahead. Right at the end of July the Carr Fire erupted. Little did we know how dark a turn this would be.
The Carr Fire dominated the month of August and the smoke seemed to never go away. The heart of summer was lost to the funereal mantle of vaporized trees and houses. It was a lost month.
September saw the winding down of the Carr Fire just in time for the Hirz and Delta Fires to spring up in strikingly suspicious circumstances. These fires were closer to Mount Shasta and continued the long journey through the land with no shadows. Fortunately, it was possible to drive up onto Mount Shasta and, often times, climbing all the way to the Old Ski Bowl meant that the air was above most of the smoke and clearer. It was even possible to enjoy some of nature’s beauty in the midst of the horrible fire season. Thankfully, by the end of September, all the fires were winding down and things seemed like they may be returning to normal. It was just in time to start enjoying the rapidly approaching fall. Leaves were already starting to turn and the rabbit brush was brightening.
After the horrible conditions that dominated in August and September, October was a welcome return to the spectacular norm. Fall was in full swing, the air was clear and temperatures were just about perfect. Lenticulars had returned as well, heralding the changing of the season. The only disappointment was that this was not a great year for fall color. There was some good spots here and there but it was not an overwhelming year for yellow, red and orange trees. Still, after the smoke we had endured, it was good just to have the conditions we were enjoying!
November was a beautiful month in Mount Shasta. It started off with beautiful conditions in the high country, affording a last few opportunities to enjoy the trails in the mountains. Mount Shasta received a new coating of snow and the sunrises and sunsets improved as the mountain grew whiter. The only thing that marred it was the knowledge of all the suffering in Paradise caused by the Camp Fire. Yet, even in this, Mount Shasta was spared more smoke, since the winds blew it to the southwest, away from this area.
December, simply put, was one of the most spectacular months around Mount Shasta that I can remember. Awesome clouds, beautiful sunrises and sunsets and a rapid succession of memorable and scenic events. It has been a blast documenting all of it for the past few weeks. I could go on but I think December will get its own post in the near future!
2018 has been a year of great highs and lows. The fires marred much of the summer but the community rallied, the firefighters were tough and fought hard and we endured. May next year be a better one in that regard. Yet, despite all the destruction, it was still a wonderful year here at the foot of the mountain. I pray everyone recognizes the gift we have, in the midst of all the difficulties.
Happy New Year to everyone reading Hike Mt Shasta! Let’s have a blessed 2019!