This has been a very strange autumn here in Mount Shasta. Typically, October and November are some of the most productive months for lenticulars and when the strange clouds are not about, the sky above the mountain is frequently aglow with bright colors and other cloud formations. This year, this has not been the case. There have been a few scattered lenticulars and some colorful skies but nothing that compares to years past. The same was once again true Wednesday morning. I have been heading out early in the morning when the weather has given some indication that there might be something interesting in the sky. I am an early riser naturally and I have always liked the drowsy solitude of the world before the sun cracks the horizon, so getting outside to catch a sunrise is both easy and a delight. This was once again true Wednesday.
The forecast had called for clouds, so I thought there might be something interesting to see. I headed north but as the sun began illuminate the low, eastern sky, it was obvious that the clouds were too low to the deck to be much good. Moreover, they looked to be blocking the view of the mountain. However, it seemed like the sky was clear just past Black Butte, and the clouds were just hovering to the north of Mount Shasta. I turned around and headed back south. I got just past Black Butte when the sky at once cleared and was bathed in pink light. I hopped out and got a dramatic shot of Black Butte holding back the clouds.
North of Black Butte, the clouds were thick and little light pierced through the gloom.
Mount Shasta, however, was only partially visible. The clouds smothering the Shasta Valley were sending tendrils past the mountain, threatening to overtake the volcano with increasing strength. Seemingly fitting for the mountain’s stature, it was the only bit of terrain, other than the partially submerged Black Butte, that was not overtaken by clouds. Both Mount Eddy and the high peaks of the Castle Crags Wilderness (Castle Lake area) were all lost in a thick vapory blanket. However, these were alight with the rising sun and glowed with a great radiance that seemed to fill the air with more pink light. The entire area was a gorgeous symphony of color, one that was too grand for me to hope to capture it in images.
Glowing clouds sail past Mount Shasta.
As I looked around, bits of the clouds sailed past Mount Shasta with great speed. It was obvious that any view of the icy giant was going to be fleeting. I could see pink clouds racing overhead, breaking off of the great sheet that covered the Shasta Valley and flying off to the south, spiraling and turning as the flew.
Finally, as I watched the clouds gather strength, they enveloped Mount Shasta and most of the mountain finally fell out of view.
Mount Shasta finally succumbs.
It was a beautiful morning. I felt that I ought to have been frustrated by it and the lack of great images. However, though it had been too great and too fleeting to document with my camera, I was more pleased than disheartened. Not all sights must make great images. Sometimes, the joy is in the seeing, the experience and the moment than the memento I can look back on to revisit the wonder and beauty. At least, this is what I tell myself. Perhaps I am satisfied with being able to use these sights as grist for my writing habit. Not much else I do these days elicits much of a muse in me. Thus, I am, in the end, grateful to be inspired to write something, which I enjoy not as much as photographing a beautiful sunrise but more than many other things I must spend my time on.
In the end, Mount Shasta reemerged from the clouds, but the sky itself became gray and dreary all day. It was a good day to educate my kids and split firewood. I kept an eye on the mountain though, hoping that the setting sun might give it one last burst of light. In the end I was rewarded for my perseverance. The clouds cleared and the mountain put forth a fantastic evening glow. It was grand and fleeting and then the sun sank so far beyond the horizon that all color faded from the mountain…until tomorrow morning. We’ll see if I am at it again.