The summer of 2004 found me embarking on a spiritual quest of sorts. For some time I'd been feeling "outside the flow of things"~ kind of off balance at a time when one chapter of my life was ending as another began. The universal 'law of three' states that when something is presented to you three or more times in a brief period of time by different sources...you should pay attention to whatever is being shown to you. It's a way the universe uses to tap you on the shoulder & get your attention. I've seen it work far too many times to doubt it's authenticity. As I sought to find my way back into "the flow" what the universe kept telling me was "Move to Taos." Often times messages from spirit are nebulous or ambiguous, requiring us to puzzle out the meaning. This was not one of those times, I knew exactly what the message meant. At the time, Kirtan chanting had been a part of my spiritual practice for several years, and at the center of that, was the Hanuman Chalisa. I'm a big fan of the monkey god, and I knew if I was being called, or sent to
I have this little thing, like a tradition that I do before embarking on any spiritual journey; and that is a visit to
I arrived there several days ahead of the annual drumming and sweat lodge ceremony. There had been some big storms during the winter, leaving several downed trees throughout the campground. There weren't very many campers at the moment, and the forest service campground host was busy trying to clear the fallen trees before the expected numbers began showing up. As it happened, the campsite I wanted was one with a huge fallen tree in it; so I told the host I'd clear it if he could let me use the chain saw and equipment. I was having a blast bucking up that firewood, as it reminded me of my days in
One of the nicest things about panther meadows is how quiet it is there. Since it is essentially at the end of the road there is no noise from passing traffic to pollute the natural soundtrack of eagles skreeing and the wind whistling thru the trees. It was on about my third or fourth day at the meadows when late in the morning I heard a most unusual sound coming from the direction of the road. When I turned around to look, I saw this rather tall, lanky fellow walking up the road past the campground pulling something behind him on a long tether. From where I was I couldn't quite see what he was pulling behind him, but it was small, and made a sound like a kid dragging a stick across a picket fence. Having satisfied itself with identifying the source of the strange little noise, my mind drifted back to enjoying the natural silence of this wilderness paradise. The serenity didn't last long, as a few minutes later I heard an altogether different sound again coming from the road. This was the unmistakable sound of something moving down the road at speed. It took a moment for my eyes to lock in on the source of this sound...it was in fact being made by a tall, lanky fellow speeding down the road feet first in a fully reclined position four inches off the ground.
In less time than it takes to tell, the dude had whipped around the gentle curve in front of the parking lot doing at least 40 mph, and was now bombing on down the winding ten mile 2-lane blacktop road leading to the bottom of the mountain, and the town of
Shasta. A little while later I ran
into Lyle and asked about this fellow with the overgrown skateboard. I discovered his name is "Crazy Robert",
and that he sometimes makes three runs a day, walking the whole way back up
after each run. A few of the other
campers had also seen Robert make his morning luge run down Mt. Mt. Shasta, and decided to do a photo shoot if he came back up. Sure as hell, a couple hours or so later here
comes Robert dragging his street luge board back up the mountain to make a
second run. Everyone gathered around up
where the driveway split off for the parking lot, and waited for Robert. We didn't have long to wait, as we could
actually hear him some seconds before he rounded the big curve a few hundred
yards away. He looked so tiny at first,
but very soon closed that distance and was zooming past us, thumbs up, as he
shot down the road. Thrilling, but for
the spectator, very brief.
I suddenly got one of my infrequent spontaneous bursts of pure genius, and jumped in my minivan to catch up to Robert, and offer him a ride back up. I caught up with him about three quarters of the way down. He had wiped out on a sweeping curve, and taken a minor spill. I introduced and explained myself to Robert, saying I could understand if he wasn't going to make another run, and would give him a ride anywhere he wanted. He said he was fine, no injuries... and yes, he wanted to make another run. Instead of the death defying skateboard thrasher 'kid' I expected to meet, Robert turned out to be a 30 something professional construction contractor with his own business, whose avocation and obsession is the sport of street luge. When I told him several people were filming his last run, he lights up with a big smile; & said, "Let's stop and pick one of them up, if you want to drive chase car behind me on the next run." So we stopped at the meadows long enough to recruit a cinematographer then proceeded on up to the end of the road.
As we prepared for the run, Robert looks at me and says, "Now stay right on my ass for the best pictures, trust me, I'll be fine, done this plenty of times before." His remark was somewhat less comforting to me knowing that I had never done this before, then he adds, "You should be so close I look like a hood ornament." That was when I first began to appreciate why the locals call him "Crazy Robert." The next thing I know, he's off & rolling...as am I. Now Robert had told me his groundspeed was actually faster than it looks, but that didn't prepare me for seeing him accelerate away from me when my speedometer was passing 45 mph. This was going to be fun, just so long as that luge board didn't disappear under the nose of my minivan.
We passed the first of several cars just beyond the parking lot to panther meadows, and for my money, as good as the pictures are that we got, the better ones might just have been the expressions on the faces of the drivers as we went by them. Priceless! It was a real education watching Robert luge down the
hiway; steering by shifting his weight and using the
soles of his sneakers for differential breaking. He told me that the reason he prefers to walk
back up is the same reason flight crews walk the deck scanning for FOD, or foreign
object debris on aircraft carriers, "One little rock can ruin your
day at 60 mph." When the run was over and my adrenalin levels returned
to normal I dropped Robert off in town then headed back up to the campground. Mt. Shasta
Later on that evening Lyle, myself and a few others were just kicking back, relaxing around the community campfire. Every so often someone else would wander in and join the rambling, freewheeling conversation, just as humans have enjoyed doing for millions of years. A little after dark, Robert showed up, with some beer, and a friend who didn't believe there was a white wolf visiting
. Someone else
showed up with steaks and franks to share with the group, and our numbers grew
a little more, until now there must have been almost a dozen people enjoying
the fire and company of strangers. Late
to arrive was the district forest ranger, the head tree cop on the mountain,
who showed up with a cooler full of corona's and joined in the evenings spontaneously
occurring cookout. I thought the evening
was going to take a different track when I noticed someone passing a joint to
the forest ranger who was off duty but still in uniform. He looked at the young lady and just said,
"I don't see that" as he slowly shook his head to
decline. Mt. Shasta
After a couple hours, someone proclaimed a toast to "The luge king of
The white wolf & I hung around panther meadows as a campground host assistants for over a month that summer, helping out thru the high traffic weeks. I was in no hurry to leave, as the
wasn't going anywhere, and Hanuman Temple seemed to still have more in store for me. Besides, Since Diago essentially had free run
on the mountain, it was just so sweet to see him enjoying being in his natural
element. One weekend a couple showed up
with a beautiful female wolf hybrid named Pria.
Watching those two wolves cavorting for hours out in the meadow was a
rare pleasure I was in no hurry to see end.
A couple of weeks later the mountain confirmed my sense that it was time
to go. Shasta is like that, she will
call you to her; and when it's time to leave, she will tell you that too. Mt. Shasta
Until Next Time ~ Be Good to Each Other!