Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mt. Shasta Street Luge


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 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 Taos it could only be because that is the location of the only Hanuman Temple in America.   Spirit was calling me to immerse myself in this vibration, to move to Taos so as to be near the temple.

I have this little thing, like a tradition that I do before embarking on any spiritual journey; and that is a visit to Mount Shasta to get rebalanced and recharged for the journey ahead.  Like so many others, I have a deep and abiding affinity for this mystical and magical mountain.  You never really know what the mountain is going to show you, it can vary greatly.  Many folks who are drawn there because of the frequency of  impressive low level UFO sightings may never see one during their visit, yet go home with some other totally unexpected spiritual experience.  You just never know, and that is always part of the equation.  When I visit the mountain, there is only one place I'm interested in being, and that is the Panther Meadows campground at about 7,500 ft. elevation.  It's where all the really interesting people hang out, and offers spectacular views of the peak, and everything else.  At that elevation it is the highest, and last campground you encounter, as the road ends about a half mile or so farther up.

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 Alaska.  I was just getting to really enjoy myself when I ran out of tree, so I just moved to the next afflicted campsite and went right to work.  By the time I ran out of gas for the saw I had cleared my campsite and two others.  When the campground host returned from running errands in town I had just finished putting up my tent, and was sharing a quiet moment with my traveling companion, Diago, the arctic white wolf.  Lyle, the host, walked over to visit for a while.  The conversation bounced around between several subjects and before it was done I had been asked and convinced to hang around for a couple weeks and function as a volunteer assistant host to help out, as they were short staffed.  It's like that when you travel with a white wolf, you become a sort of interspecies ambassador because people are just naturally gonna want to come meet the magnificent animal...and to pet the wolf too!  The very best part of the arrangement was that there was no leash law enforced at panther meadows because studies had discovered that free roaming dogs did far less damage to the fragile ecosystem.  It seems tethered dogs were always straining at the leash, clawing & digging up whatever was beneath them.

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 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 Mt. 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. 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 & 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 Mt. Shasta 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.

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 Mt. Shasta.  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. 

After a couple hours, someone proclaimed a toast to "The luge king of Mt. Shasta" as conversation came back around to the days luge runs and photo shoot.  Robert was not one to shy away from the attention, and was soon captivating all of us with stories and anecdotes from his several years of doing the Shasta run.  The man had the rapt attention of everyone around the campfire, and I must say, was in his element as a storyteller.  Robert was one of those people you sometimes meet who when retelling a story, is actually reliving the moment; which can add an appealing element to the story.  And so it was as he began telling of one of his many road pranks..."There I was zooming down the road at over 60, when I have to pass a car ahead of me.  I was irritated he was driving so slow, so as I went by his car I reached up and knocked on the drivers door."  Suddenly remembering the ranger is partying with us, Robert gets this sheepish 'I'm busted' kind of look on his face; as he clams up and looks at the ranger.  The forest service ranger just smiled, took a sip of his corona, and said, "Robert, as far as I am concerned the only law you're breaking is Natural Selection." 
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 Hanuman Temple wasn't going anywhere, and Mt. Shasta 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. 

Until Next Time ~ Be Good to Each Other!


  1. I LOVE your story White Wolf Man - please can we have some more? Very funny. Also makes me want go to that meadow.....Thankyou.

  2. Ha! Love it! Been going to Shasta for decades, it is one holy mountain. I always had a fantasy about riding my skateboard down the Everett Highway, all those long sweeping curves and miles & miles of downhill with very little traffic, but I thought it would just get too hairy for more than a short run. Hats off to Crazy Robert!

  3. Howlllllllllllll .. Love them wolves ( leaves some cold brews in chauts fridge
    Great story

  4. Hi Chautauqua, (This is Althea) Now, this is what I call "Climbing aboard for an unflinching ride thru the uncharted landscape of the Aquarian Age!" Felt the wind in my hair and heart pumping. No distinction between brave and crazy? Perhaps they're one and the same depending on what one is doing. Would love to hear more about your wolves. And wouldn't it be grand if all Park Rangers were like the Corona one, and just maybe they are in the Aquarian Age. Super story, thanks, Love, A.

  5. Yup, he was one cool park ranger alright, and funny as hell too. Like I said, all the really interesting folks hang out at panther meadows, and the butterflies there are pretty special too!!

  6. Thanks for finally writing abоut > "Mt. Shasta Street Luge" < Liked it!

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