With a commanding profile and snowcapped summit, 14,179-foot Mount Shasta in Northern California’s Siskiyou County just looks like what a mountain should be. Beyond its outstanding recreational opportunities—including hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter—there’s another side to this volcanic mountain in the Cascade Range near the town of Mt. Shasta.
As guide Andrew Oser explains in the latest episode of the California Now Podcast, the Golden State’s fifth tallest peak has a spiritual side, too.
“There’s just an energy here that goes beyond the physical beauty,” he says. “That’s why people come from around the world to this humble little mountain village…my favorite way to describe Mount Shasta is that it’s a 14,000-foot mirror that reflects back the deepest truth in your heart.”
An Inspiring History
While Mount Shasta inspired a number of Native American legends, Oser explains that the peak’s name is derived from schastya, a Russian word for happiness. The name dates to the Gold Rush era when Russian prospectors in the Yreka area spotted the peak about 30 miles south. “Some of my Russian clients have said it’s not just normal happiness, it means eternal happiness, or pure happiness,” says Oser.
Finding Mount Shasta
After college in the late 1970s, Oser discovered and fell in love with Mount Shasta while living in San Francisco. He describes himself at that time as a “stressed-out, over-achieving kid who just needed a break.” At Mount Shasta, Oser says, he “experienced a peace that was deeper, more profound than anything I experienced before.”
During 14 years in Washington D.C. and another 12 in San Diego, Oser managed to return for annual visits before finally moving to the Mount Shasta area in 2006. “I just had to get here for my recharge and my reset, since there’s something I found that I didn’t find any place else,” he says.
A Place of Pilgrimage
Oser decided that he wanted to share the mountain with people from around the world and began leading retreats. Not only was it a way for visitors to discover Mount Shasta’s grandeur, the experience let them step away from the stresses of daily life and rediscover their true selves. “When you come to Mount Shasta, you remember that happiness is already inside of you, and you don’t need a bigger house or more money in your bank account,” Oser says. “You can be happy right now, just by relaxing and focusing into your heart more deeply.”
Whether you’re interested in a one-day outing or a weeklong retreat, Oser leads tours for people of all fitness levels and varying familiarity with meditation techniques.
On a typical retreat, there’s a visit to a waterfall before driving up the mountain for meditation sessions that Oser leads at a gorgeous place deep in the woods and then in a small cave set within dramatic rock formations. The journey continues above treeline to what Oser describes as “a high spot with inspiring vistas, a great place just to stand at the top of the world above the human, to look at your life, and get inspiration for the next steps.”