Mount Shasta, the second-highest mountain peak in the Cascade Range, and a presently dormant volcano, has long been counted among the many wonders of California.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “Mount Shasta has been the most active volcano in California during the past 4,000 years, second in the entire Cascade Range to Mount St. Helens,” whose famous eruption in May 1980 is still regarded as the deadliest volcanic event in modern U.S. history.
“During that time,” the USGS says, “Shasta has erupted on average about once every 300 years, producing many pyroclastic flows and lahars. It probably last erupted in 1786.”
Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest inhabitants around Mount Shasta were there long before its last eruption, dating back as much as 7000 years ago. With little doubt, the early indigenous inhabitants of the area would have seen this eruption, and recognized the incredible volcanic force of the blast as being a natural event that rivaled most any other.
Perhaps it is the respect that generations of indigenous Americans no doubt had for the mountain that contributed to the strange legends that have abounded around the area. Among the regional Klamath tribes, it was once said that the Spirit of the Above-World, known as Skell, once appeared on the summit of the mountain at the request of a Klamath chief. Following the arrival of Europeans, stories about the mountain continued to proliferate even into the 19th and early 20th century, many having to do with a supposedly hidden underground city inhabited by former residents of Lemuria, a purported lost continent that once existed in the Pacific Ocean, as detailed by Harvey Spencer Lewis in a pseudonymously written 1931 book entitled Lemuria: the lost continent of the Pacific.
Despite reaching the peak of their interest in the earlier half of the last century, some of the strange stories about Mount Shasta have continued well beyond speculations about a lost city of advanced beings from a non-existent continent who were said to have lived there. One such story was recently shared with me by Beth S., a listener of my podcasts, who had an unusual experience while camping on Shasta back in the early 1970s.
As Beth recalls, it had been 1970 or 1971, while she and a friend were camping with her friend’s aunt and uncle on a land lease they had on Mount Shasta.
“We are talking hippie artists in the back of beyond,” Beth explained, “who were living primitive with a small A frame cabin and not much else.” She recalls that at the time there were several other young nature-loving types who had been camping on the remote site.
As Beth recalls, “One day the Forest Rangers came rolling in,” which she said “was no easy feat” on account of the location of the site. “You could only get in if your vehicle could ford the stream with no bridge, and that after coming up a rough cut forest road.”
Obviously equipped for the journey, the Forest Rangers had appeared on the day in question ordering everyone to leave the location. As Beth explained, everyone was told they must “leave immediately, no questions asked.” Adding to the strangeness of their request, the Rangers also told the campers that the National Guard would soon arrive, and would “move us down to Whiskeytown if we refused,” and that her friend’s aunt and uncle would also lose their land lease. With no other options available, the campers packed up and left the area, all the while wondering what had prompted the sudden evacuation from the area.
“We didn’t find out until we got down to Whiskeytown why we were ordered out,” Beth told me. Needless to say, the explanation she and the other campers ended up hearing was at least as strange—if not stranger—than any of the existing legends about Mount Shasta from over the years.
As Beth remembers it, she and the others were told that a “Sasquatch family was making their annual migration down the mountain and had come into somebody’s camp,” at which time one of the campers had “aimed a gun at Sasquatch who proceed to pitch guy and gun into the woods and they sacked the camp.”
“The guy was nearly killed,” Beth and her company were told.
Following the alleged incident, Forest Rangers were dispatched to clear the entire area, working quickly to move all visitors from their camping areas along wooded portions of Shasta’s slopes. With little else they could do, Beth and her cousin returned to Los Angeles, and her friend’s aunt and uncle eventually returned to find their campsite looted, though still intact.
“Shop keepers in Whiskeytown had lots of tall tales,” Beth added, echoing some of the other bizarre stories that have circulated about Mount Shasta over the decades. “They said Jesus and his disciples lived in Shasta mountain and occasionally came into town for supplies paying in Roman coins.
“They actually showed [us] the coins,” Beth remembered.
For all anybody may know, there very well could have been a group of hippies living on Mount Shasta at the time, one of whom might have resembled Christianity’s figurehead. As to how he and his “disciples” might have obtained authentic coins is anybody’s guess… although to make suppositions about such a scenario is still a far cry from the Department of the Interior sending Forest Rangers in to clear campers in advance of a potential Sasquatch attack.
For her part, Beth thought it was an interesting story, if nothing else.
“Thought that was another good tale to add to the aliens and Lemurians,” Beth joked.