I had known for months that this year, for my 60th birthday, I wanted to make a pilgrimage hike to Panther Meadows, high on the slopes of Mount Shasta. We live near this amazing mountain and I have visited Panther Meadows many times. I always feel the sacred nature of the alpine wilderness. It has been a place for shamans and healers of the people of these lands for generations – a place where they hold ceremonies and gather plants for the healing of the Earth and the people of these lands.
A couple of weeks before my birthday, we spotted a notice about Dog Trail from Bunny Flat up to the Old Ski Bowl parking area. It is an alternate trail, marked only by pink ribbons tied to the trees. As soon as I saw it, I know that would be my birthday hike.
Early in my hike I greeted all of the spirits of this powerful mountain and the life of these slopes. I soon felt more open to the feel of the air currents on my face and the song of the birds in surrounding trees.
I felt that I was walking in the midst of the ancient people of this place, not as phantoms, but as helping spiritual guides. I was encouraged to return to the power within my belly – the energy of life rises from the core in the belly, igniting the fire of the heart, and creates a balanced dance between heart and mind. This all emerges as wholeness in physical form.
This unknown trail (from 6,950 ft to above 7,800 ft in 2.5 miles) had some very steep climbs that left me winded and feeling the challenge in my muscles. I began to see that this pilgrimage was about the physical more than the spiritual. It was a call to set aside all of the limiting images of being a premature baby; sickly uncoordinated child; not capable of much physical activity or endurance. It was an introduction into becoming a “Tough old bird” – a woman comfortable in nature and capable of a difficult climb.
It took me 2.5 hours to climb that 2.5 miles. I paused several times to rest and eat some snacks and drink water. On one of those stops I began laughing as how much I was beginning to feel like “The Woman on the Mountain.” I continued the next 1/4 mile down into Panther Meadow and enjoyed my lunch while being held in the arms of my favorite sacred tree.
I considered the 3 mile walk back down the roadway to my car, but knew that I had fulfilled all I needed for the day. Gratefully, I accepted a ride from a National Forest Volunteer back to my car. He was the one who spoke to me of 60 being the age when one becomes free.
That was two months age. Little did I know all of the freedom that was beginning to break into my life.