I was asked by someone if it is expensive to live in Mount Shasta. The answer started unpacking in a number of different ways, so I figured it was a good writing prompt. What is it like to live in Mount Shasta?
Of course, after 6 years of living here, I have my own perspectives on things. Other people’s experience of Mount Shasta might be completely different. But this is what it is like for me.
Is it expensive? Yes and no. Like most of California, there is a wide disparity between the haves and the have-nots. There are many more have-nots in Siskiyou County than there are haves. If you want to live somewhere in the middle, there are not a lot of options.
Housing. Finding nice, clean, inexpensive housing in Mount Shasta is next to impossible. If you’ve found it, you have found the proverbial housing unicorn. Enjoy it.
Housing is split between small rentals where owners just don’t care and won’t fix a darn thing or expensive 4,000 s.f. houses that are triple the rental price of a small rental. Finding something in between is rare.
Living in Mount Shasta or close to the city is the most challenging. There is plenty of housing out in Lake Shastina, but you’re then 30 minutes from town. Even getting to Weed is a long trip from Shastina. There’s Dunsmuir, a small town south of Mount Shasta with fantastic restaurants and a quaint downtown. Houses there are typically older and smaller, but less expensive than Mount Shasta City.
Shopping. Groceries here are expensive. The local grocery store, Ray’s Food Place, is typically twice the price of shopping in Redding or Medford, Oregon, the two larger cities south and north of us. There is a stealthy protester who puts post-it notes on food in the store letting us know we can get things 1/2 of the marked price at Walmart. There is a really fantastic, small organic grocery store, Berryvale. The food is fresh and all organic, but it also comes with a price. There’s also a small grocer, Mount Shasta Market which is a quick easy-in, easy-out market that also makes a great bbq chicken if you’re into that.
Shopping at big box stores, or shopping anywhere really, is a challenge. The only big box store in the county is Walmart in Yreka. Yreka has a good grocery store next to the Walmart, so sometimes I’ll swallow my pride and hit Walmart and Raley’s for shopping when I don’t want to go all the way to Redding or Medford.
Most of the stores in town cater to tourists, but we have a few real gems. A great health food/supplement store, a specialty tea store, and a few other boutiques.
Food. It is very easy to support local farmers, which makes shopping challenges less of a pain. The farmers market, a herd share for fresh raw milk [update 2020: now defunct], a local coffee roaster, and everyone and their brother raises chickens and has at the very least a backyard farm. In the summertime, there are plenty of opportunities to get fresh, organic locally grown produce. Almost everyone makes their own kombucha and grows at least some of their own food.
Restaurants. Mount Shasta has a couple of good restaurants, and Dunsmuir is loaded with good restaurants. Hours are wacky no matter where you go, so always check if they’re open. Most places close fairly early.
Nightlife. Uhm, no. I think there is one bar, I’ve never been. I’d rather go look at some stars at night. Or sleep. Sleep is so underrated.
Jobs. Hahaha. There are no jobs here to speak of. There is no manufacturing other than a lumber mill in Weed. Crystal Geyser is opening a bottling facility which they say is going to bring the area jobs, but not many of them. There are jobs in healthcare at the hospital, but since I’ve been here, there have been rumors of the hospital closing. Best bet: work from home for a company elsewhere, be an internet entrepreneur, or fabulously wealthy. Oh, or a pot grower. There are a ton of pot growers all over northern California.
Healthcare. It is VERY easy to find alternative health support here. Of course, we’ve got a hospital and doctors that are willing to prescribe mainstream medications if that’s your thing, but if you’re looking to manage your health in a less invasive and less toxic way, in a way that supports your connection to nature, you can find that in Mount Shasta. Acupuncture, chiropractic, energy healing, herbalists, and of course food as medicine are all par for the course. And even some of the mainstream doctors are as suspicious of mainstream pharmaceuticals as I am and prescribe nutritional support instead of medications.
Things to do. If you’re not really into outdoor activities, Mount Shasta is probably not for you. If you’re into outdoor stuff, you’ll absolutely love it here. Lake Siskiyou is a magical place. Just walking there does something for me. The mountain has many magical places to explore. The trees are immensely beautiful. The natural environment here is so supportive of our spirit. Hiking, boating, skiing, just being outside does something to my soul.
The train. Mount Shasta City is a valley between mountains. You’ve got Mount Shasta to the east, and the Eddy’s to the west. In between you’ve got Interstate 5, which you will travel on a lot, and there’s the train. You’ll hear the train everywhere. If you’re in town, you’ll hear it a lot. If you’re outside of town like I am, you’ll hear it a lot. Sometimes it’s this sweet haunting sound off in the distance. Other times it seems like it is in your backyard.
The snow. When I first moved here, it snowed hard and a lot. If a storm was coming, forecasts were in feet not inches. In the last few years, we haven’t had any snow to speak of. I never thought I would say it, but I miss the snow.
The cold. I came from Chicago. The cold does not really bother me. And the cold of Chicago was much, much worse. Our typical winter temps are in the 20’s at night and in the 40’s in the daytime. We’ll have some a little colder, some a little warmer. But typically, it is not that bad.
The summer. The glorious summer. The wonderful, hypnotically enticing summer. Cool at night, warm during the day, dry clean mountain air, crystal clear, deep blue skies, a Shasta summer is typically something to behold. Lately, we’ve had crappy summers. We’ve had a few glimpses of those wonderful Shasta days, but I miss them.
Fires. With the drought and dry, hot summers, fires happen in California and Oregon. Fires could be happening miles and miles away, and the smoke can still affect us.
The people. Nearly everyone I know here is spiritually inclined in some way. Even Christians are very devoted to their belief system. There are a ton of people who are into new age thought, probably more per capita than anywhere else. It is quite common to meet people who believe in alternative belief systems, and talking about energetic weather is about as common as talking about the weather itself.
Mount Shasta is partially a transient town. People come and go a lot. Actually, I was expecting to come for a little while and go, but apparently I cannot go. I’ve been told that this is one of the few places on earth that matches my frequency. So I am here, for now, and I’ll stay here for as long as I need to. [Update: I moved to Phoenix, AZ in 2018. I still miss Mount Shasta.] Because people come and go so frequently, some locals are a little standoffish. I understand it; you meet someone but you’re not really sure if they’re going to be here next week or not. Once you do connect with people, it feels as if you’ve met an old friend from many decades (or lifetimes) ago.
Once someone has been around for a few years, there seems to be a different type of camaraderie here than I have experienced elsewhere. There is a relaxed nature with people, a place where you can really fully be yourself.
Raising kids. Raising kids here is spectacular. I have absolute trust allowing my teenager to run around town, and there are enough outdoor activities for my younger kiddo to stay active. I’ve found a home with the local charter school. My kids absolutely love school, learning, and their teachers.
Politics. As with everywhere on earth, there are local politics. Siskiyou County tends to be a red county, an outlier in blue-state California. However, most people I know are fairly socially liberal with a live-and-let-live attitude, but quite libertarian in desiring freedom from government oversight. Sometimes things happen statewide that make perfect sense for Los Angeles but no sense for a rural area like Siskiyou County. There was a push in 1941 to create a new state called Jefferson, however, after Pearl Harbor, it was abandoned. It was not abandoned in the hearts and minds of the people who live here, however. The desire for many to escape the tyranny of Sacramento is still an issue.
Honestly, it does not feel like California. Anything north of Sacramento has a much different feel altogether. Mount Shasta is, in many ways, an oasis in the middle of it all, almost like it doesn’t belong to the region, almost like it doesn’t belong to the earth.
Could I live somewhere else? Probably. But from an energetic standpoint, this place is home for me. During a vacation 6 years ago, a few months before we moved here, I heard very strongly, “You can take care of yourself here. And if you can take care of yourself, you can take care of your family better.” And so it has been that way. Here, I somehow find ways to take care of myself a little better than I could elsewhere. I have more work to do, however, and I have gotten some strong messages that I need to stay here for quite some more time.
After all, life is about going with the flow. It’s about going with what feels right. It is about moving through life in the easiest way. And thinking about moving anywhere else doesn’t work. I’ve tried looking elsewhere, and I hit nothing but dead ends. I’m supposed to stay here.
So, that’s kind of what life is like here in Mount Shasta, for me anyway. I’ve found my paradise on earth, and earth is going to have to change a lot before I find comfort elsewhere.
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