Entrance to “Shangri-la”……..#193 (the 80’s)

California's Central Valley

California’s Central Valley

Mt. Lassen

Castle Crags

The family once again seated in the Alamo Rental Car,  a northern proclivity was enhanced, the engaged vessel accelerating and arriving at the alacrity speed limit posted on interstate 5.   The Northern Central Valley with no reciprocation, its delineation remaining as Gary remembered it, an expanse of agricultural and husbandry endeavors, frequented with small farming communities.  Once departing Red bluff, the scenic atmosphere began anew, to the east, the towering snow-capped peak of Mount Lassen would remain in view for temporal visit until reaching Redding.  The Valley was now belated, the interstate beginning its slow upwards traverse from Redding, reaching out ten miles to embrace Lake Shasta, the third largest lake in California, its shoreline encumbrances 365 miles, populated with a host of evergreen trees, pines, fir, spruce and manzanita.  In 1936 the Shasta Dam project was initiated on the Sacramento River,  a ten-year project culminating in 1946, the completion of the lake reached fruition in 1948, the hydroelectricity plant providing power to Redding and the Northern Central Valley.  In the distance, Mount Shasta’s majestic appearance permeated the north-eastern horizon, but to the west another imposing monument coming into view, Castle Crags, it towering peaks arising from an elevation of 2000 ft to 6600 ft. The crags being formed during the Pleistocene period, the glaciers eroding the volcanic and sedimentary, leaving the solid granite heighten vertex vaulting upwards.

Mt. Shasta

California Highway 3

Before them an imposing presence was within reach,  its ascendancy dominating the panoramic landscape,  casting a mystical aura of celestial contentment on its ruling realm, Mount Shasta,  the regal snow-covered peak raising 14,179 ft in height,  reaching up to embrace the heavens.    John Muir penned,   “Solitary as God, white as winter’s moon”, Mount Shasta starts up suddenly and solitary from the heart of the great black forest of Northern California”,   its ambience imposing like a dormant volcanic pinnacle,  standing aloof,  excluded from any mountain range.  Completing the 350 mile trek on interstate 5 to Yreka,  the travelers finding California Highway 3,  the avenue west over Yreka Mountain,  thru the small community of Fort Jones,  his mother’s birthplace and the entrance to a  “Shangri-la”  called Scott Valley,  the family crowning 12 miles to Etna.

Etna’s Main Street

Cousin Jerry – Jan – Aunt Bernice

The rural setting fading,  a residential notification making an appearance,  Gary questioning his memory after his thirty-five year absence.  It was 1953 again, the same road, the same houses and  like the entrance into town,  Etna’s population of 500 had remained without change.  Gary piloting the car down Diggles Street, a primary approach to the communities lone business street aptly  name Main Street.  The remembrance prevailing, the driver pointing out the previous residency of his Aunt Bernice and his cousin Geraldine (Jerry) Facey where he had spent summers to a somewhat disinterested family, but it was understandable after spending almost eight hours seated in a car.  The walk to the front door of the house was a long one, not in distance but one of wonderment, Gary having not seen his aunt since the age of 12, but when she opened the door, it was 1953 again, she was  as he remembered her.  Aunt Bernice’s current home on Woodland St.was illustrious, its beamed ceiling, rotunda walled fireplace, capacious yard, adorned with towering trees, one emitting a very elongated rope swing, and capped with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Trinity and Marble Mountains.  His cousins dwelling was conveniently adjacent to Aunt Bernice’s residence, a large abode with an attached garage and shop with an essential spacious yard, Jerry and Fess the parents of five grown children and the possibility of an untold number of grandchildren.

Jan and the rotunda wall fireplace

Sandi swinging – Robert in the tree

A reminiscing familiar journey for a Mike,  Gary’s name for the first twelve years of his youthful existence,  replacing it with his first name upon entering junior high,  the roadside memories of the past cascading as the family followed Jerry and Fess south of town then onto a dirt roadway in the Cavalier.   The dust from Fess’s pickup leading the procession wasn’t as amiss as expected,  the trailing car giving an allowance for its deportment as they traverse upward,  the waters of a glimmering creek from the Trinity Alps could be seen parallel to the road..  The excursion coming to a conclusion stopping at an adjoining a meadow and the flowing beckoning sound of French Creek, another memory surfacing from Gary’s summers in Etna fishing with Fess whom just happened to have poles in the pickup.  Gary well acquainted trout fishing and with the family along there was no way to seriously considered walking the creek for white water pools, it then that he notice that Jerry had the foresight to pack  a picnic lunch.

Robert and Sandi at Great Aunt Bernice’s

Tangle Blue Lake

Gary,  recalling when he was 10 spending a summer a month with his Uncle Sam and Aunt Bernice,  his aunt catching him carving his initials in a tree,  she admonished him with a saying that still remained with him,  “foolish names like foolish faces, are often found in public places” .   Later youthful  years,  finding young Mike enjoying a month with Jerry, Fess, and their three siblings,  Sammy,  Dee Dee and  Trudy,  discovering adventure accompanying Fess with the county road crew.  One extended weekend the family made a captivating camping trip to the Trinity Alps and a fishing expedition to the iridescent Tangle Blue Lake.  The caravan assembly traversing the steep logging drag trails finding  all eight in a open-air jeep,  Fess’s brother Wilbur  sitting on the hood to hold the front end down a result of the wilderness grades  steepness,  the four youngsters remaining in the back with the camping equipment.  Etna also provided Mike with a young lady encounter, her name was Bobbi Brown,  they would roller skate,  attend the movie,  fish Etna Creek together and in the warm summer evenings  sit under the clear star filled sky and talk,  a new but lasting experience for a 12-year-old.  The summer ended,  Mike returning to his East Oakland Hills home, the two corresponded briefly by mail,  but like the summer,  it also ended.

Fess harvesting a hog

A very observant Robert

Aunt Bernice’s Breakfast was déjà vu for Gary and a new experience for the family, his Aunt providing a copious breakfast, serving several brands of cereal, a glass pitcher of milk, its bottle or carton container never permitted on the table, a bowl fresh fruit, eggs, pancakes, the syrup also in a glass syrup container and to Roberts delight, rainbow trout, pan-fried, their heads and tail still attached, a journey back in time for the eldest Willson.   Gary finding the June mornings crisp at Etna’s 3000 foot level, Fess after retiring from his county road crew employment, subscribed to an occupation that he had maintained as a sideline, a animal processor, harvesting and processing customers personal or vending products.  Robert watching as Fess backed his pickup to the shop door, the arm of the hoist protruding, its cable lifting a hog up out of the bed of the pickup by it rear legs, then lowering to the metal platform.  Robert watched Fess with knife in hand as the cutting began, but a decision to leave was forthcoming, Gary understood, having watched Fess harvest a live steer from start to finish when he was Roberts age.  The allotted time for their visit had come, saying goodbye was difficult, not so much to his aunt and cousins but to the aura of the past that resided there, deep inside Gary sheltered a secret desire  like Robert Conway in James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon”  it was to return to  “Shangri-La”.

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One Response to “Entrance to “Shangri-la”……..#193 (the 80’s)”

  1. Etna Says:

    I think that this is an interesting article. Very nice.
    Congratulations!
    Alfio.

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