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October 2000 Issue
The Geographical Review
October 2000, Vol. 90 (4), pp. 536-558
SPIRITUAL PILGRIMS AT MOUNT SHASTA, CALIFORNIA
LYNN HUNTSINGER and MARÍA FERNÁNDEZ-GIMÉNEZ
Keywords: Crystal People,
Mount Shasta, New Age, pilgrimage, power point, U.S. Forest Service.
Even the casual visitor cannot fail to notice unusual activity on the slopes of Northern California's Mount Shasta. Prayer flags, altars, and crystals are found in the meadows; drumming, chanting, and meditation are commonplace. Non-indigenous spiritual pilgrims have found Mount Shasta a sacred place. An amorphous group of spiritual seekers, these are sometimes referred to as "New Age" adherents or "Crystal People." Within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the situation of this sacred site exemplifies the difficulties of reconciling nonsecular claims to public lands with secular management mandates. Spiritual activism at Mount Shasta includes recently successful opposition to development of a Forest Service-endorsed ski area. Using a questionnaire survey and interviews, we compare the characteristics, activities, and attitudes toward resource management of spiritual pilgrims and others who visit Mount Shasta's meadows. Conclusions are drawn about the environmental values and concerns of all visitors and of spiritual pilgrims in particular, including some that bear on pilgrim activities and ecological restoration efforts.