Jeremy Miller at Harper's Magazine:
In 1875, John Muir wrote of Mount Shasta and California’s other glaciated peaks in an influential article for this magazine, titled “The Living Glaciers of California.” His musings on Shasta were, in part, based on experiences from a visit he’d made to the mountain a year earlier. From his haunts in Yosemite he plodded north, along the California and Oregon Stage Road (on foot, of course) from Redding to the small outpost of Sisson’s Station, near the Oregon border. When he arrived on November 1, Shasta rose before him like a great sugar heap. Although early season storms had buried the mountain under nearly ten feet of snow, he climbed upward, using his packhorse as a snowplow to break through the highest drifts. “Some places I had to creep, and some places to slide, and some places to scramble, but most places I had to climb, climb, climb deep in the frosty snow,” wrote Muir of his November ascent.
The ice- and snow-loving Scotsman would hardly recognize Shasta, or the rest of California, in its parched state today. This winter has been the warmest in 120 years of recordkeeping. And for the last few years, a force field–like ridge of high-pressure air hovered off the California coast during the last couple winters and sent storms careening north of the state, depriving the coast, peaks, and valleys of vital precipitation.