The Search for Sanctuary

The Quest Begins

In late Spring 2009, I returned to Logan. I began Internet searches of real estate in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho and Montana. We both liked the mountains and skiing is Lizas favorite winter sport. I found lots of places to consider and drove nearly every week, or so, to some place to 'check it out'. Our son, Vas dropped the 'bomb' on Liza when he announced that he wanted to become a Buddhist monk and was thinking of a monastery in easatern Russia, near Lake Baikal. Liza was devastated since he presented this idea as a 'fait accompli' and that it involved 'forsaking' the family connections..... Oh boy! We talked about options for him in the U.S. and asked him to check on his own to consider a U.S. based monastery or Buddhist university.

Meanwhile Liza and Vas made a short visit to the monastery near Baikal and she found it interesting herself. "What is not to like about Buddhists?", I said. I have never known a Buddhist to be 'bad' and I considered myself a de facto fundamentalist Buddhist - in the tradition of Sidhartha Gautama, a self-guided buddha. And Liza said Vas had a long list of possible Buddhist universities and monasteries in the U.S. of interest to him. "And, there's one near Mt. Shasta in northern California. And they are having a 10-day spiritual retreat in July on the fundamentals of Buddhism for beginners and it's right next to Mt. Shasta. Did I say Mt. Shasta?"

Long story shortened - Liza, Vas and I went to the retreat and had a wonderful time. Vas began to change his mind when he was rejected for monk study until he "matured a little more, i.e. turned 21". We all fell under the spell of Mt. Shasta. As we drove out of sight of Mt. Shasta we all commented to the effect, "Wouldn't it be nice to live here?".

And that was the turning point; the moment in time when Liza and I both began to refocus my search efforts for a new home. The 'place' was now "somewhere close to Mt. Shasta." ON Mt. Shasta was preferred. We both liked our experiences in Weed and Mt. Shasta and our drives around the area before and after the retreat only served to enhance those memories. Simply put, any place we would consider buying for our new home had to have an excellent view of Mt. Shasta.

I did not know then how hard it would be to meet the criteria - close to Mt. Shasta. I started Internet searches as soon as I returned to Logan in August. I was surprised to see lots of offerings of lots with a view of Mt. Shasta and at prices varying from $1,500 to somewhere just below the stratosphere, one was a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) asking $135,000 for a HUGE 3/4 acre lot on Lake Shastina.....

I'm a fiscal conservative. I was a Realtor and broker in Wisconsin for 16 years. I know how to do proper title searches. I know what questions to ask about land to determine what's true, or at least has a high likelihood of being true. I know how to write offers to purchase that include "walk away" clauses, such as "percolation tests, soil sampling, flood risks, etc.". And, yes, I do know a 'snake' when I hear, see, smell or feel one. And I certainly began to find lots of 'snakes' on the other end of the telephone connection or e-mails....Ayee!

Within two weeks I had developed a list of about seventy-five (75) 'possibles'. These all had met the "close to Mt. Shasta" criteria, most within 10 miles by 'Line of Sight' (LOS). A few were 30 to 40 miles away, but they had great views of Mt. Shasta as detyermined when I used Google Earth's zoom view. I then used Google Maps and PhotoShop to develop very detailed, large-scale street-view and satellite-view maps of the lots in the various sub-divisions. I found online copies of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) to give insight into how the owner associations were 'supposed' to work. I read blog entries, FaceBook entries and comments on websites about the communities to learn what the 'street creds' were about each subdivision.

I quickly reduced my list of 75 'possibles' down to 50 'very possibles'. I did more research online by checking with the Assessors online search of documents. I found information for most of the lots about the owners, assessed values of land and buildings, date of last sale/buy, approximate price paid by the current owner, liens imposed on the land, and maps of the lots with detailed dimensions. I found there were concerns about well water having high levels of arsenic and heavy metals from past mining and volcanic activity. I found there were wide-spread assumptions that there were "no flood issues" from the Klamath River and certainly not from the many creeks and not from Mt. Shasta herself. I learned the property taxes were too low due to the 1% cap imposed many years ago and that there were many special bond issues to get around that. And a myriad of other problems surfaced, such as high 'in-car vagrancy' and petty theft rates in rural sub-divisions, pot=growers 'everywhere', and many stories of thieving and life-threatening wildlife to add to the 'fear factor'.

I made a recon trip to Weed area from October 20th to 28th to look at all of the lots on the list and to scout out the geography up close. I walked into every lot and drove every road/street to see what the conditions were. I met with a Erik Kloth a Realtor with Klutzky Coldwell-Banker in Yreka to learn more details and get advice. I pared the list to 35 'probables' that I believed Liza should at least see. Many would serve as objects of learning. I knew that I could never adequately explain verbally why I had not included certain lots. I knew Liza would quickly see the marginal lots and come to the same conclusions, "(1) No! (2) Hell NO! or (3) extended moments of glaring silence (interpreted as "I can't believe you even showed me this."). These learning moments would be necessary in order for us to be 'on the same page" and come to a joint decision. I do 'know Liza'.

I sent Liza a spreadsheet of the list with links to the websites and I sent the information I had found about the general situation in northern California. I then went back to Russia for the Christmas holidays. We talked extensively about the list and our goals and our realities. Vas was now no longer interested in being a monk and had fallen in love and well, probably would go to university now. And we needed to settle the apartment plans as well. There was a lot on our 'plate' to settle.

Go to the "Hunt" section


October 28th 2009: 3 PM: View of Mt. Shasta from StoneCrest Road in Lake Shastina subdivision. I really loved the lot where this photo is taken from. The people who owned loved it too. They wanted $60k for it.

Photo by Will

October 28th 2009: 5 PM: View of Mt. Shasta from StoneCrest Road in Lake Shastina subdivision. I loved the lot where this photo is taken from so much I walked around and on it for over two hours imagining living there.

Photo by Will

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