I want to tell you about a mountain hideaway where I just spent two weeks in solitary retreat. Silver Springs Mountain Retreat is a remote retreat center and wildlife sanctuary in a forest of pine, oak and fir. It's situated on 40 acres of mountain top at an elevation of 4300 feet, surrounded by California's Shasta-Trinity National Forest, equidistant between Redding and the Pacific Ocean.
The facilities consist of a lodge, a cabin, a large camp for up to 16 people and a number of smaller camps, all of which are equipped with a tent, table, chairs, bed, kitchen facilities, cooking ware and solar shower. I stayed in Hawk's Nest, which is one of these tent camps; it's notched into the ridge top, hidden in trees, and faces rolling valleys with a panoramic view of Mount Shasta and the Trinity-Alps stretching across the horizon.
Campsites are also available for guests bringing their own tent and camping equipment. All the facilities are secluded from each other and visiting among them is by invitation only, so I was never disturbed.
Individual guests do their own cooking but meals can be prepared for groups. Some retreatants choose to observe silence during their stay, and grocery shopping can be provided for a nominal fee.
The accommodations are rustic. Lighting is by rechargeable battery-powered lanterns, and solar-powered electricity is available in limited supply. Privies, dirt roads and outdoor showers contribute to a simplicity of living that I found a welcome contrast to my usual life.
The most striking quality of the retreat center is the silence. The place is so peaceful! Except for an occasional airliner passing at high altitude, there are no sights or sounds of man to disturb the natural scene. During my stay, all I heard was birds and the wind in the trees.
Silver Springs Mountain Retreat is used primarily by mediators, and followers of all spiritual traditions are welcome. The center hosts groups retreats, workshops on healing and the arts, and accommodates artists and writers practicing their craft.
I found myself visiting the spring every day to sit among the ferns and wildflowers and listen to the water trickling into the reflecting pool. Twice I went swimming at the South Fork River 35 minutes away by car. When I wanted contact with others, I joined the badminton and ping-pong games that take place at Common Ground in the late afternoon or gathered with others around the fire circle in the evening. On the lip of the canyon is a bathing area with water pumped and heated by solar energy. It looks out into the Chanchelulla Wilderness, and I enjoyed filling the tub for leisurely soaks under the stars.
All accommodations are available during the season June 15-Oct 30th. During the off-season, facilities are used only by persons doing 5-month solitary retreats.
This retreat center is 5 1/2 hours by car from San Francisco. Though this is long drive, I found myself in forest and mountains as far as the eye could see, in an area so remote I might have been returning to an earlier century before the arrival of the settlers. The sun rose and took ever so long just to reach the zenith, followed by a seemingly endless afternoon. Peace and silence are the strongest impressions I'm carrying over into my regular life, and the sense of time slowed down almost to a standstill. I experienced a dissolving of boundaries between inner and outer realities, and felt that Silver Springs Mountain Retreat was lovingly supporting me in my communion with the one great Source underlying all.