Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blue Goose ~ Day 172

November 16, 2014 ~ Eugene, OR to Crescent City, OR

After a few days of cold rain, we woke to sunshine. I left, feeling lonely even before I pulled away, but also rested and renewed and loved. 

I first took I5 south and then turned west following the muddy brown Umpqua River to the coast, through small damp towns, winding over the coast mountains and then driving south, sometimes right on the edge of the ocean and other times moving inland for several miles. I detoured fives miles to Cape Blanco SP, the westernmost point in Oregon.
Cape Blanco - OR

These headlands and capes are full of history; the lighthouses are simple but striking with their Fresnel lenses slowly revolving. There was a tiny "Pioneer Cemetery" off to the side of the road ascending to the lighthouse. Mostly, I am drawn to endless weather possibilities on this coast, the infinite combinations of clouds, sky, water, wind, tides and rocks. Even on calm days, the waves from Japan eventually crash onto these shores, splashing white spumy water high over black rocks. And the thousands of little coves and beaches, river and creek outflows, rugged high cliffs, tidal pools...a grand playground, a wild and lovely place to reflect and find repose here at the end of the continent.
Oregon coast - south from Cape Blanco

I spent the night in Crescent City, OR, across from the harbor, eating salmon for dinner. Ironically, the best part of this meal was the pea soup. So it goes....

Blue Goose - Days 164 to 171

November 9 to November 15, 2014 - Oregon

This beautiful state! My son had the good sense to go to school, find a bride and then get a job here, so I now get to visit:
Beach below Heceta Head Lighthouse

- saw the Ducks beat the Utes (on TV)
- went to Livy's first indoor soccer game (missed D's game which was the day after I left)
- listened to Liv play her violin and Donovan his guitar
Yes, this is what November in Oregon looks like
- watched birds busy at feeders - among others: Chestnut-backed and Black-capped Chickadees, Steller and Western Scrub Jays, Bushtits, Varied Thrushes, Fox and Song Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinches, Spotted Towhees, Pine Siskins....
Lake Creek Falls area where the salmon were running - OR
- saw spawning Chinook salmon near the end of their run on a beautiful section of river 20 miles from the coast

- spent a day in warm November sunshine on the spectacular Oregon coast, hiking to the Devil's Churn, the Spouting Horn and Heceta Head lighthouse, picnicking on the beach, watching birds and seals and then relaxing in a cozy small restaurant in town
- drove out on the severely rocky south jetty where I would NEVER take the Dodge van, but where the Subaru did just fine (although the guy behind us got stuck in the sand just off the rocks)
- put together a Charley Harper puzzle
- spent time with Carol...
- acquired Pistachio (a tortoise) at Reptile Universe to replace the cat who kept bringing live birds, mice and snakes into the house and who finally moved to a family with a barn
- played Monopoly
- walked in the nearby park with the best dog in the world, forever in awe of the Oregon trees and especially the leaves of Big Leaf maples which now covered the trails
- a last Livy-as-chef waffle breakfast

Blue Goose ~ Day 163

November 8, 2014 ~ Medford, OR to Eugene, OR

A 3-hour drive up to Eugene on I5, on a scenic route through the Rogue, Umpqua and Willamette river valleys, between the Coast and Cascade ranges, through foothills, over a few passes..a nice drive on a sunny Saturday morning.

The next week was a respite week with family, a much needed and appreciated break from endless days of driving, gas station stops, salty, fatty food, Walmart lots, van camping in general with cold mornings and sunsets before 5:00 p.m.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Blue Goose ~ Day 162

November 7, 2014 ~ Klamath Falls, OR to Medford, OR

Waking in the dark, googling the nearest coffee shop or McDonalds, driving a mile to McDonalds, drinking coffee, waiting for the sunrise...which this morning was obscured by intermittent fog.
Long-billed Dowitcher - Tule Lake NWR - CA

I wanted to go through the Tule Lake refuge once more and this time did it in reverse, starting on the east and ending at the VC. The fog was lifting by the time I arrived, and I immediately saw several Red-tails. At one point there were two perched on rock piles directly across the road from each other.

By the time I reached the VC, it was noon, and I watched the feeders for 15 minutes before continuing to Lower Klamath NWR on the other side of the volcanic ridge. There was much less open water until I got to the western part where 1000s of ducks were moving and feeding in an area of flooded small bushes. I did not go to Upper Klamath Lake this time but had been there in July. The whole area comprises the Klamath Basin which is a major rest stop on the Pacific flyway with an estimated 1-2 million ducks and geese using these refuges in October and November each year.

Clark's Grebe - Tule Lake NWR - CA
I found a lesser route over the Cascades from just south of Klamath Falls to Ashland. The road was curvy with narrow shoulders, through Ponderosas and other conifers, but as I moved west, there were also hardwoods in full color. I hadn't seen trees with red leaves for days. The last 15 miles were unexpectedly dramatic. I felt I was driving into Heaven, as the road dropped off precipitously, leaving nothing but huge expanses of sky spanning wide valleys.  Fortunately, I was on the inside lane for this portion as guardrails were often non-existent. And the sky was a mass of brilliant low-hanging white cloud-fog with the sun shining on and through it, making the whole scene wondrous. The forests gave way to immense brown hills, spotted with cattle and occasional trees as the road serpentined down into the valley.

I was then soon on I5, but I decided to stop early and work, so stayed just north of Medford and had vending machine choices for dinner - peanuts, Chex and trail mix.

Lower Klamath Lake NWR- CA

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blue Goose ~ Day 161

November 6, 2014 ~ Susanville, CA to Klamath Falls, OR

How lucky...again, a Starbucks at the other end of the parking lot, open at 4:30 a.m. with two cheerful guys working away, getting ready for another day of social coffee lovers. I'm seldom the only customer even that early in the morning. Consistently good coffee, often with a Bacon-Gouda sandwich or a couple of small Petite Vanilla Scones, and a couple of hours on the computer: this is my morning agenda lately while waiting for the sun to rise.

The road north was sparsely traveled, and I could feel the subtle rise in elevation as I drove in sunshine through this high desert. I finally found Modoc NWR after a few wrong turns. The woman at the headquarters told me and another visiting couple about Great Horned Owls which had nested in a large cottonwood across the road and Red-tails in tree on VC side of the road. When a storm ravaged things one spring night and disrupted the hawk nest, the manager found that they just took over a Barred Owl nesting box. And then the next year, the birds switched trees, with the Owl nesting in the hawk tree and vice versa. I tried hard to find daytime roosting owls and never did, but they certainly were tucked in somewhere close, resting, snoozing, waiting out the light.

Many farms surround and infiltrate Modoc but there were also ponds with waterfowl and several hawks  flying / hunting over the fields.
Modoc NWR - CA
Northern Harriers have been the predominant raptor with Red-tails also numerous. The light was brilliant and clear, the land open between the mountains to the west and Nevada to the east. I fantasize about being able to experience a year in a 24-hour period on these refuges, watching the seasons and ebb and flow of the birds, and how the water moves and how the grasses grow.

My next stop in mid afternoon was Tule Lake NWR, still in California, but just below the Oregon border. What a beautiful amazing place in this mostly dry land. A volcanic ridge rises just behind the VC. Several feeders were very active, situated at a slight distance from the windows. Guys with guns were planning their waterfowl / pheasant hunts, getting information and permits. One gentleman  spent 15 minutes grousing about fewer and fewer lands available for pheasant hunting, whining some about the water-fowlers, pointing out a discrepancy in the maps and generally commanding the attention of a manager. He wasn't really obnoxious - just unhappy. Pick-ups with dogs, and visitors in vehicles like mine lined up in the parking lot which was bordered by trees busy with fall-feeding birds, including a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets. And a life bird! a quick glimpse of a Golden-headed Sparrow. This is on my short list of birds I want to see better but definitely saw the smudgy yellow head which is the winter presentation. It is otherwise a streaky brownish sparrow. They had been visiting the feeders I was told, although not lately, and are common here.

The high rocky ridge sheltered the VC site, and the sunshine was warm, filtering through the leaves still on the trees. Another birding couple, each with a long lens, was digiscoping the VC birds. It was park-like, quiet this time of year, and I lingered before setting out on the auto tour, along a series of dikes enclosing vast impoundments of water. (There was a sign asking visitors to thank the local farmers for allowing the use of water for the refuge, or words to that effect.)
Western Grebes - Tule Lake NWR - CA

The refuge is incredible! Finally, finally, I saw thousands of birds: gulls, grebes, swans, geese, ducks, herons, and hawks over the fields beyond the dikes, spending two to three hours moving slowly south, east, south and then east in stair-step fashion before finally reaching the highway to Klamath Falls.

I saw young, half-grown Western Grebes importuning parents for food. That was the verb that immediately came to mind. These kids would slither across the water toward a parent, mouths half open, half begging, half crying for food. And the patient parent would dive whereupon the juvenile bird would immediately shut up until the parent showed up again. I didn't actually see the adults feed the young birds so maybe were teaching them they needed to start figuring this out. I watched half-grown Eared Grebes close to shore, swimming, diving, swimming, diving without attendant adults. There were Bonaparte Gulls flying about; occasional flocks of White Pelicans in the sky; Tundra Swans, adults and juveniles; and a huge mixed flock of Snow and White-fronted Geese. I didn't get close enough to check for "blue" Snow Geese, which I am sure were also present. It was very quiet on the water, and the sun was slowly moving to the west behind me, so viewing conditions were great. Definitely, a top ten refuge.
Geese - Tule Lake NWR - CA

I drove 30 minutes to Klamath Falls, eating in a sports bar and sleeping in the adjacent Walmart lot.

Tule Lake NWR - CA

I had been emailing Andree about my arrival time in Eugene, and she asked me if I had seen the Tule Lake Japanese Internment site. I had only seen a sign and had not visited but then spent an hour reading about these camps:


Tule Lake was one of the ten concentration camps built to imprison Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the West Coast states during World War II. Following the ill-conceived loyalty questionnaire that was administered in early 1943 to the imprisoned population, inmates who refused to give unqualified "yes" responses were segregated to Tule Lake and unjustly labeled as "disloyal."
War Relocation Authority (WRA) site....The concentration camp site was 1,110 acres; including the farmed areas, Tule Lake was 4,685 acres. It was situated on a dry lake bed created by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which drained the lake in 1920 to create farming homesteads that were allocated by lottery. Today, the former camp site is under federal and private ownership.
The area was the ancestral home of the Modoc tribe; however, a treaty with the U.S. in 1864 led to a decade of Modoc resistance against removal from their homeland. The legendary battle of Lost River took place at the geological and historic landmark, Capt. Jack's Stronghold in Lava Beds National Monument, where a band of fifty to seventy Modoc fighters held off an army battalion whose numbers rose to nearly 1,000. After five months of resistance against army efforts to roust them from the Stronghold, the Modoc were eventually overwhelmed by army reinforcements. On October 3, 1873, the leader of the Modoc, Kintpuash, known as Captain Jack, was hanged. Surviving tribal members were exiled to Oklahoma.

Construction on the Tule Lake concentration camp began April 15, 1942. By May 25, 1942, approximately 500 Nikkei volunteers had arrived to help set the camp up for inmates from the SacramentoPinedaleMarysvillePomona and Salinas WCCA centers. Another 3,166 came directly to Tule Lake, which officially opened on May 27, 1942...The response of region's chambers of commerce was not welcoming, indicating, "they preferred to maintain the present character of the population [with] no orientals or negroes among its residents." Early public relations efforts by the WRA to dispel hostility toward the "Jap" camp had the opposite effect, creating distorted news reports and a persistent belief inmates were being coddled, enjoying a leisurely life eating steaks, ham and roasts while the local town folk suffered wartime shortages and rationing. When conflicts at Tule Lake flared up, sensationalized articles amplified local fears of dangerous Japanese POWs in their midst. The multiple instances of labor unrest at Tule Lake—including strikes over the lack of promised goods and salaries as early as August 15, 1942, a strike by packing shed workers the next month, and a mess hall workers protest in October 1942—were viewed by locals, not as an assertion of human dignity and civil rights, but as threatening acts of disloyalty.

The infamous loyalty questionnaire was mishandled at Tule Lake, causing widespread dissent. Pressure to answer ambiguous questions within a fixed deadline without adequate opportunity to discuss and evaluate them led to anger and civil disobedience. Several dozen young men in Block 42 refused to answer the questionnaire despite threats of $10,000 fines or twenty years in prison or both. For refusing to cooperate they were imprisoned in Alturas and Klamath Falls County jails, but since there were no criminal charges, the protesters were removed to Camp Tulelake where the Constitution did not apply. There, the army imprisoned several hundred of Tule Lake's protesters for nearly two months. Mismanagement of this life-defining questionnaire contributed to Tule Lake having the largest number of Nikkei defined as "disloyal." (Those who refused to answer the questions or gave outright "no" responses were labeled "disloyal.") Answering "yes" but adding qualifying comments such as "when my rights are restored" or "when my family is released" also was defined as "disloyal." Of the 10,843 responses to the question 27 concerning military service, 3,218 or 30% refused to give unqualified "yes" responses. In their responses to question 28 of the loyalty questionnaire, disavowing loyalty to Japan, 15.6% were defined as disloyal because they refused to give unqualified "yes" responses....Under Best's tenure as director of the segregation center, Tule Lake became the largest WRA concentration camp, with a peak population of 18,789 inmates. By 1945, Tule Lake included a furniture factory, a bakery that produced goods for internal consumption, a shoe repair shop, a hog farm and slaughterhouse, a beauty shop, fish store, funeral parlor, several coop stores, and a tofu factory. Additionally, the farming areas grew enough to supply Tule Lake and other camps. Tule Lake had eight Buddhist churches and three Christian churches and four judo halls.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Blue Goose ~ Day 160

November 5 ~ Fallon, NV to Susanville, CA

I was up early and headed to Stillwater NWR, driving carefully into a blinding sun and slowing for school buses. At a small pullout, I almost got stuck in mud - briefly - but powered back to the main road with mud gobs flying about. I feel I lumber about in this Dodge van with its low clearance and lack of 4WD. I miss the Subaru....

Stillwater reminded me of Alamosa NWR. Both are mostly flat, sagebrush refuges with mountains on the horizons, but Stillwater offered up a life bird: the Sagebrush Sparrow! A recent decision by the AOU (American Ornithologists' Union) resulted in splitting the formerly named Sage Sparrow into two distinct species: Bell's and Sagebrush Sparrows. This happens in the birding world.
Stillwater NWR - NV

With patience, I saw more birds than was first evident, including the visually delightful California Quail with its little curved topknot feathers. The water that helps make this a refuge comes out of the Sierra Nevadas to the east and there were also marshes with the usual waterfowl including Black-crowned Night-herons.

On the way to the refuge, I passed another utility pole-sitting Ferruginous Hawk, looking like a Snowy Owl with a hawk's head, and unperturbed by my presence when I stopped for a better look. A Red-tailed would have flown.

It was a nice morning in the sagebrush under blue skies...very quiet with only one other truck which I saw on the way out.

I wanted to go to Big and Little Soda Lakes just west of Fallon but the directions advised a high-clearance that didn't happen.

After a two-hour Starbucks stop in Fernley, NV, I drove through the busy traffic of Reno / Sparks while exiting onto US395 north in California. I was in the northwest corner of basin and range country, about which John McPhee wrote. I passed large, dried-up lake beds to the east, and a shoe tree, which always begs me to take a photo or two.
Along US395 in northern California

The Sierra Nevada mountains begin to give way to the more northern Cascades near here. The shorter days are made even more so as these mountains throw shadows a hour before sunset and, with the loss of light, comes the cold. I constantly check weather apps for temperatures a couple of days in advance. I am pushing it being this far north in November, but then weather is capricious and there have been significant snow storms in the southeastern states. So far, I have dodged bad weather.

I had so-so food at the Mazatlan Grill in Susanville....Most of the Mexican restaurants offer pretty much the same menu with mild variations in taste. Juanitos Mexican Kitchen in Alamosa was the best so far.

Blue Goose ~ Day 159

November 4, 2014 ~ Wells, NV to Fallon, NV

I was wide awake by 4 a.m. and COLD. Thank God I had the option of an open truck stop, as there was no hope for more sleep, and settled into a booth in the attached McDonalds with coffee and computer and a breakfast burrito. Finally, the sky began to lighten in the east, followed briefly by an expansive gold and rosy sky and then the sun. These places are busy this time which helps me from feeling too forlorn...and, in fact, it's rather social. Most people are ready to start their day, are cheerful, are in from the cold and dark for awhile....getting morning coffee,  the locals ready for catching up on things, the clerks friendly...

All day I drove through Nevada, much of the time with nearly continuous snow-dusted mountains to the north and south. They are not visibly craggy like the Rockies but are impressive and probably not the landscape that comes to mind when most people think of Nevada.
Along I80 in Nevada
It was sunny (again) and traffic moved at 75 mph with many long-haul semis, some with double or even triple trailers. Up and down long swells of land, gentle curves, 10-mile straightaways - easy and tedious at the same time...tedious because of the monotony of the actual road and the need to keep driving fast and not just pull off on a shoulder or side road or look too long at anything out the side windows. Still, the interstates are very efficient in moving vehicles across the country and occasionally the only sane option.

What I did not see was water. The occasional creek or coulee was dry as were the ditches when present. This land does have some ranches as I would see road signs for such off to either side of the main route, but they must be closer to the foothills where enough water from the mountains make possible the cultivation of grasses for grazing cattle, and they probably free-range in the high meadows in the temperate seasons. Or so I speculated.

Finally I turned southwest for a 35-mile drive on a perfectly straight two-lane to Fallon where I stayed for the night.