Tag Archives: Siskiyou Co.

Trout Lake

Is there a Trout Lake near you? This name seems like an apt one for many lakes, but Trout Lake reeds 5-7-15I don’t think I’ve been to one before. Pippin and her family have come here several times, and they wanted to share the experience with me.

The cloud show was ever-changing and the reduced light helped my picture-taking, but at least one member of our party was disappointed that Mt. Shasta’s peak never emerged. Some people were looking so much at the trees and the yellow-headed blackbirds that we didn’t mind much. That is the nice thing about returning to one’s favorite places frequently: No one visit must be exquisite in all parts, because each time there is something changed and new and seasonal to appreciate.P1130675crp yellow-headed blackbird Trout Lake


I suppose if you were getting married at such a venue you would want that one day to have a view of the spectacular mountain. Like this one. I doubt that anyone has married there, however beautiful it may seem to us. And we were glad, the day we went, to have the whole lake and trail around it to ourselves.



Trout Lake pelican bones 5-15

Except for the wildlife. It was the first time I’d met those yellow-headed blackbirds, and I worked hard trying to get a picture of one. Pelicans also frequent the lake, as evidenced by bones.

Nesting platforms like the one below had been installed for geese, but evidently the birds did not find the ones we saw worthy.

Trout Lake goose platform 5-15



It’s high desert, and the main trees you see are scrappy junipers with their milky blue berries. The several shades and types of grasses in wavy layers were set to shimmering when the breezes blew.




Trout Lake reeds & layers 5-15

Trout Lk varcolored penstemon

Closer to the ground you mostly notice sagebrush and thin grassy plants, but it’s not hard to find wildflowers all over the place, lupines and yarrow, fiddlenecks and these brilliant penstemons.

Trout Lake fiddleneck penstemon & red grass

No matter how big I make these pictures, they refuse to convey the feeling of space you get out there.

P1130720 Trout Lk run

The children were happy and at ease in what had become a familiar oP1130649uting for them. They remembered the short cut to the other side of the lake and showed themselves to be good hikers.

Those blackbirds hopped around in the reeds and added their distinctive call to the atmosphere of the place, a place where I might have liked to sit for a long time, to listen and to feel the changing light as the clouds moved through the sky. Maybe Ivy was watching a blackbird when her mother took the picture below. The scene catches the meditative mood of the lake and makes me want to return.

Ivy 2015-5 Trout Lk pip


I praise Modoc, and question Jefferson.

Surprise Valley, California

It looks to me like some cowboy lost a piece of his shirt on this barbed wire. I took the picture when we were poking around in Modoc County, “where the West still lives.”

Ten years ago our family met a cowboy who looked like The Marlboro Man himself, as we stood on a hillside watching him lead a string of horses through the sagebrush and across a creek, with pastel layers of aspens and mountains behind him.

This remote and rugged land is one of the areas that has perpetually been found within the proposed boundaries of The State of Jefferson, a longed-for 51st state that would include several counties in northern California and southern Oregon.

The modern Jefferson includes more counties.

Just last month the supervisors of Modoc and also those of its neighboring Siskiyou County voted to secede from the State of California, as the historic movement revs up again.

The Sacramento Bee reported:

[Mark Baird, one of the prominent activists] insists the State of Jefferson is the answer to revive logging, protect ranching and lure new businesses. He bristles at suggestions that these counties need to subsist on social services.

“It’s absolutely infuriating to people up here, this idea that we’re little children and we must have our hands held out,” Baird said. “Well, we would make our own way. We are intelligent, creative, hardworking people, and without the morass of failed social engineering experiments here, we would do fine.”

Barn in Yreka, in Siskiyou County, California

The Modoc county seat is Alturas, a word that means “valley on top of a mountain.” Much of this country is considered High Sage Plateau, with evidently enough water for many cattle ranches and hay fields.

If I hadn’t had a traveling companion to restrict my stoppings, I’d never have made it home for trying and trying again to get the perfect picture of black steers grazing on varying shades of green and yellow-green, with dark mountains behind them.

Nothing close to the perfect shot was to be mine. Either I was not high enough above the grassland to get the sweeping view, or the steers clumped up close to see if I were bringing their dinner, or, in the case of those next to our our motel in Alturas, they ran away when I was still 50 yards from the fence.

Many of these fine scenes were in Surprise Valley, which is even farther east than Alturas, east of Hwy 395, on the other side of the Warner Mountains. This valley’s elevation, if you drive up and down Surprise Valley Road as we did, is above 4,000 feet.

The photo below looks still farther east, toward a band of tan that might be an alkali lake, and up into the Hays Canyon range of mountains that lie mostly in Nevada.

Looking east from Surprise Valley to the Hays Range in Nevada

Besides your typical mountains, you can find the Glass Mountain Lava Flow on the western edge of Modoc County, though it lies mostly in Siskiyou County. On our previous visit we climbed on parts of that “mountain” and brought home huge pieces of obsidian and pumice. Everyone’s shoes no doubt suffered a month’s worth of wear on that terrain.



Glad kids scramble on Glass Mountain.

Murals on several buildings in downtown Alturas express aspects of the region that the residents appreciate. Modoc County has mule deer, herds of wild horses, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn, and birds galore. We didn’t make it up to Goose Lake, but the bird mural makes me think of Goose Lake Valley, rich in all kinds of bird life. The painted fowl look as though they could fly right off into the real sky.

At the bottom of the mural you can see landscape such as we also noticed on our way up to Alturas, when the rich farmland gives way in places to slopes on which the soil is evidently too rocky and poor to support anything more than the occasional juniper tree. But the existence of fencing makes me think that in the springtime they might run livestock on the greened-up grass.

juniper trees

more murals

We ate breakfast at the Hotel Niles in Alturas.

I don’t know about the Jefferson thing. It’s a nice idea….can you believe we have a lot of family who reside in Jefferson counties both in Oregon and California? Probably none of our kin would be found at either of the cultural extremes within the succession movement, but at least one sports a license plate frame on her car declaring “State of Jefferson.”

Nowadays there is a public radio station that claims the name, and people can attend the Jefferson State Hemp Expo, “…founded on the belief that through awareness, education, and the cooperation and coordination of citizens and public officials, many complex social issues can be solved.” Note the emphasis on cooperation, not separation. Separation was formerly the goal of all Jefferson adherents, and a big part of the content of Jefferson as in its nickname “State of Mind.” Currently it does seem that many of the people who use the name don’t really expect anything to come of it. To at least a few it is probably just a brand they use to sell something.

another Surprise Valley view

At the other end of the spectrum, perhaps, are the hunters and most of the ranchers, and the politically conservative. This segment of the populace might include the woman who was noted in the police report column in the Alturas newspaper, which I perused while sitting on the bed in our motel room. She called the sheriff and said that if someone didn’t speedily do something about the dog that was threatening her alpacas, she herself would “dispatch” the dog. I doubt that was the word she used.

Maybe the serious secessionists would include the people who shoot at Belding Squirrels during the Annual Squirrel Roundup. These are a type of ground squirrel that looks like a prairie dog, and their large populations damage the cultivated fields (I’m guessing it’s by their holes and tunnels?), so once a year the residents hold a big fundraiser/pest-control event.

The giggling squirrel-shooter in this video I ran across is embarrassing, but you could turn off the sound, try to ignore the squirrels flying into the air, and see some nice footage of Surprise Valley in the background. The Roundup is held in March, so you will see less yellow and brown than in my pictures. If you make it to the very end you’ll be rewarded with a view of Mount Shasta, something that would not be possible from down in Surprise Valley. The moviemaker must have driven back over the pass to the west at the close of day.

The likelihood of all these diverse Jefferson people agreeing to secede seems slight to begin with, and that’s not the only challenging aspect of the project. Perhaps the nickname The Mythical State of Jefferson is the most appropriate. Whatever you call it, I do love this country.

On Cedar Pass, between Alturas and Surprise Valley

Traveling, Hiking, Family…

pear orchard

I should be digging in the garden, but before I get on with that I want to make a report of the trip my man and I took last week to Oregon and Northern California.

Great Hound’s Tongue – Cynoglossum grande

It’s true, we do already live in Northern California, but it’s a large area, bigger than the states many of my readers live in, and it took us about six hours to get through the parts more northerly than us, before we crossed over into Oregon.

The pear trees were blooming everywhere — some of the orchards were old and venerable, but others looked younger and modern, with interesting trellises for the trees.

We were in Oregon to see Pathfinder and his family. One of my favorite things there was playing dolls with our granddaughter “Annie.” She told me all the updated names of her babies, including Molly, whose wardrobe I created.

During the weekend she also read to me from American Girl magazine, and the whole of A Bargain for Frances, which we read together about two years ago also. We took two walks around the neighborhood, one with the dog, and sat side-by-side at every meal.

Kids going four different directions Saturday morning meant that I could be useful driving Annie to her ballet lesson. You can imagine how voluminous was her hair before her mother twisted it into this fat bun.

Following ballet we went to the ball field to see Older Brother play shortstop. We played a hilarious game of Apples to Apples in the evening. And on Sunday afternoon all eight of us took a lovely hike up a table rock.

Hairy Pussy Ears – calochortus tolmiei
Chinese Houses

Scads of wildflowers kept Annie and me trailing behind the others so that we could take pretty pictures. We told poison oak stories and looked out for the oily new leaves of that hated vine.

Besides the plants I’ve pictured here, we saw shooting stars, Red Bells fritillaria, larkspur, and a score of beauties that we didn’t have time to stop and consider. No one had brought along a wildflower guide.

Crocidium multicale – goldfields

The hills and the trail were dotted heavily with creamy-flowered chaparral that we found out later is called Buck Brush, a type of ceanothus. It’s very showy when you see it covering the hills that are still green from the late rains, but up close it’s stiff and stickery.

And when we got to the top, it was indeed a tableland of volcanic rock with sweeps of tiny yellow, purple and white flowers spreading out in every direction.

Mt. McLoughlin

The volcanic mountain commanding attention from that area, whether you are on the table or down below, is Mt. McLoughlin, one of the many such peaks making a line up and down the west side of our continent.

Oldest grandson enjoying the view

It makes me happy that our families like hiking together. When we visit one or another of our children they often want to show us a new trail or mountain discovery. Or we might decide to visit an old favorite place that requires a little trek to accomplish.

The day we left the Pathfinder Family, we stopped at a pioneer cemetery and strolled around looking at gravestones. I did say a prayer over some of them, but it wasn’t until we got home a few days later that I realized I had missed the day that Orthodox go to cemeteries to bless the graves, the Tuesday after Bright Week. It was not the exact day I was graveside, but close. I love visiting the graves; there is always a touching epitaph to ponder, or a family group with dates that tell a vague but compelling story of love and loss.


The little town of Ashland, Oregon, was our next stop. It’s known for its Shakespeare Festival, and special mineral water called Lithia Water. Lithia Park was lovely on this sunny day, and the mother duck was also out for a stroll with her children.

Pipe spouting Lithia Water

We stayed at Pippin’s homestead for a couple of nights on our way back, and took a hike with those folks, too. It was pointed out that the peaks we stood on, one on Sunday with Pathfinder, and one on Tuesday with Pippin, both gave a view of Mount Ashland in Southern Oregon. But I didn’t get a photo of that peak from either place.

The weather had started to warm up at long last, and by the time we got to the top of Yellow Butte the air was balmy. Before long I found myself lying on the short soft grass that has sprouted. I could have been happy to doze there for hours smelling the tiny flowers and shoots that were all around my head.

The view from my bed in the grass
Scout eating cheese at the top

We ate a picnic of bread and cheese and strawberries, and Scout tottered around on the rocks while I tried to stay calm and remember that his balance is much better than mine.

Woolly-pod milk-vetch
Phlox was the most abundant flower on the top of that mountain,
though there were a zillion lupine plants not blooming yet.
And a pretty violet flower that no one knew the name of then (but I have since added above).
A ladybug came to our picnic.

Scout and his explorations and exclamations were the focus of this hike. His impatience at having to ride in the backpack up and down was softened occasionally when his mother or I handed him a new sort of twig or flower, or even one of the “spongy galls” that we found on the rabbit brush.

If we named the object, he would repeat whatever we said, usually many times, while trying to work it into his mind’s growing encyclopedia. But he also got the fun of swinging up and down the slope by the arms of his parents, and that briefly pushed all the new words out of the way with giggles.


Wooded and Worded Wonderland

I’m back up at Pippin’s place as of last night, and this morning took Baby Scout for a walk in his jogger. It was an hour’s walk, but that doesn’t translate to much exercise when you figure in all the stops for gawking and picture-taking. On my drive up I listened to most of My Ántonia and was struck by the evocative descriptions of the prairie; here the meadows are in their late summer glory of gold tones, with runnels of pale green. My photos don’t serve nearly as well as Willa Cather’s prose in conveying a scene.

In this case there were jays scraping the air with their calls, and smells of drying grass and a dozen trees coming at me in the breeze. Scout hummed as we bumped along. The air was crisp at first, but the little currents of warm spread out to fill the morning so that it soon felt like an August day.

I couldn’t precisely identify any of those aromas; it made me envy the animals with their good noses –but when I do get to know a plant, I can also have the word for it, and that makes me happy. Fact is, I don’t know the word for very many of the thousands of lovely things around me. Like this tiny flower that I spied on the roadside, and a while later in Pippin’s tomato garden, volunteering along with mullein and ferns.

In the meadow I saw a place where the grass was all mashed down. Maybe the deer had rested there, maybe even the one I saw munching on tree branches by the side of the road. She gave me one look, and then refused to pay any more attention to me, even though I kept asking her to look at the camera.

I slept through the woodland noise last night, of Mama Bear tearing down bird feeders to spread the seed on the patio for her two cubs. It’s the second time this week, which pretty much means the end of watching birds close by the kitchen window. That’s about the only way I can seem to notice them, as I did last May when I took this picture. Birds are more fun to watch than bears, for many reasons, one being that you don’t have to be wakened at midnight in order to see them.

Certainly one of the warm smells on our walk was of oak trees. Oak was likely one of my first nature words, as I lived most of my childhood under a giant oak in the Central Valley. I think it was a Valley Oak. There are only nineteen Quercus native to California, I just this minute read in a tree guide, so perhaps it wouldn’t be impossible, as I have previously thought, for me to learn which are which. This one I photographed today is certainly not a Scrub, Live, Leather, Muller or Blue Oak…perhaps it is a California Black Oak. Hello, Mr. Oak; I hope to get to know you better.