Klamath Basin, California, USA: Oct 27-30, 2011
We’re back in the Klamath Basin …. This time to camp. Its been a year since we’ve camped. Hard to believe that the first year we owned our van we spent 99 nights sleeping in it. That was the first year of Dale’s retirement, and we made a point of taking full advantage of it. Then it got tougher and tougher to camp and finally it just seemed too much. Now that Dale is walking again, camping in on the agenda. For the next three nights we’ll camp at Lava Beds National Monument in northern California and spend most of the daytime in the Klamath Basin refuges. This post and the next will be bits and pieces from the trip.
An unseen force has spooked our birds. I’m sure we didn’t. Coots scramble on top of the water, grebes swim quickly, ducks have disappeared. Everything within 75 yards is leaving. I nudge Dale just in time for him to see an otter swimming along the edge of Tule Lake. The otter soon passes and life settles back to normal. We drive on.
The sleeping geese were beginning to stir when we left them. We’ve come back to the spot where we watched so many geese fly by at lunch time. At first there isn’t a bird in the sky. Now, late in the day, a handful of Canada geese and their smaller cousins, cackling geese, fly by, heading west from the bay. We assume they are heading to the recently cut grain fields. The first snow goose to come is a loner, flying with a handful of Canada companions. His whiteness looks out of place with his brown and black companions. Soon flock after flock of snow geese fly past us. Quite a few of the snow geese are grayish – the young of the year. Some are smaller and must be Ross’s geese.
5:45 PM: Just stragglers in the air now. For a delicious hour, geese flying and calling took over the air, wild and exciting. Now we’re back to mellow coot chuckles, mallards quacksgrebe begging, and a few far off Canada goose honks.
Rather than bouncing back over miles of gravel road we take the slightly longer, but paved road through Lava Beds, heading to our campsite. The sky has just the barest wisps of cloud. Mt. Shasta has turned purple off in the distance. A sliver of moon nears the horizon, soon to slip out of sight. Near ‘The Stronghold’ we pass a great horned owl perched ….. on a road sign. There isn’t a tree in sight for him to perch on. Lava Beds National Monument has been removing the junipers that have come in since the Modoc War (1872-1873). Part of me is sympathetic to the idea of managing the landscape to keep it historically accurate, but another part of me wishes the owl had something better than a road sign to perch on. A little artistic license is in order on my painting.