Saturday, December 17, 2011

Back to the Basin: Part II

Klamath Basin Refuges, California, USA: Oct 27-30

Beautiful clear sky tonight. One star has been shining especially bright in the east – not a star. It’s Jupiter. With binoculars tonight we can see the four ‘Galilean’ moons. The number varies from night to night depending on if any are hidden behind Jupiter. With very powerful equipment, one can see even more moons, 64 in all. Many of the tiny ones have only recently been discovered, but Galileo discovered the first four.

When I zoom to 60 power on the spotting scope I can see two faint bands on the surface of Jupiter. Lava Bed’s low humidity, high elevation, and few people make this sky far crisper than what I usually see. The Milky Way stretches over me, aglow with tiny stars. With the scope I can see even more stars, way more. I can see right into the Universe. It doesn’t seem possible that Earth is actually part of the Milky Way. It all seems so far away.

Jupiter is so spectacular tonight, we decide to take the scope over to the nearby campsites were a scout troop is camped. The boys are very appreciative of a peek beyond their normal range of vision. I’m impressed at how much they know, they just hadn’t seen it before.

Cold nose warm toes. I love waking up in the back of the van. Our last night is the first night above freezing. Even though I wouldn’t choose to have to make midnight runs to the restroom, I have to admit I savored the quietness and paused to see how much the Big Dipper had moved since I went to bed. Last night I was even treated to a shooting star. After I was back in my sleeping bag I heard a muffled bark nearby. I’m pretty sure it was a saw-whet owl unsettled by my wanderings.
We usually sleep with at least one of the back doors wide open. Our bed is at the back of the van. The van is just wide enough so we can sleep across with width of the van. That puts my face at the open door. A8 campsite at Lava Beds my morning view is the rising sun. Yesterday, at first light, a crimson streak glowed beneath a heavy cloud bank. It redness peeking between juniper tree branches reminded me of campfire coals. I went back to sleep.

This morning the morning sky was cloudless. Deep crimson blended into dark blue above. All was quiet. When I stirred again, about an hour later, the horizon was bright yellow blending into the prettiest blue above. We didn’t mean to sleep in, but it does feel delicious to breath the clean air and just stretch out in the warm sleeping bag.
We leave camp and slowly drive along the toe of Sheepy Ridge, part of the Tule Lake portion of the Klamath Basin Refuges. We haven’t seen many bucks this year but these two does and two fawn were cooperative.
We leave the Basin today. We swing through the western part of the refuge, Lower Klamath, on our way home. Most of this part is wide open, but a long string of big, old willows follow part of the road. The willows are still thick with green leaves and a touch of gold. A great horned owl perches on his day roost in one of the first willows, all fluffed and rather sleepy. It’s the fifth great horned owl we’ve seen on this trip plus I heard one.
We’ve just spent two hours parked in the shade of one of the big trees. First we ate a late lunch and then ‘shot’ about 500 ducks (photographed). Small groups of ducks are crossing in front of us, heading to the flooded field to our right. At least half are pintails, but also mallards, redheads, ring-necked ducks and gadwalls. Just a few Canada geese amongst them. All during our stay hen mallards yammer near us. A blush of new willow growth hides them but not their talking and splashing. Occasionally a harrier flies low over the marsh, and a red-tailed hawk high above us.

Shadows grow long. I’m never ready to leave the Basin, but it’s a three hour drive home. Time to go.


  1. ~(*o*)~!!!~(*o*)~!

  2. Hi Elva,

    I followed you over here from The Sketching Forum because I liked your work over there. So I have been grazing through your blog and enjoying it so much. Your otter is a delight. I love to see him having such a good scratch. So glad you are part of The Sketching Forum gang, now. See you there.

    annie (BeginAgin at TSF)

  3. Great paintings, makes you want to be there :)

  4. Lovely! The way you have touched the deepest of the skies to the nearest blades of grass in one sweep is most amazing. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience and your beautiful work.