Saturday, June 18, 2011

CwtBC (Pt. III): Rugged beauty in the lava beds

Camping with the Brothers Cariaga: My woodsy brothers, Eric and Calee, and our friends, Mike Bellmore and Kris Ross, have over the past six or seven years established a tradition of camping and fishing the Klamath River Canyon in late May and early June. This year, I joined them...

Read Part I, In search of the morel, here
Read Part II, A beacon for those to come, here

Devil's Homestead
On Saturday, Rick Means and I took a cruise through Lava Beds National Monument.  It is a young land, indeed.  The lava flow that formed the Devil's Homestead poured forth from fissures deep within the earth a scant 12,000 years ago.  As you look out across it, you can see that life is only just beginning to take hold among the jagged ridges of solidified magma.
Lichen-clad lava rock
Lichen clings to the rocks.  Sagebrush colonizes wherever enough dirt has collected for it to take root.  Near Tulelake's water, the air is full of the music of red-wing blackbirds.  Away from the water, in the grass and scrub we heard a western meadowlark (Oregon's state bird) singing.

Stark beauty
My heart was heavy because I had Captain Jack and the Modocs on my mind.  I wondered how it might have been for young Modoc lovers who maybe stood in this very spot, listening to the birdsong in the evening, in the centuries before the new people came and changed everything. 

Western rattlesnake
We spotted a rattler, a young one, only 9 or 10 inches long, sleeping in the sun on the lava rock beside the trail.  No sooner had I snapped a photo than it became aware of us.  It raised up its triangular head, wider at the base than the long, sleek body, and in an instant slid over the lava rock to disappear in the brush.

I was wearing sandals and shorts at the time and my exposed shins and feet felt very vulnerable.  From that point forward during our hike, I became hyper-aware of every rustle in the grass, every chirp of insects.  As we hiked on, I would stop and listen.  "Did you hear something, Rick?" I would ask.

Lichen paints the land
This is not a gentle land. Ancient Modoc or late-century settler, one would need grit to survive here.  So harsh is the climate and so rugged the terrain, that the people who lived here, who live here yet, might not be blamed for seeing the earth as a culling predator, claiming the lives of the weak and unsuited.

But even in the eternal war for survival, there are quiet moments.  Moments of great beauty.  Moments that one can cling to, when finally and inevitably one succumbs.  Brief eternities that serve to remind:  although one's part in it is ended, the music continues... forever.

To be continued...


Bill_tre_4402 said...

You take some KICK ASS shots Dade!!!!

Stand up Tanning Beds said...

the lava beds are so beautiful.

Mary said...

I love that rattle snake picture!