Monday, January 02, 2012

Lone Pine is down

Lone Pine, awaiting but the lightning stroke
Hog's Back Mountain rises from the Klamath Basin just to the east of Klamath Falls. He's a homely old mountain, marked by lava rock outcroppings and scree as with old battle wounds. Juniper trees and sage bristle up on his western flanks.  And up until quite recently, near the very top, there stood a lonely sentinel that looked out over the entire basin:  Lone Pine.

That old pine tree had stood at its post since before I ever came to the Klamath Basin in 1963.  I was a lad of no more than 6 or 7 when my neighbor, Mr. Carlisle pointed it out to me.  "See up there, Dade?  See that lonely tree up there?" he said.  We stood in the driveway of my family's house on Bryant Street in Molina Heights.  I could barely make out a figure high atop Hog's Back's massive hump.  It seemed forlorn and bent, like an old soldier, leaning on a crutch.  "That's Lone Pine," he told me.

Some years later, Brother Eric and I and our friend Gregg Goestch determined to make a hike up to see the old soldier, perhaps to press our hands against his rough bark, to tread on his fallen needles.  It was late spring, as I recall and the weather was as seasonable as it gets in that high and dry basin.  The three of us filled our Cub Scout canteens, packed lunches made by Mom, and set out up the slopes of Hog's Back to see if we might reach Lone Pine.

We were several hours climbing.  The slopes were steep and we hadn't the sense to pick the easiest path.  We took what we imagined to be the most direct route.  It was a tough climb, I remember, especially for boys from 7 to 9 years old.

We descended into a fold in the mountain and lost sight of our goal for a long while.  But then we emerged onto a rough plateau.  Patches of snow still lingered in the shaded places and it was much colder up there than it had been on the basin floor.  I was first to make the height and I when I looked up, I saw Lone Pine, still above us and more than a mile off, but much closer than when we had lost sight of it.  "Lone Pine!" I cried, and set out at a renewed pace.

But Gregg and Eric had had enough.  "It's cold," said Gregg, hugging himself.  "I wanna go home," said Eric.  And we had strayed rather far.  My morale failed me and I relented.  "Alright, let's go," I said.  We turned around and headed back down.

Lone Pine is down. 
Ever since that day I always imagined I would someday make another attempt at Lone Pine.  It's a goal I've held in my heart for 40 some years.  But today, I received this sad missive from Klamath County Museum via Facebook:

"Lone Pine is down."

All things must pass.  Nonetheless, I'm heartbroken.  And a part of me is defeated.

Lone Pine is down.


Dwight Stroh said...

Funny how somethings are taken for granted that they'll always be there.  I never made the trip up there either.. but it was a familiar landmark my entire childhood as well Dade.   The point I'm left with with a ting of depression .. is to not put off everything we aim to accomplish thinking there will be another day.  Thanks for the article.

Nancy Stoy said...

my brother and i made lots of trips up to lone pine and even carved our names in it. so sad to see it down and gone. maybe the roots will grow another for a different generation to have something to climb to.

Wylie said...

I'm glad I got to see it still standing in August! I hiked to it one evening with my friends. Coming back down the hill I ran into a barbed wire fence and I still have the scar on my knee!

Vivian said...

You always knew you were Back home in Klamath Falls Oregon By the lone Pine on top of Hogback mountin/

Simon Springall said...

Thanks Dade.  Great memory, sad to here about the end of this era..

Cscanlon said...

Sorry to hear about Lone Pine.  I attended OTI in
1955 and later lived in Lakeview.  My wife is from
K Falls and we've visited her folks many times but
sorry to say, they are gone now.  In all those years, I had never heard the Lone Pine story. My
Father-in-law used to show me where a plane had
crashed on Stukel Mtr but I don't think he knew
about Lone Pine, at least he never mentioned it.
Good story, thanks.

Felice Pace said...

Take heart! Climate change not withstanding, there WILL be very wet years every once in a great while. And during one of those years some of the seeds lying in the dry soil on yon mountaintop will sprout.

And sometime or other a wet year or two will follow a year like that. Then one or more of those pine sprouts will survive and get it's roots down far enough to hunker down through the more numerous dry and drought years.

Chances are - to paraphrase what poet Gary Snyder wrote years ago about a dry Sierra Nevada hillside - there will be pine on Hog Back Mountain.  

Joyofcleanliness said...

im so sorry.:( nothing will take the place of that tree but maybe if you climb it with me I will plant a tree there for you and your friends and all the people in memory of the lone pine.

Unknown said...

I visited Lone Pine this last July and noticed at least a dozen "Baby Lone Pines" growing about. The Lone Pine family will live into future generations!

Unknown said...

I remember Lone Pine when I was a kid visiting my grandparents in KF. My mother and sisters visited every year. I was fascinated by that tree and Hogback Mt. I vaguely remember my grandpa saying "it's still there". To me it was almost a magical place. I didn't know the name of the Mt. or tree until tonight. This is very nostalgic to me. My grandpa was Red Wenner and my grandma Verna Wenner. My last relatives to live there were Bill and Shirley Mayhew.