IN THE UNIVERSE OF LONELY PLACES, if limited to the planet earth and further refined to the continent of North America, one might be surprised that in our most populous state there are reaches that are pretty much unpopulated. On my ever expanding and contracting “To Do” list was a crossing of the Modoc Plateau in northeastern California.
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Eventually, the forestland gives way to scrubbier vegetation as the ground is more dominated by the basaltic floes that typify the Modoc Plateau. Cattle guards at intervals along the route indicate that people do something in these sections.
TULE LAKE, CALIFORNIA is a place where one of my high school buddies was reared. On my short list was to see what the excitement was all about. Didn’t find any – but in the town’s defense, it was a weekday.
Tule Lake was also site to a World War II Japanese Relocation Center. Tours are ranger led on Fridays and Saturdays. It was Wednesday. Addition to the short list.
Availing myself of paved roads I took state route 161 across the north edge of the state. Captain Jack and the Modocs lived up this way and, after themselves being relocated to the Klamath Reservation in Southern Oregon, they broke out and held up in what is now the Lava Beds National Monument. The small band held off a large contingent of US Cavalry for weeks, ending only when, at the table of peace, Captain Jack, pulled a revolver from his waistband and shot dead the commanding officer, General Canby.
FOLLOWING US 97 SOUTH from Dorris, I branched off below Macdoel, knowing it was only 25 miles to Montague, and five more to Yreka where I would spend the night.
Nobody indicated that the roads would be far less than clearly marked. At one junction, I counter-intuitively took the road less frequented, checked the map, doubled back and ended up taking it anyway. The Forest Service up that way doesn’t necessarily mark every spur’s intersection with a road number. I found that if I assumed the unlabeled route meant it was the one I wanted to be on – and I frequently referenced both the AAA map and the DeLorme’s California Atlas and Gazetteer – I might make it to my destination.
Church of the Open Road Press