Sunday, November 01, 2015

An Undiscovered Country…….

For us anyway, was the area of Northern California that lies just south of Klamath Falls, Oregon.  As we left the coast this year, we decided to take a different route down to Reno,  so we left I-5 at Medford and drove east to Klamath Falls.  Once there, we headed south, crossing into California just south of town and into the town of Tulelake.  In our travels, we’ve seen towns where parents, frustrated with the antics of their teenagers, gather together to vent their anger by giving the high school teams an embarrassing name.  We first saw this phenomenon in Tillamook, Oregon, where when entering the town you see the high school building with large letters that say “Tillamook High School – Home of the Cheesemakers!”  Tulelake SignApparently that same frustration existed in this small town, as we were greeted with this sign on entering town.    I had to wonder if the girls teams were known as the “Lady Honkers”….and is the Junior Varsity the “Quackers”?
OK, enough of that.
We spent a couple of days in the one-store town of Tionesta, population 30, at a nice little park called the Hawk’s Nest.  From there we drove to Lower Klamath Falls National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1908 as the nation’s first migratory bird refuge.  Over 80 percent of the Pacific Flyway’s migratory waterfowl stop here, and the 50,000 plus acres of lakes and marsh attract thousands of ducks, pelicans, and birds.  Although we visited during the early part of the migration, the lakes were covered in Coots, Grebes, White Pelicans, and a variety of ducks:Tulelake View
We watched as the White Pelicans, surrounded by Grebes and Coots, gathered in a group to drive fish into the shallows:White Pelicans
We enjoyed the refuge, but were fascinated by the Lava Beds National Monument, a place we’d never heard of. Lava Beds NM Sign Covering over 46,000 acres, the monument is a beautiful area of lava flows, canyons, and lush desert.  Two things made this place special for us; history and caves.  The history of the area is extensive, but we were especially interested in the Modoc Indian Wars that took place here.  Briefly, during the winter of 1882-83, a small band of Modoc Indians led by Keintpoos,  known as “Captain Jack” refused to remain on the reservation and entrenched themselves in the lava beds.  Scattered fighting ensued until in January 1873 when the Army attacked the Modocs in force.  Fighting in fog, cold, and the confusing terrain of the lava beds, the Army, defeated, gave up the fight.  This was followed by a number of meetings between Captain Jack and the Army, led by Brigadier General E.R.S. Canby, a Civil War veteran.  No progress was made, and the Modocs, believing that if they killed the enemy leader the Army would give up, ambushed the General at a meeting, killing him.  General Canby was the first general killed in the Indian wars, and as a result, the Army ordered an additional 1000 troops into the area.  Eventually Captain Jack was captured, and he was convicted of murder and hung in October 1873. 
Battlefield HoleWalking the trail through the area where the battles took place it’s easy to see how difficult it was to find and dislodge the Modocs.  The broken lava provided nooks, crannies, and natural fighting positions, many of which are still visible today.  Although it’s an area of rock and desert, it’s still a beautiful place to stroll.Stronghold View1
Stronghold View2A bit down the road, we came to the site of General Canby’s murder and a replica of the original marker:Canby Cross
The other fascinating thing about this area is the caves – nearly 800 have been mapped.  These are lava tube caves – some are large and developed with trails, some are “ice caves” that contain ice year around, and others run the gamut from easily accessible to those that require scrambling on hands and knees.  Skull Cave EntranceWhat we found remarkable is the open access – just visit the interpretive center, answer questions to be screened for white-nosed syndrome, check out a helmet and flashlight if you like, then go caving.  You’re on your own, a remarkable approach to exploring a cave these days. 
We normally think of lava beds are pretty desolate; but driving through the monument provided some truly beautifully vistas:Lava Beds NM View1
Lava Beds NM View2
Finally, as we drove through the area, we came across this remarkably healthy looking coyote.  It’s not often we have the opportunity to see such a beautiful animal, and it seemed to enjoy the attention:Young Coyote1(2)
Young Coyote (2)
We’ve made it back to Benson, AZ and the Escapees park where we’ll be spending the winter months.  We still have more travel to catch up on, so look for another blog soon!


  1. Love Tule Lake and the Lava Beds. Spent lots of time there when I lived in Klamath Falls years ago.

  2. Stop, you're quacking me up!

  3. Anonymous9:54 AM

    We enjoyed lava beds, on a quick visit. I didn't realize they had helmets to borrow.
    Randi Smith