Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A welcome change of scenery

Working from home has become the new normal for many people, but it has been my normal for decades. Since I live and work in the same place, getting out of the house has always been important for me to keep my sanity.

That precarious balance, needless to say, has been completely out of whack since the COVID-19 pandemic began. As a result, I seize every opportunity that promises a change of scenery. And that's what I got last weekend when we visited my mother-in-law in Mount Shasta, a small town in far northern California at the foot of the eponymous volcano (at 14,179 ft., the fifth highest mountain in California and the stuff of legends).

My mother-in-law has a 2+ acre property which, although flat, is studded with conifers, mostly western redcedar but also Douglas fir and others. Everybody who visits takes photos of her red barn:


Here is the house as seen from the bamboo patch:


Over the years, we've planted several different types of bamboo, including Phyllostachys nigra ‘Punctata’, Phyllostachys bambusoides, Phyllostachys vivax ‘Aureocaulis’, Fargesia dracocephela ‘Rufa’, Chusquea culeou ‘Roja’, and Chusquea gigantea. Except for ‘Rufa’, these are running bamboos, yet because of the extremely well-draining soil and five months of summer drought, all of them have stayed within their irrigated zones. They simply couldn't survive in soil that gets no water.

Two outings added even more variety to our weekend in Mount Shasta. The first one was to the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden (LMSG), right on Highway 97 about 13 miles northeast of the town of Weed. Yes, there is a town named Weed (its motto is “Weed like to welcome you”), and in spite of the wealth of marijuana-related souvenirs being sold in local shops, it has nothing to do with pot. Instead, it gets its name from an early developer named Abner Weed. in 1897, he established the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill, which by 1940 became the world’s largest sawmill.

Mount Shasta (14,179 ft.) as seen from the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden

The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden is located on 136 acres of USDA Forest Service land where countless volunteers replanted tens of thousands of trees.

According to the now defunct LMSG website:
The trees are living tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives in war. The sculpture garden, a place for reflection & remembrance, healing & reconciliation. 
The LMSG pays homage to all honorable veterans, in conflict and in peace.
The LMSG was founded by a group of veterans in 1988. Today, the Garden is proudly sponsored & maintained by the Kiwanis Club of Weed/Lake Shastina.
We were the only visitors that evening, allowing us to walk among the 11 sculpture groups in complete silence. The only sound was from the wind.

The Why? Group

Coming Home

Coming Home

Korean War Memorial

Wavyleaf paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei) was one of several native plants in flower. The gray-leaved shrublet behind it is California sagebrush (Artemisia californica).

One of three figures surrounding the Flute Player

Gay penstemon (Penstemon laetus)

The Flute Player
  
Tattered flags left by visitors over the years. A symbol of where we are in U.S. history?

Our second outing took us to the McCloud River about 35 miles east of Mount Shasta. Over a stretch of four miles, there are three picturesque waterfalls, each with its own overlook. We decided to start at the Upper Falls and were very surprised to find the parking lot almost filled to capacity. The trail to the actual overlook is very short, but there were quite a few people, at least half of them without face masks. They probably thought it's OK not to wear protection outdoors—and it is as long as you're away from others. On a narrow trail, however, there's barely two feet between people passing each other. Combine that with folks talking, often animatedly, and it soon turns into an uncomfortable situation. Fortunately, it got much better after several large groups of unmasked visitors had passed us, and I was able to take these photos:





The large-leaved plants are Indian rhubarb (Darmera peltata), growing very happily where it has enough water

The very definition of peacefulness

Greeleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula) is a common shrub in these parts

Arctostaphylos patula

Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii)

I was very excited when I saw the fruit but it wasn't ripe yet. The spines on the berries are stiff and very prickly, but the fruit makes great jam.

After seeing so many people at Upper Falls, we decided to skip Middle Falls and head straight to Lower Falls. However, the traffic at the parking lot there was so bad, with a line of cars waiting to park and dozens of unmasked people milling about, that we ended up calling it a day and headed home. No need to expose ourselves and my mother-in-law, who just by virtue of her age is in a higher-risk category already.

I appreciate that people want to be out and about—I'm no different—and donning a mask may seem like overkill. But we must err on the side of caution, especially if there's a good chance we can't keep a generous distance from others. Nobody is thrilled wearing a mask, but it's better to be inconvenienced than sick or worse.


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11 comments:

  1. Very interesting to see a bit of this relatively remote area (not remote, just relatively so). The summertime aridity of the memorial garden makes it all the more poignant.

    It's embarrassing being an American right now. We're staying home...it could be a year more of this.

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    1. I love the high desert, sagebrush country. I could drive for hours on lonely country roads...

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  2. Despite the periodic mask-related incidents, I hope the trip help recharge your energy and calm the daily frustrations associated with day-to-day life under the shadow of the pandemic. Your photos of both the sculptures and natural scenery were refreshing. Were the sculptures all created by the same artist?

    I share your frustration with the unmasked tourists. I fundamentally believe that masking, combined with the other oft-described techniques to safeguard ourselves and those around us, are critical to preventing our economy from sliding further toward collapse, and those who fail to recognize that are criminal fools.

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    1. It's so disheartening to see everything (everything!) being turned into an us vs. them fight. Aren't disasters like COVID-19 supposed to bring us together instead of tearing us even further apart?

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  3. The Living Sculpture garden is a beautiful but poignant reminder of past tragedies. Mt Shasta is looking particularly pretty.

    Hiking trails in Banff Nat'l Park are similar. Parking lots and trails are crammed. Thankfully we get all the nature and exercise we need in our own garden.

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    1. What makes the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden so special is the location: out on the high desert, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Just sagebrush vegetation, rocks, the wind, and the sky.

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  4. My cousin lives half the year in northern Idaho, half the year in Los Angeles. She is nearly house bound since almost no one wears a mask anyplace up there. She tried to go to swimming, at three different lakes, and they were all crowded with non-mask wearing people of all ages. No swimming.

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    1. I just wish wearing masks hadn't become so politicized. It's common sense. It has nothing to do with your political beliefs.

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  5. In spite of the thoughtless crowds it must have been nice to get out yonder...before go into lockdown again !

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  6. Beautiful photos Gerhard, I even enjoyed the sculpture images, not usually my cup of tea.

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