I avoided towns and only stopped at rest areas across the length of Oregon since I didn’t need to stop for gas and I had with me in the car all I needed to stuff my face. Perfect! I’d forgotten how pleasant and useful these rest areas are — always set up like little parks, with ample facilities for the comfort of travelers and always in a place that I’d like to stop and check out even if there were no rest area there. Brilliant. High five, Highway Commission. Keep up the good work.
Believe it or not, I had never been to California before. Yes, Bridget, I kid you not. I’d changed planes a couple times in Oakland and landed once at LAX coming from Asia (an experience I hope never to repeat), but as far as tourism goes I’m a complete California virgin. This made the crossing of the border between Oregon and California a matter of some moment for me. It happened as I was driving down a hill in the mountains. That may sound anticlimactic, but trust me, it was absolutely the right approach. For those of us from the Bitter North without direct experience of California in all its facets when you say “California” the image likely to come to mind is the LA freeway or some LA suburb going up in flames during the fire season. It was an enormous comfort to find on the other side of the “Welcome to California” sign the same mountains and forest I saw on the Oregon side. What a great way to meet the state. I took the instance as my formal introduction, leaving aside LAX as anything related to the California I was about to experience.
Seeing Mt. McLoughlin in the distance in southern Oregon was arresting. One sees no stratovolcanoes in my neck of the woods, we don’t go in for such carryings-on, granite batholiths are all the excitement of the geological persuasion we allow ourselves. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never even heard of Mt. McLoughlin until I saw it sticking up in the distance in front of me. I had expected nothing dramatic until I got near Mt. Shasta, but lo and behold, the fun starts early. After subsequently educating myself about Mt. McLoughlin I found myself feeling very grumpy about the interface between human beings and features of the landscape. Here’s some interesting information from the Wikipedia page (here) on the mountain:
McLouglin has served as a landmark to Native American populations for thousands of years. They utilized the area to hunt and gather berries. The Takelma people referred to it as “Mal-sr” or “Alwilamchaldis”, one of their mythical heroes, and they considered it the home of Tasuune, or the “Acorn Woman”, a being that helped their acorns grow every year. In the culture of the Shasta people, McLoughlin was known as “Makayax”; the Klamath people named the volcano “Walum” and “Kesh yainatat”, meaning the home of the “dwarf old woman” that controlled the west wind. McLoughlin was called “Melaiksi” by the Modoc people. The Little Butte Creek which drains from McLoughlin was called “So-ytanak”, translating as “corner” or “rock house”, by the Upper Takelma people.
First detected by Peter Skene Ogden in 1827, McLoughlin has a complex name-place history. Ogden called the volcano “Mt. Sastise” after the Shasta Native Americans that helped him reach the Rogue Valley, but this name was later exchanged with Mount Shasta in northern California, then called “Pit Mountain”. To local residents, Mount McLoughlin’s English name was Mount Pitt, though it came to be referred to by other names including Mt. John Quincy Adams, Mt. Clear View, Snowy Butte, and Mt. Madison, also appearing in maps as Mount Pitt, Mount Simpson, and Mount Jackson. Though the volcano was also known as Mount McLoughlin during the 1800s, it was officially renamed in 1905 by the Oregon Legislative Assembly after Dr. John McLoughlin, a factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company noted for helping American settlers in the 1830s and 1840s. An important figure in the local fur trade, McLoughlin was also known as the “Father of Oregon”. The change from Pitt to McLoughlin was later confirmed by the United States Board on Geographic Names in 1912.
All well and good, but when you see a pic of McLoughlin you realize that the beautiful stratovolcano has been done dirty:
The image looks to me exactly like one of those artist’s renderings you find in articles about what Homo neanderthalensis would look like if you dressed one of them up in modern clothing and put him on the New York subway. This is clearly the Victorian version of the article: Neanderthal does Darwin LOL. The Father of Oregon … well, all I can say is, there’s no doubt a good reason why he’s not pictured with the Mother of Oregon, since she’s probably even less likely to win a beauty pageant than Dad. I resent the linguistic imposition of such names on the natural landscape. Why should a mountain of such stunning beauty be forever associated in my mind with this wreck of a specimen who stands so wildly in need of a perm? It passeth understanding. But there’s no fixing it, so let’s move on. Harumph.
After the lushness of the Siskiyou Mountains in Oregon my expectations were met when things began getting dry and the forest thin — that’s the image of California I had in mind. My target was Yreka for a gas stop. There was a rest area this side of it where I paused to consider the landscape: