Shoved off from Ukiah early, driving through a part of Lake County that’s on fire, and thinking this is how it’s gonna be from now on. Fires all summer long.
As I got deeper into Shasta County, then Modoc County, I drove through tiny hamlets that for all intents and purposes, look like ghost towns. There are the little farm towns, and the little towns that must be there for a reason but that reason was probably forgotten long ago, and the sporadic homesteads.
I passed from California into Oregon, winding down a long stretch of highway that looked eerily like Nevada… places where the highway pointed arrow-straight across long valleys, nothing but scrub brush, dust and hills off in the hazy distance, hot.
I pulled off the highway on a little dirt road that wound alongside a river (the Ogden?), took a walk around trying to find a place where the river was accessible through the weeds and rocks that lined the bank. Finally did and gave myself a good splash-off to get rid of the sweat and grime from the day. Did I mention it’s hot here? It’s probably in the mid 80’s at 9 PM. Luckily Wyoming will be cooler.
I realized there are some hot springs nearby. Do I want to sit in hot springs? Nope. There are some people there too, and I’m not in the mood. I’ve had a couple cars drive by and stare into my open door which makes me feel oddly exposed. But I imagine there won’t be many more, so I’m probably OK.
I fell asleep with no covers and the fan blasting me and woke in fetal position with the covers pulled tight due to the temp dropping by 20˚ overnight. Got up and took a few photos of the dramatic sunrise, then ate and collected my stuff and got on the road. Had an issue with the van that required attending to, which meant spending the day in Boise waiting. It all checked out, so I ran a couple errands then got myself on the freeway towards Wyoming.
I took the main highway for a bit, then jumped on the 20 in order to drive through the Craters of the Moon National Monument as well as to avoid driving on the interstate. The northeast section of Idaho was gorgeous… long, broad valleys surrounded by buttes and rolling hills with periodic pine forests and sprawling farmland.
The land here is beautiful. It’s also been irrevocably violated and partially destroyed by 200+ years of white European civilization. I can’t help but feel contempt for the sons of the pioneers who think their claim to this land is the only valid claim, or that their way of life is some kind of God-given right that should never be questioned. Their tradition is white supremacy, resource extraction, and religious intolerance. Some of them might be nice people and good stewards of the land, but their tradition has blood on its hands.
Anyway… As I drove through the giant basins of irrigated land and expanse of wild prairie, the air was the perfect temperature, the breeze was refreshing and sweet, and there were barely any cars on the road. A deep sense of satisfaction came over me, contentment at driving down this road at this time, seeing the stunning landscapes and spending time alone with my thoughts.
As I moved north and east towards Jackson, a curtain of darkness obfuscated the distant mountains and giant sheets of rain swept over the lower hills and valleys. As I got closer and closer, the setting sun and wild storm clouds coalesced into some of the most gorgeous textures and colors I’d seen in a long while. I love driving into storms sometimes.
The rain poured down and darkness fell just as I began ascending a mountain range. I had a harrowing journey on rain-slicked roads that wound steeply up and up into the darkness, then dropped down into more steep hairpin turns. I’d almost stopped to find a spot to camp an hour or so before, because I wanted to see the mountains and surrounding areas instead of passing them in the night, but decided getting to Jackson was the goal and I was gonna stick to it.
I finally made it to town and connected with the two organizers of Fire In The Mountains at a local bar. We chatted for a little while and they recommended a place I could drive and camp not too far from there. Justin encouraged me to drive all the way to the top of this mountain road, where I’d wake to a majestic view of the Tetons on one side and a different mountain range on the other. I said my goodbyes and jumped back in the van, following directions to the road. It was rough and steep and lumpy, and many of the lower camping spots were already occupied by scores of other campers. I charged on higher and higher, watching it get later and later. Finally, after 30 minutes crawling up this dirt road, I decided to abandon the top of the mountain & found my spot. Leveled out the van and put myself to bed.