Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Unexpected landscapes


Rather than finding pristine forests and clean air, I was appalled by Northeastern California's polluted skies and patchwork landscape


Awakened at 8:00, a service truck starting up outside my window. Looked out to see a frost-coated motorcycle. "I guess I'm in no rush this morning!" It may have reached about 18 degrees last night. This cold in November? This is indeed a harsh place!

The smoky haze gathering against the Warner Mountains is not a good sign. With the area looking to grow its population, the problem will only increase. I’m drawn to the austerity of this land, but man’s destructive tendencies will bring an aesthetic decline.

Watching the Weather Channel, there are tornado watches across the south. Someone in my Fall travels said I had missed the tornado season in the South – "it’s the Spring," they said. But all the news since tells me it’s a year-round possibility.

I watched a portion of the Senate hearings on Iraq. General Abizaid argues for flexibility, and no time lines for withdrawal. All these gray and white-haired men determining the course of our nation doesn't give me confidence. It is clear that many of these men are beyond the peak of their mental powers. As I listened to Republican Lindsey Graham I actually felt he offers a refreshing contrast to those other sleepy, constipated minds.

Everything Abizaid says, smacks of “stay the course” – unacceptable.

I suspect the typical TV news image, with 5 or 6 simultaneously subject flows only encourages a lack of concentration, superficial cognition. How can you listen to a speaker, when the screen is distracting you with 4 or 5 other images or data streams?

Last night, I was considering a ride over Fandango Pass to Surprise Valley (on the Nevada side of the Warner Mountains) for today, but with the icy conditions this morning, I decided that wouldn't be prudent.

The outskirts of Alturus is a shabby landscape. I started toward the "Cal Pines" development, just to see what's going on up there, then decided "why bother?" Continued west toward Redding.

The mountains west of Alturus are a patchwork of forests. Under Department of Agriculture jurisdiction, we have basically created tree farms. Was this the intent for our National Forests?

This mono-cropping is an example of human ignorance. What’s worse is for those who are educated, to ignore what they know. This type of forestry is unsustainable.

In McArthur, I noted a collection of cars parked out front of Chatty Kathy’s, so I decided to check it out. The cafe was crowded with people, most seniors (and most overweight, especially the women.) Tried a chicken sandwich, some "curly fries" and coffee. Sadly, the food was barely edible. I would have liked it to be more memorable.

Arriving at a Fall River Valley overlook, I received a sickening shock. I don't think I've seen a more depressing sight in this country. Trash-strewn hillsides and a valley blanketed in a thick dirty haze. I expect more stewardship of Californians, not this. Down below, the town of Burney, the smoky irony not lost on me.



Descending from the Modoc Plateau, I arrived at an overlook. Below, the Fall River Valley was blanketed in a smoky haze. Mount Shasta (right center) is barely visible through the muck.



California Highway 299 still life. A region's environmental aesthetic is directly related to its economic condition.


40 miles east of Redding is the site of the enormous 1992 "Fountain Fire". I stopped at an overlook to read about the fire. A kiosk at the Moose Camp Vista Point erected by Roseburg Resources tells the "the story of renewal”. Renewal involved bulldozers clearing the burned-out forest, herbicides widely-applied to eliminate opportunistic species which compete with the Ponderosa Pine seedlings that replaced the native forest. It's now a 64,000-acre Ponderosa Pine plantation (as even Roseburg calls it.)

I enjoy the rolling hill country east of Redding, dotted with stately oaks and peaceful ranches. It's a landscape that rings the Sacramento Valley for hundreds of miles.

Briefly joined the Interstate 5 vortex south of Redding, escaping onto westbound Highway 20 toward Clear Lake. The impatient, negative energy of the freeway followed me into the hills as I challenged cars through Lake County and up over Mount St. Helena. Only as I neared Santa Rosa did I seem to settle down.

Sitting in A’Roma’s later with a free cup of coffee, I looked around at the familiar faces. Uncomfortable. I have aged with some of these characters. Though I look at them and recognize them, we remain anonymous.

Watched a couple of films tonight. Strangers with Candy must be one of the worst movies I’ve seen. I couldn't bear to watch the entire film. Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man features interesting performances by Rufus and Martha Wainwright, among others, but is a poorly-crafted film (a first-time effort) and, inexplicably, barely features Cohen himself.

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