I really enjoy driving and I really enjoy reading and I really enjoy birdwatching and I really enjoy camping. Let’s string them all together for a couple of days.
On Thursday morning I head North to explore. I have a Range Rover that I bought for $6500. It is year 2000, 4 litre, V8, has 80K miles and is immaculate. You can get the most amazing deals on used cars here; the more expensive they originally were, the more they devalue and by the time they are 10 years old, they are worth very little. Thus you can get a whole lot of car for very little indeed.
North on Five to Red Bluff, the car is as smooth and luxurious as you could wish. My ipod is plugged in to the 11 speaker sound system and I listen to “Parrot and Olivier in America” by Peter Carey. I love to listen to well-read books so coasting along, looking at the scenery and sort of reading at the same time is bliss.
Just outside Red Bluff I turn into the wilderness and follow Hogsback Road, which is just a track, up into the hills. Wide open hillsides covered in golden, dried grass and green oaks. No one up here. It is November but still very warm and beautiful blue skies. Mt Shasta looms in the distance looking much like Kilimanjaro used to look.
Way up there, I find a graveyard, now mainly overgrown, containing two generations of the Cameron Family, whom I imagine were originally of the proud northern race. No house, no walls, no nothing just a grave yard.
After about 20 miles, I turn down the Peligreen Jeepway into Antelope Canyon through which runs, yep, Antelope Creek and down there by the river is a United States Forest Service camp ground. God bless the USFS. Time again, in the most remote locations, I have come across beautiful campsites, with tables and benches, fire rings and frequently long drop toilets. The toilets always have toilet paper.
40°14’0.27″N 121°52’41.32″W – paste this into Google Earth and you get an amazing view of the site.
I get up early and set off into wilds again. First I have to ford the creek and as I get out to take a photo a big trout flops out of the water close by. I spend 45 mins casting for it. The brute continues to flop around but shows no interest in any of my flies. Too late in the season, I tell myself.
I then go up Grapevine Jeepway. Around here is where the last of the Yahi tribe were exterminated in 1871 – hmmmm. The track is excessively steep and rough but the Range Rover is unflinching, spurning whatever difficulties come her way. You come to beds of uneven, 2ft high, boulders blocking the way on a steep ascent and really don’t know how you can get past. The car, in very low gear, just walks over them very slowly like a mule.
I then hit the Ponderosa Trail and travel gently all the day over hills, across rivers and through forests. Too many birds for me to make sense of on paper but I get an enormous thrill from watching them. Highlight is my first sight of Lewis’ Woodpecker – not one but legions.