In January 2019, Sean and I received a text from our friend, Rick, in Denver, who wanted to gauge our interest in trying to secure campground reservations in Havasu Canyon sometime that year. I replied almost instantly that we were interested.
Located south of the Colorado River and west of the National Park developments at the South Rim, Havasu Canyon is the largest tributary canyon into the Grand Canyon. It and the plateau lands that surround it are the home of the Havasupai Tribe, who take their name, “People of the Blue-Green Water” from the world-famous waters and waterfalls of Havasu Creek, which flows from a canyon spring to its confluence with the Colorado River. On the way, the creek tumbles over a series of waterfalls, which attract some 25,000 outsiders a year to the tiny reservation village of Supai, population roughly 600.
It was approaching 1pm on Thursday, September 19 as Sean and I continued along East Rim Drive at Crater Lake National Park, heading toward the Park’s north entrance and then on to Portland. Because of the early wintry weather that had greeted us at the Park on Monday, we were packing our most spectacular views of the Park into this drive. Our sixteen-day “Shasta” adventure was quickly reaching its end. On Sunday afternoon, we’d be on a plane home to Chicago.
Crater Lake National Park, the nation’s fifth, was established in 1902 under Theodore Roosevelt to protect over 183,000 acres in the southern Cascades on the slopes of and in and around the caldera of what had once been Mount Mazama, but which is now the deepest lake in the United States. Sean and I were headed back for a final attempt to see the lake’s intensely blue waters in the sunshine before continuing on to the final stage of our “Shasta” trip: a few nights in Portland.
A grave personal injustice was done to the American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who, without individual review or any probative evidence against them, were excluded, removed and detained by the United States during World War II.
Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians
As the afternoon of September 18 progressed, Sean and I drove over from Petroglyph Point at Lava Beds National Monument to nearby Tule Lake National Monument, one of the newest in the system. In 2008, George W. Bush had established WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which was subsequently abolished by Congress in March 2019. Its three sites each became their own park units: Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Aleutian Islands World War II National Monument, and Tule Lake National Monument.
Tule Lake National Monument preserves and interprets Tule Lake Segregation Center, the largest and most controversial of the ten internment camps in which Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II.
In the afternoon of Wednesday, September 18, Sean and I drove just northeast from the main unit of Lava Beds National Monument to visit the tiny Petroglyph Section, separated from the bulk of the Monument by both Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and private farmland. For the succeeding hour and a half, we contemplated, I hope respectfully, the Modoc people and their ancestors.
The Modoc people once lived on both sides of what is now the California-Oregon border, in villages on and near Tule, Lower Klamath, and Clear Lakes. Like the ancient people who first inhabited this area more than 11,000 years ago, they took advantage of abundant waterfowl and game, edible and medicinal plants, and an easily accessible water supply. They moved about the region freely with the seasons, until the coming of whites in 1826 when the pattern of Modoc life began to change. The Modoc, a fiercely independent people, began to clash with some of the newcomers that laid claim to Modoc grounds for their own uses, and the seeds were sown for one of the most tragic of the Indian Wars: the Modoc War of 1872-73.
Lava Beds National Monument. A place containing the wonders and the terrors of both nature and human nature all within its boundaries.
– Sean M. Santos
Sean wrote the above on Instagram after we concluded our visit to Lava Beds National Monument and nearby Tule Lake National Monument on Wednesday, September 18. As we were headed back to our night’s lodging, he also observed, “Everyone who finds themselves in this part of the country should come and visit this place.”
Lava Beds National Monument was established in 1925 to protect over 46,000 acres of the north flank of Medicine Lake Volcano, a massive and low shield volcano in the southern Cascades, not far northeast of Mount Shasta. Although relatively small, the Monument boasts three lava flows, multiple cinder cones and other volcanic features, and almost 700 lava tube caves, the highest concentration in North America. At around 4,000 feet in the eastern foothills of the Cascades in northern California, the vast sagebrush sea washes right up to the Monument’s tortured volcanic landscape. The Monument is bounded on the north by Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and on the west, south, and east by Modoc National Forest with some private property to the northeast toward the town of Tule Lake, California. It contains over 28,000 acres of federally protected wilderness.
Tuesday, September 17 we woke and felt rested, although I’d slept fitfully. We were due to check out of Crater Lake Lodge that morning and eventually make our way out of the park to Chiloquin and a Sleep Inn where we’d spend the next two nights. But before then, Sean had to be on a three-hour work call (that he was partially running) about urgent firm business. We also hoped against hope to catch a glimpse of the Lake, although now we’d at least be in the environs of the Park until Thursday morning, so we felt our chances were decent.
On Monday, September 16, we woke into a world that could hardly have been more different than the warm and sunny afternoon we’d enjoyed the day before. Over the next few days, as our trip shifted northward from California into Oregon, the weather also shifted, from summer to what felt like winter. It altered the trajectory of our trip, and it added a flavor of adventure that was reminiscent of the sudden cold snap in our during our trip to the Dakotas five years earlier.
On Sunday, September 15, we spent a classic National Park day in the wild heart of Lassen Volcanic National Park. I love a day when we can rise from our tent and go see some amazingly lovely sights propelled by nothing but our own legs. On the docket for our big hike day in Lassen was an 11.6 mile loop over creeks, around lakes, and into the Park’s designated wilderness.
Sean and I had wrapped up our auto tour of the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway by about ten to three on Saturday, September 14. We decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the area around Butte Lake in the northeast corner of the Park, an area that was once a separate National Monument before it was incorporated into the National Park.