I don’t really want to take the Alfa up gravel roads or even drive her further south. Beatrice is a tough little bird but it’s a long drive home and I don’t want to risk it. Luckily, this isn’t necessary. I catch a ride with Vince in his ancient Izuzu SUV. I can leave the Alfa at the Science Center.
I’m not sure what I’d do if I needed repairs, or rather the car did. Mechanics at most garages make faces when I pull up and look like I might want them to work on this, an Italian sports car. I think I might have seen a garage guy make the sign against the evil eye when I pulled up in a small interior town once. My imagination surely because to make the sign must mean the mechanic was Italian and the Alfa would have been no big deal.
I’m compressing several days here, leaving out details about highway rest areas, the slopes and canyons of the Siskyous, Emigrant Lake, North Mountain park and other great locations. All good. I get Canyon and Rock Wrens, a Western Screech Owl, several Calliope Hummingbirds, an obliging Hermit Warbler – lots of species.
Mount Ashland is the highlight (in both senses of the word) – the peak is at 9000 feet or so. There’s a ski resort of sorts at the top but Vince tell me that the mountain got very little snow the winter past and the hill couldn’t open. It’s a dry area and the thought that the drought crippling California could be spreading north is sobering. That aside, I’m thrilled to be up in the high country.
I record both species of Bluebirds – Mountain and Western – near the summit. A swath of cleared ground yields Green-tailed Towhees in relative abundance. We’re hoping for a White-headed Woodpecker but that bird eludes us. A trio of off-roader motocross-type bikers almost takes out my group, or so it seemed. Mostly it’s the shock of having the quiet of the mountain top ripped open by the roar of the bikes that irks. Still, it is a big mountain.
In consolation, I get a Mountain Quail – a life bird for me – the call incongruously loud coming from the scree area below the mountain peak. Very enjoyable this being on a mountain top, looking across meadows and seeing birds. Hearing the too. A spectacular view of Mount Shasta doesn’t hurt either. Shasta is one of a chain of volcanoes with Mount Baker in the north – I can see it from my window at home. On the drive down I passed Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helen’s with its top blown off, Mount Hood and now Mount Shasta – amazing to see four volcanoes in a single day.
It’s the weekend so there are quite a few hikers up here. Some of them are porting babes with them. It even gets to the point where the pitifully few washrooms have line ups. Happily, it is a big mountain. The air’s thin up high too, noticeably so when the trail edges upward. The high country is quite beautiful and I’m really starting to dig it.