Defying death on the side of a mountain 

Click on the image to get a larger view of where Pete almost died (his path is marked in red). He went in search of the exact border between CA, NV, and OR using a fancy GPS unit he decided to buy on the way up there. As you can see, it's quite rugged and Pete had to drive on dirt roads and trespass to even get close. He got about as far as the hill side just below the "R,N" characters. Scrambling along the face of that hillside, he reached for a hand-hold on a largish rock and ended up pulling the weak rock apart, nearly tumbling backward down the steep wall. It was at that point he decided that maybe this was a bit much.

So, Pete then proceeded up the hill, trying not to slide all the way down in the loose gravel and shale rock that surrounded him. Every climbing step up the hill resulted in at least a half-step slide back down the hill.

Suddenly, a strange flapping/rattling sound started. For a split second he thought "a grasshopper, nothing more. They stop when you come near out of self-preservation." When the sound didn't stop...Oh crap. Rattlesnake three feet from your head and you don't have any solid footing from which to spring up and run away. As if you could run UP the mountainside anyway.

Somehow Pete managed to survive that encounter and continue his slow inexorable climb up the mountain. In the blazing sun (it was June). With little water. Suddenly, he heard another rattlesnake nearby and actual "holy crap, this is really it, I'm actually going to die on this mountainside. I'm not going to make it." thoughts crept ever so slightly into his brain. But then the rattler must have moved on, because the rattling stopped and Pete's climb continued.

At last, the ridge was achieved (it's the darker vegetation above the white letters in the image) and Pete couldn't believe he'd made it. He still had a mile hike uphill back to the car, but that felt more like a denouement and as the yards ticked by things turned out ok.

Despite the "challenges," far northeastern California remains one of Pete's favorite places in California. The morning drive to the tri-border, over the Warner mountains and down into the Alkalai Lake area, is beautifully desolate and it was a perfect early summer day. The drive up CA 299 to Alturas is easy and scenic (and includes the industrial art pictured above), and the remoteness is alluring in a strange way. While perhaps not ready to try the exact border again, Pete is certainly looking forward to returning in a more general way.

The Wagon Wheel Motel in Alturas. $36 for the funkiest 70s-era room you'll ever see (irony not included at all).

Upper Alkalai Lake in the early morning sun.

Looking off to the north, deeper into Oregon.

From out of nowhere, this fascinating old house appears. Pete stopped and bothered the owner of the property on which it sits to ask questions. Built in 1870s, lived in until the 1950s, still in the family, trying to get loan to turn it into an elegant restaurant/gathering place. Would be soooo cool if she's successful.

See you on the road! 

Posted: Thu - October 5, 2006 at 07:53 PM          

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Published On: Oct 05, 2006 09:12 PM
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