I was up on the flats on Saturday to visit some friends. This is high cattle country, and folks have been ranching up here for almost a hundred years. Bears and cougars are not uncommon. The cattle have already been herded in close to home where the ranchers can keep an eye on them during the hunger time. I look at this view, and all of my childhood dreams of someday being a cowboy come welling to the surface. I feel lucky to have gotten this close.
As I headed down I noted that the far Cascades are still only moderately snowy. We're enjoying cold but clear weather. There's a good chance that the next Pacific storm will bring snow not only to the high country but to the valley floor as well.
I passed McLoughlin Canyon on the way and made a stop. I like this place. I've posted on the history of this canyon before, but here's a reminder of the story.
I climbed up to a vantage point and looked south to where the canyon opens up and that party of white men entered the canyon on that fateful day. Standing here, it's easy to imagine the whole episode unfolding before you.
On the way back to the truck I passed the grinding rock with its mortar hole, now filled with ice. This is mute evidence that the Indians used the canyon for centuries for gathering pine nuts and other foodstuffs. They would grind them in mortar holes such as this, worn into the rock over generations.
About a year after we came here there was a major fire that burned a swath some twenty miles long from the south. It roared up this canyon and burned itself out. I remember what it was like before the fire, with the welcome relief of green against the grey stone, and the wistful call of canyon wrens as the evening sun sifted through the pines. Now, especially at this time of year, there is only stark silence.
It makes the voices of those who were here before seem even louder.