View of Whiteplains Plantation

View of Whiteplains Plantation
Over Head View

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Heading home......


From an altitude of 7,200 feet I shifted into fifth and let the gears help with the long winding descent into a broad, fertile valley. From the top I could see a mass of black which materialized into a massive herd of black angus cattle being rounded up by three men on horseback and a few lightning fast Border Collies. Real cowboys! Along the side of the road were parked cattle trucks waiting to take this lucrative cash crop to market. Fall was coming and soon the snow would stop all movement of livestock in northeastern California. These men on horseback would wind down the summer livestock operation and soon pull their motor homes to southern Arizona for the winter.
Climbing to the top of the next ridge gave breath taking views of the towering white gho
st off to the west - Mt Shasta. Snow covered year round, this ancient volcano reigns over hundreds of miles. Little farm houses in eastern Oregon, city apartment dwellers in Eugene and cowboys in northern California all claim her as their own and find peace knowing she is watching over them from afar.
To view route 395 in eastern California on any AAA map would be deceptive. It looks simply like a flat road traveling through underwhelming countryside. So it was to our sheer delight that scenes of uncommon beauty unfolded before our eyes, one vista more stunning than the next. It was an undulating journey through pine forest, scrub brush and jumbles of volcanic bl
ack rocks. After a climb of a few thousand feet one would come to a descent with a view that encompassed hundreds and hundreds of miles laid out before you. The area in Nevada to the east is known as basin and range country. And that descriptor could be used for the neighboring California as well. So one would climb and climb only to reach a summit and then a long descent into a valley that usually contained a lake and stream beds lined with golden Cottonwoods. Picture the view unencumbered by trees or hills - just a huge open vista with so much for the eye to take in. We arose very early on this particular morning and were treated to the rising of the sun and happened upon a broad valley that was still cool from the night. The entire valley contained hot springs that flowed in streams and rose from fissures in the earth creating a ghostly appearance as steam arose in patterns from each source.
As we continued on, the high Sierra Nevada ranges came into view to the west. Range after range of high, glacier cut, jagged snow covered peaks caught our eye. Very few glaciers remained but the evidence of their mighty force could be seen in u-shaped valleys high
in the range, random and jumbled piles of moraine dumped as the glaciers melted and receded and occasionally a small glacier in the shadows at the highest peak. Mt. Whitney, at over 12,000 feet, looked as though a giant bear had clawed ridges down her flanks. It was in the foothills of this awesome range, tucked tightly up in the moraine rock piles that we settled in for the night. An unexpected treasure lay hidden here - hot springs and a bath house that had been used by weary travelers since 1920. After a beautiful day of travel and a good soak in the hot mineral springs we were ready for a night of sleep under a canopy of stars.
As I lay in bed I could not help but think about the therapy of travel. The immediate scene before me demands my attention and I am
humbled by the enormity of our country and the billions of years of geologic processes it took to sculpt the valleys and carve the peaks in the mountains. And then Lee coughs as he lays in bed beside me and I am jerked back to the reality of cancer and the courage it has taken for him to stray so far from home. I am aware that he is not getting better and that it is my responsibility to get him home. Wow. We two are such specks in the whole scheme of things.
The next day we head east into Death Valley. I simply stand mute - there is no way to describe the experience of Death Valley. Any words I would use would sound trite. Reminds me of Lee trying to describe the fatigue of cancer. He says there are no words big enough to describe the fatigue of cancer. There are no words descriptive enough to describe Death Valley.
It is not one valley - it is a series of raw rocky mountains and immense valleys filled with sand and rocks and materials eroded from the mountains surrounding them. It is obvious from the landscape that over a period of billions of years volcanoes poured thousands of square miles of lava over the northwest, streams and lakes covered the lava with sediment and the entire mass was thrust up, wrinkled and eroded. It is all before your very eyes but you simply must experience it - that's all I can say. We found ourselves reciting the 23rd psalm. And then, always humorous, Lee says he has just come through Funeral Mountains and Death Valley so he must be OK:)
BLAM - Interstate 15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas! We had just spent two entire days on a two lane highway with very little traffic for miles and miles. The only sight in the rear view mirror were mountains and valleys. And with one turn in the road and one stop light we are thrust onto 6 lanes of madness on a Sunday afternoon. Stop and go traffic coming from Las Vegas back home to LA. Watch the car ahead, watch the car passing, watch the truck grinding up the long grade. Phew, this is madness. But I guess if we are going to get all the way home to South Carolina I am going to have to put my camera away, hit the four lanes and mash the accelerator. So I mashed all day and made it to Grant, N.M. west of Albuquerque. Then today we slowly descended from a high elevation east of Albuquerque of 7,243 feet to below 3,000 feet above sea level near Clinton, Oklahoma. Five hundred and fifty two miles brought us closer to home but there are still the better part of two days to go.
Two different American writers have said, " Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves." " does change you. We know that instinctively; it is for that, I think, that we leave our homes and go looking for the rest of the world. Not just to see it and know it, but to be changed by it."
We have gathered courage from all we have experienced and are ready for the road ahead.

Hoping all is well with you,
Nancy and Lee

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