If I wrote a similar blog before, oops…I apologize. That said, it’s probably worth repeating as the salmon are sacred to the Native Americans. They symbolize, among other things, that the water is healthy.
I pull off the Klamath River Highway 96 into the Temple of Heaven campground and drive down the 200 feet to be beside the Klamath River and perhaps get a glimpse of the salmon swimming upstream to spawn. As a woman alone, an insecurity haunts me. No one knows that I’m here except an old man at The Visitor’s Center at the last rest stop. He gave me directions on how to get here. I told him that I wanted to see the salmon running upstream.
“Likely place as any to see the salmon, though I’ve only seen one myself this year, so far, back about two weeks ago,” he ruminates.
“Why, when I was a boy growing up here, the salmon were so thick you could walk across the river on their backs.”
His eyes squint, studying me to see if I bought that.
“It’s true,” he said.
Then, “Go to the right; stay on the road for six miles. You’re gonna be up 200 feet and you’ll come to a hairpin turn. Cross over to the left and drive down. It’s a campsite and there’s a sign, “Temple of Heaven.”
He looks me over, “It’s safe there,” he says as if reading my thoughts.
At Temple of Heaven, I park the car noting the one other car there. I don’t see anyone but you can bet that my instincts are sharpened. I find a place not far from the car beside the river. A wide pool seems to have an underwater light infusing it. I spot not a single salmon. I feel somewhat wary, out of my familiar zone, off the well-trod path. I don’t stay long, though it’s a beautiful spot, pristine and remote.
Driving out of the Temple of Heaven, I pull off the highway several times to see the river from different aspects. The 1901 rough hewn wooden bridge over Ash Creek which Abner Weed (of the town of Weed fame) had a hand in constructing. On the ground next to my parked car, I see a scrap of a paper wrapper. It reads “Live to experience ‘MY INSOLENCE.” I can only guess that it’s the name of a perfume, or a condom or an insolent miniaturized alien who obviously left because she’s not here when I kick the paper over.
The Klamath River, like most of the rivers I’ve seen, is distinctly beautiful. I drive towards Yreka along a stretch of road I’ve never traveled before. Highway 263 parallels the Shasta River. The Shasta River snakes through Dry Gulch. At one point, there’s a pocket of houses in a canyon beside the river. I stop the car to take a picture. I pull over several times to let the occasional car pass or to view the winding river stretching though the rocky gorge. White foam and ripples brace the vegetation on the banks. Another distance and then, Mount Shasta appears with new snow on its north face, rivaling Shangri La.
The Native American Tribe, Winnemem Wintu, is local to northern California…they are the protectors of the salmon, the river, the water.