Thursday, August 07, 2008

Best Western Adventures
Series 5
LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT MUSINGS
After having lunch in Klamath, it was time to head out to see my husband's family. We decided to take the long way home, though, after agreeing to do some light geocaching and visiting with friends along the way.
We were on the southwest edge of town when we decided this, and we headed out to our favorite road in town, Hill Road. Hill Road runs roughly north to south, starting along the western edge of Klamath Falls, OR and running all the way to the Lava Beds National Monument in Modoc County, California.
The reason I say that Hill Road is our favorite is because there is this little red farmhouse on the California side that we used to always say we wanted to live in. We used to drive down that road and wait, wait for it, then "oh, there it is, there's our house!" as we would pass it. Every time I would have visions of homesteading on that little piece of property, and my husband would start extolling its virtues. We were always so busy looking on the left hand side of the road at "our house" that we never noticed what was on the right hand side.
Today, though, we had our GPSr, and I was tracking geocaches. We had already made one find on the northern end of Hill Road, and here we were, passing "our" house, as I see that we are coming up on another geocache, one entitled Yet Another War.
I kept thinking from the name that this one was going to be in the Lava Beds itself, and was named for the Modoc-Indian Wars that happened out here (see the story about Captain Jack). . However, it was instead at a place my husband had never noticed before in all the years he had spent living out in this area, Camp Tulelake, where German POWs were held during World War II.
There is a more well known camp in nearby Newell, CA, which housed Japanese prisoners. Some of those prisoners, who refused to answer a loyalty questionnaire in 1943, were moved to this facility. A year later, this site housed around 800 German prisoners. Originally, though, and for the longest duration, it served as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Most of the original buildings have been razed but this area is maintained as a National Historic Site.
After this find, we passed through the wildlife refuge and into the Lava Beds. Ahead of us loomed "The Peninsula" which lays across the highway from the Japanese internment camp in Newell. On the face of the long straight front of this is a white cross, visible from the highway. It is a reminder of the several Japanese prisoners who, facing a life without honor, flung themselves down the cliff face to their death during this time.
We like to think these things would never happen in this country again, things like the "Trail of Tears" and the forcing of Native Americans on to reservations, and of forcing American citizens who happened to be of an original nationality of the countries we were fighting in World War II to live in harsh, punitive conditions in remote areas of the country. Many of these prisoners had their property stolen from them, and although after the war the government allowed the citizens to apply for compensation, by then the IRS had destroyed the tax records that allowed them to prove their claim.
But then, today we have Quantanamo Bay. We have prejudices and discrimation against people who appear to us like Taliban. A cousin of my close friend, whose family had to flee their native Iran when the Shah was overthrown in 1977, told me a story recently about being taken into custody and harassed by police officers in College Station because they suspected he was working with "the enemy". I only hope we can continue to maintain an attitude of tolerance and acceptance without losing our vigilence against the people who really intend to do our country harm. It is well that we keep in mind the text written on the plaque that stands in front of the abandoned Tule Lake Relocation Camp in Newell:
"Tule Lake was one of ten American concentration camps established during World War II to incarcerate 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, of whom the majority were American citizens, behind barbed wire and guard towers without charge, trial or establishment of guilt. These camps are reminders of how racism, economic and political exploitation, and expediency can undermine the constitutional guarantees of United States citizens and aliens alike. May the injustices and humiliation suffered here never recur."
Geez, I didn't mean to get all bogged down in historical information here. It was just the close proximity of the Lava Beds to both a political injustice reminder and the historical remnants of an Indian war got me thinking, you know? It sure is beautiful out here, though, and someday I want to come back and explore more of the caves and trails in the Lava Beds National Monument. This day and this trip, however, we were on to further adventures down the road.