Road trip edition.
I’ve always loved road trips, there’s something in the promise of being able to stop anywhere, take any road, find new things, see new sights. Of course, there are also trips where there’s just no stopping, due to time constraints or lack of places to pull over, but the car window can still afford some wonderful photographic opportunities.
The images that follow were taken in the Sacramento Valley, a strange mix of farmland, decay and progress that has always held a strange fascination to me. My paternal grandfather raised sheep on this land; I can remember morning rides to his home, the mist clinging to the earth as the sun crested the receding foothills.
In the heart of this region lies the Sutter Buttes, a dormant volcanic range some ten miles across. It figures prominently in the creation myths of both the Maidu and Wintun people, who had settlements on the eastern and western sides of the range, respectively. In some tales, the range rose from from water, others darkness or chaos, called forth by the falcon spirit. In others it is the home of the Earth Maker.
Land was bought by the state in 2003 with the intentions of opening a park, but access to the property required passing through privately owned land. In 2006 an attempt was made to purchase more property, pitting descendants of a John Henry Myers against one another. Ultimately, the land was bought by members of the family who had no interest in allowing a state park developed there and it seems likely the general public will never have access to the unique environment presented. In recent years, however, there have been parcels of land developed into residential plots, and both conservationists and Native American groups fear that the future could include more development.
There are several privately guided hikes that occur during the year, but mostly the area is left alone as Native peoples and conservationists attempt to protect the land and it’s unique history.
You can find out more on tribal attempts to protect the land, as well as it’s history with indigenous groups at The Sacred Land Film Project. You can also read the Maidu creation myth (and many other tales) at First People.
Rice is a prominent crop in the Sacramento Valley, and lies in close proximity to wetlands and multiple wildlife preserves. Driving through the valley in spring and fall you are presented with tens of thousands of birds; geese, swans, herons, egrets, terns, the list goes on. Not only that, but the open fields provide wonderful habitat for birds of prey, it’s easy to spot falcons and hawks from you car, perched upon fence posts and telephone polls, watching for emerging gophers or sunning reptiles.
I try not to lose myself in fear and worry as the month progresses. I do not know what life will be like for all of us a year from now. I donate and write, I am kind to those I know are even more afraid then I am. But I live in the least racially diverse county in California, it’s a challenge to not feel alone in a sea of ignorance. Be kind, people. Educate yourself, read history, read the paper. Read about white farmers, black police, transgender students, Native Americans. Teach yourself to recognize the humanity in all of us, even as there are those who chose to ignore it.
I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.