Friday, April 8, 2011

Battle Rock

Shasta County August 29, 1993

To travel interstate 5, especially this part of interstate 5, it’s a good idea to bring along a CB radio. With the exception of the brief ‘Breaker! Breaker!’ craze in the ‘70’s when verbal spam filled its bandwidth, the media has returned to the trucker twitter it was before. Good info on speed traps, accidents, etc. in the immediate area can really be helpful. As a rough rule, you’ll find north-south truckers using channel 17, and east-west using 19.  It can sometimes be entertaining as well, like the case around here in the Dunsmuir pass area where a woman held court over the air at all hours for as long as this traveler can remember passing this stretch. In fact, when camping at Castle Crags State Park, the CB would be left on for a spell just to hear the action while relaxing with a glass of wine in the wooded campground. Every trucker seemed to know her, and best guess is that she either owned or pulled long shifts at one of the diners in town. There was a lot to talk about back then for like Interstate 70 through Vail Pass, it took a long time to build the road up to interstate standards, and the delays and detours seemed to go on for decades.

It’s a short hike from the campground to the vista point to view the Castle Crags…and the view is spectacular. Watching a sunset there is a lifetime memory.
“Tis midnight now. The bend and broken moon, batter'd and black, as from a thousand battles, hangs silent on the purple walls of Heaven.” – Joaquin Miller

Joaquin Miller was often considered a hack and exploiter by contemporaries, but one enduring facet was his sensitivity to first nation people. Over in England he picked up the handle, ‘Poet of the Sierras’ and made good use of it from then on. At the same time however, naysayers Bret Harte and Mark Twain were just as guilty of panhandling their old west experiences on the eastern seaboard and across the pond, while it’s an easy argument that Miller actually lived the life to a far greater extent. Being wounded here at Castle Crags and later living with the Modocs gives him many extra points in a hypothetical cowboy poetry shootout with Harte and Twain. Cincinnatus Hiner Miller was his given name, he picked up Joaquin from outlaw and folk hero Joaquin Murietta. Miller was at his best when writing about the majesty of the Sierras.  

So what was this battle about? Young Joaquin Miller’s friend, Mountain Joe deBondy had the trading post in this pass and in order to drum up business he conjured up the story that the fabled Lost Cabin Mine was in these parts. That brought gold seekers by the hundreds and among many other intrusions, their placer mining techniques turned the river to mud killing the salmon run. The Indians responded in a battle that was the last known in which Native Americans fought only with bow and arrow and spear. They took heavy casualties.

Battle Rock can be seen from interstate 5.

Plaque inscription: NO. 116 BATTLE ROCK - Battle of the Crags was fought below Battle Rock in June 1855. This conflict between the Modoc Indians and the settlers resulted from miners destroying the native fishing waters in the Lower Soda Springs area. Settlers led by Squire Reuben Gibson and Mountain Joe Doblondy, with local Indians led by their Chief Weilputus, engaged Modocs, killed their Chief Dorcas Della, and dispersed them. Poet Joaquin Miller and other settlers were wounded.
Location: On lawn at entrance station, Castle Crags State Park, 1 mi W of I-5 (P.M. 63.6), Castella
Google maps: 41.148333,-122.321262

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