The County Voice

A Road Trip “Up North”

I had the occasion recently to drive from Sacramento up to Siskiyou County for the day and a couple of things were pretty evident from the trip. First, California is an incredibly diverse state. In the span of a few hours, you can go from the State Capitol, to tree crops, to cattle, to lumber. And second, we are in a severe drought. Neither of these concepts is new or surprising, but it is amazing, and in the case of the drought, devastating to see and experience them in the course of a half-day’s drive.

In terms of the diversity, it’s not just the crops and the landscape that change as you head north on I-5. There is a shift in attitude too. It’s hard to put a finger on it exactly, and I am certainly not an expert after spending one day “up north.” But the hay barn just this side of Yreka labeled, “State of Jefferson” gives a not-so-subtle hint about the independent and self-reliant nature of the people up there.

It’s as much a part of the environment as the rivers, lakes and mountains are. You have to be a little more self-reliant when you live with summer days over 105 degrees, winter nights that drop below zero, and the potential for wildfires, (coming true this week) flooding and drought. Which takes us to the next topic: it’s DRY up there.

Shasta Lake is mere shadow of its usual blue expanse, and the streams and creeks that feed into the lake and the Sacramento River are in pretty bad shape too. Often this time of year, there would still be a significant snowcap on Mount Shasta. After several years of drought—it’s hardly there at all this year. Less snow equals less meltwater to feed the streams, fill the lakes, or to move down the Sacramento River and through the Delta system.

The drought is having impacts up and down the state, costing jobs and revenue in agriculture, reducing hydroelectric power which can mean higher utility costs, and we are already seeing the relationship between drought and wildfire in California—with at least 10 significant fires burning in the state. Fighting them costs money, let alone the loss of forest and wild lands and the lost tourism revenue.

While agriculture and tourism are perhaps hardest hit by the drought (and some areas have it worse than others), we are all paying for this three-year dry spell in one way or another. We all feel the pinch of higher food prices and we all pay for firefighting and other costs associated with the drought. So I guess my takeaway from a daytrip “up north” is that, despite the differences that have given birth to the State of Jefferson movement — differences in virtually every political, geographical, philosophical and economic category you could measure in California — we are all quite literally in it together. At least for now!

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