● By Carrie Schmeck
The Art of Survival Century Bicycling Event
For one thing, it’s brand new. Designated a national monument in 2008 and funded in 2012, the Tule Lake Unit hopes to pull curtains aside to acknowledge and inform visitors of one of America’s not-so-spectacular moments in history. The Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark and nearby Camp Tulelake in eastern Siskiyou County were both used to incarcerate Japanese Americans during World War II after they were forcibly removed from their homes and businesses. In fact, the Tule Lake Unit housed those deemed especially disloyal, a moniker determined by two questions: What is your loyalty to the Japanese government? And Would you serve in the United States military? Any negative answer, no matter the reason, earned incarcerates a trip to the segregation center, where the government added 28 guard towers and barbed wire to keep them from the world. “It essentially became a prison camp,” says Mike Reynolds, park superintendent. “Some incarcerates were even veterans of the U.S. Army. It’s a shameful story but it doesn’t change the fact that it happened.” By war’s end, 29,000 incarcerates passed through the camp.
The unit serves as one of four rest stops on The Art of Survival Century, an organized bicycling event to be held Saturday, May 24, to offer participants a unique way to experience largely undiscovered parts of Siskiyou County. Riders can choose to cruise a full 100 miles on two wheels or opt for shorter 45- or 35-mile routes, starting and ending at the Butte Valley Fair Grounds in Tulelake. The county’s Economic Growth Group made an intentional decision to promote cycling tourism as part of a 5-year plan to restore economic vitality in the area, says the group’s coordinator, George Jennings. “This Art of Survival theme ties into the art of rural survival,” he says. “We hope riders will learn the history of the area. It’s a part of the county that doesn’t get a lot of traffic but it’s really an awesome park.”
The ride is a spoke in the hub of the Art of Survival exhibit, hosted by Favell Museum in Klamath Falls and featuring the fine art photography of Tule Lake artifacts by Hiroshi Watanabe, a world-renowned photographer. Also displayed will be artifacts such as painted tea trays and unique brooches, a handmade armoire fashioned from shipping crates by incarcerates, and 10 informational scrolls that lay the framework of Tule Lake’s political history.
Riders will also have an opportunity to ride through history and explore the Lava Beds National Monument. The park has more than 700 lava tube caves, one of the highest concentrations in the world. A rest stop at the visitor center will give riders a quick taste of caving if they spend a minute to check out Mushpot Cave. Another rest stop, at Captain Jack’s Stronghold, will introduce riders to the Modoc War of 1872, where a small band of Modoc Indians held off the U.S. Army for six months using unique geological features.
With mostly flat terrain, the Art of Survival ride can be enjoyed by all skill levels, and ranger talks will add historical substance. The ride ends with a dinner at the Favell Museum in Klamath Falls. “We hope many will come back and want to stay longer,” says Reynolds. “We just hope to pique interest about somewhere spectacular but a road less traveled.”