The view of Mount Saint Helens from the summit of Mount Adams on July 4, 1976.
On the 200th anniversary of our country’s birth my cousin Dale and I joined one of the last mass climbs of Mount Adams in south-central Washington. I left from work on the Friday afternoon, drove to Yakima to pick him up, and we went to a campground outside Trout Lake to spend the night. Of course the excitement and the noise of all the other campers kept us awake all night. I don’t remember getting any sleep at all.
We were rousted out for the climb around 3:00 in the morning. We received some orientation and instructions and lined up to begin the climb. One of the instructions was to stay in line and not to pass those ahead of us. We were young and strong. Many of those ahead of us were neither, so the temptation to violate that rule was strong.
We reached tree-line just before dawn, and that morning provided one of the most spectacular views I will ever see. We watched the ghostly pale peak of Mount Saint Helens emerge from the night, turning raspberry pink, then dazzling white. Before it erupted, Saint Helens was nearly perfectly symmetrical. As we strapped on our crampons and struggled to keep our places in line, we watched Mount Saint Helens in the distance, a graceful and beautiful mountain that later proved to be powerful and dangerous. Continue reading
Posted in Cars, Columbia Basin, Concertina or Squeezebox, Disaster, Family History, Geology, History, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Mountaineering, Natural Disaster, Othello, Railroads, Volcano, Washington
Tagged Bicentennial, Concertina Blowout, Eastern Washington, Everett, Family History, Geology, Graphic Artist, History, Ice Axe, Milwaukee Road, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Nature, Othello, Seattle, Spokane, State Patrol, Stevens Pass, Taunton, Washington, Wheatstone English Concertina, Whitworth College, Yakima
A soldier of Custer’s regiment uses his Springfield carbine as a club. Source of this painting is not known.
When you grow up in desert heat, at least when video games and television have yet to proliferate, one of the joys of childhood is playing with the garden hose. Personally, I enjoyed digging rivers and lakes into the earth of the wire enclosure where our chickens roamed. I remember the amazement of unearthing a living frog that had burrowed into the ground for hibernation, and that had narrowly avoided the blade of my shovel.
One of my maxims about the desert landscape around Saddle Mountain is that this earth is honest. When people pass through, the traces they make remain to be read by those who come after them. As I think back on the traces we’ve discovered on our farm alone, it amazes me that so much history is written in its sand and dust.
In the early 1960s my father hooked his tractor to a battered old machine he called the rototiller. He was in the process of rooting sagebrush out of a new field, and this machine would completely destroy the plants that grew there naturally. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Columbia Basin, Conflicts, Crab Creek, Death, Education, Family History, History, Native Americans, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Speculative History, Treasure, Washington
Tagged Arrowheads, Art, Atlatl, Badger, Bunchgrass, Campbell's soup, Central Washington, Chickens, Chinese workers, Clovis points, Coin, College, Culture, Deer, Desert, Ducks, East Wenatchee, Eastern Washington, Ecosystems, Education, Environment, Family History, Farm, Frogs, Garden hose, George Armstrong Custer, Gunsmith, Hibernation, History, Hunters, Irrigation, Jackrabbit, Little Big Horn, Livestock, Lynx, Merrybelle, Milwaukee Road, Native Americans, Nature, Oliver tractor, Othello, Pheasants, Projectile points, Railroads, Rototiller, Saddle Mountain, Sagebrush, Soldiers, Springfield carbine, Television, Tractor, Treasure, U.S. Springfield trapdoor, Video games, Walt Danielson, Washington, Weapons
A two-horse-power ferry provided passage across the Columbia River at White Bluffs.
Drive down any freeway in the state, and you’ll see the same dull gray pavement, with tarry black repairs. The roads look the same on both sides of the mountains and whether they are on dry land or bridges. We’ve come to take these roads and bridges for granted, to the point where we can estimate to within minutes just how long a trip ought to take. But it wasn’t always so.
After they offed the Astorians, the Hudsons Bay Company established routes that provided for the safe distribution of trade goods and transportation of furs gathered over an entire year. In auspicious places, the English built forts to store the furs that came from far north in what is now British Columbia, and from the Snake River country and Montana. Continue reading
Posted in Bridges, Cars, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Ferries, Hanford, Hanford Atomic Energy Reservation, History, Native Americans, Railroads, Transportation, Travel, Washington, White Bluffs
Tagged Big Eddy, Bridges, Central Washington, Columbia River, Culture, Eastern Washington, Education, Ferries, Ferry, Hanford, Hanford Reservation, Highways, History, Milwaukee Road, Native Americans, Photography, Puget Sound, Railroads, Vantage, Vernita, Wanapum Dam, Washington, Washington State, White Bluffs
Truth be told, I cannot vouch for the details of this tale. My father related it to me when I was too young or too disconnected to remember names or dates, but the truth of the story is etched into the face of Saddle Mountain above lower Crab Creek.
The trace of the bulldozer descent of the north face of Saddle Mountain above Crab Creek. The track is located around nine miles east of the Columbia River. This view is a telephoto image, showing only the upper section of the trace.
What a bulldozer was doing on top of Sentinel Peak, I cannot say. Perhaps in gouging a firebreak above the Milwaukee Road the driver found himself forced to make corrections that led him ever higher. Eventually he must have found the railroad hundreds of feet below him, a distant trace at the bottom of a precipitous drop. Did the railroad send someone to him, demanding that he bring the dozer down again? Did he refuse to drive down the face of the mountain? I would have. Continue reading
Posted in Columbia River, Crab Creek, Family History, History, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Washington
Tagged Betting, Bulldozer, Central Washington, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Eastern Washington, History, Landmarks, Milwaukee Road, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Washington State
I published this photograph of the Lower Crab Creek Valley as viewed from the Taunton townsite in “Another Flood.” On a recent visit to the same spot I took the following photograph.
This summer I took a hurried trip through Eastern Washington, photographing sites I have written about. In this article I try to post old photographs alongside more recent ones. In some cases I have also provided views of places previously mentioned in my posts, although no older photographs are available to compare them to.
A view of the Lower Crab Creek Valley in 2012, more than fifty years after the previous photograph was taken, reveals the changing ecology of the formerly arid landscape. Irrigation and invasive species have radically altered the local habitat.
There is definitely an article to be written concerning the environmental changes that have taken place in the Lower Crab Creek Valley over Continue reading
Posted in Airplanes, Biology, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Death, Education, Family History, Geology, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Irrigation, Natural Disaster, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Travel, Washington
Tagged Always (movie), Army Air Force, Burrowing Owls, Central Washington, Corfu, Corfu Pioneer Picnic, Corfu Road, Crab Creek, Crater Lake, Culture, Desert, Earl Arthur (Luke) Danielson, Eastern Washington, Education, Ellensburg Army Air Field, Environment, Ephrata Army Air Field, Family, Flood, Fossils, G. W. Faulkner, Geology, Herman Danielson, Highway 26, History, Ice Age, Invasive Species, Irrigation, Lawrence Danielson, Lieutenant Pickerall, Milwaukee Road, Mount Mazama, Mud Dauber wasp, Nature, North Bend, Othello, P-38, P-39Q, Photography, Railroads, Richard Dreyfuss, Saddle Mountain, Schools, Smyrna Bench, Snoqualmie Pass, Taunton, Taylor Bridge Fire, Volcanic Ash, Volcano, Wahatis Peak, Washington, Washington State, World War II
Beneath this towering cliff and rubble fallen from it lie the remains of the Saddle Mountain Ice Cave.
There has been a fair amount of mystery concerning the Saddle Mountain Ice Cave. Even today you’ll find inquiries about it on internet chat sites. Over the years, locals disagreed on lots of points concerning this phenomenon. Some said it was a natural cavern, a huge chamber full of glittering perpetual ice. Others said it wasn’t really anything more than a big root cellar where people kept chunks of ice they would cut out of Crab Creek in the wintertime. Some people even doubt its existence. But it’s there.
Virtually all that’s left of the Ice Cave is a pile of old timbers and the remains of the massive wooden doorframe.
The Ice Cave is about four miles west of the end of the paving on the old Corfu Highway after you leave Smyrna, around eight miles from Beverly. It’s difficult to spot the remains from the roadway, so look for a large alkali clearing in front of it and a huge slope of tumbled rock flanking its other three sides. Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Education, Geology, Grand Coulee, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Othello, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Speculative History, Travel, Washington
Tagged A. J. Splawn, Anthropology, Beverly, Bruce Bjornstad, Carbon dioxide, Central Washington, Chief Moses, Cold Traps, Corfu, Crab Creek, Culture, Dan Bolyard, Deer, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Erratics, Family, Flood, Geology, History, Ice Age, Ice Cave, Icebergs, Jericho Camp, Milwaukee Road, Missoula Flood, Moses Coulee, Nate Lewis, Native Americans, Nature, New York Times, Othello, Palisades Road, Pioneers, Saddle Mountain, Sentinel Gap, Smyrna, Spokane Daily Chronicle, Tri-City Herald, Washington, Washington State
Taunton’s red brick substation from the middle of the abandoned Milwaukee Road main line, looking west in July, 2012.
In the 1940s the Milwaukee Road provided an important means of transportation in Central Washington. Gasoline rationing meant that much travel took place by train.Whether they were traveling out of military duty or seeking work on farms or at the burgeoning Manhattan Project south of Saddle Mountain, travelers might at some point be stranded in the middle of nowhere, waiting for a train.
I grew up near the red brick substation of Taunton, a minor stop on the line. It’s hard to imagine why strangers from Virginia or Ohio might find themselves waiting for a train at Taunton. Perhaps their train had to pull onto the siding to get out of the way of another, more important train. Nonetheless, in my intimate knowledge of the Taunton substation, I knew of several occasions when stranded travelers left evidence of their visit in the form of scrawled pencil lines on the red brick.
Travelers’ graffiti that remains of the walls of Taunton’s substation is usually found on bricks that would be in shaded areas in the heat of an afternoon. With no air conditioning, it would quickly become unbearably Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Art, Columbia Basin, Education, Family History, History, Illustration, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Travel, Washington, World War II
Tagged Art, Artifacts, Central Washington, Copper, Culture, Dick Keeney, Eastern Washington, Education, Electricity, Fire, Gangs, Graffiti, History, Manhattan Project, Milwaukee Road, Ohio, Othello, Railroads, Second World War, Taunton, Thieves, Transportation, Virginia, Washington, World War II
Skiers dressed more casually in the late 1940s. A line forms for the rope-tow to the top of the Snoqualmie Pass ski hill in the background.
Wilderness skiing at Snoqualmie Pass began in the 1920s, and as it gained in popularity, the Seattle Parks Department sought a permit to open a designated ski hill at the summit. Tourists took the Milwaukee Road trains to the summit for picnics and hiking in the summertime, and the railroad provided transportation to the ski slopes in the winter. The convenience of automobile access to the summit led to a decline in reliance on the train for transportation. A private enterprise applied with the Forest Service to construct a rope-tow, and by 1937 the Snoqualmie Summit Ski Resort was in operation.
Walls of snow line the shoulders of the highway at the summit of Snoqualmie Pass. The state rest area and the ski areas were constructed in the 1930s.
The pass got a lot more snow in those days. Plowing the highway created canyons of icy snow. Intrepid skiers lined up shoulder to shoulder as they waited for the rope-tow to the top of the slopes. Continue reading
Posted in Cars, Family History, History, Railroads, Skiing, Sports, Travel, Washington
Tagged Central Washington, Culture, Family History, Fashion, History, Milwaukee Road, Nature, Railroads, Recreation, Seattle, Second World War, Skiing, Snoqualmie Pass, Snow, Snowplows, Sports, Transportation, Washington, Washington State, World War II
The shattered remains of a bison leg bone, found in a bulldozer tailing near the Milwaukee tracks at Taunton. Fossil animal remains from this area are typically severely broken and disjointed.
Recently I acquired Bruce Bjornstad’s guidebook to the Ice Age Floods of Eastern Washington, On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods (Keokee Books, 2006). In fact I’ve been carrying it around in my briefcase and using it to fill in odd moments when I’m waiting for my son to finish his Jazz Band practice or to get out of school. It’s about time an interpretive tour guide like this was published! Because of the immensity of the subject, this book is a field guide only to a truncated rectangle of curious flood features in the Mid-Columbia Basin. But it is rich in detail and information. This year, Bjornstad published a second volume focusing on the northern landscapes where the flood began through the Mid-Columbia. He presumably plans to follow the water through to its eventual mixing with the sea.
An amateur only (have I ever made that completely clear?), I was excited to see that scientists had actually taken time to study the area I’ve been writing about. That gigantic landslide I mentioned in my post The Five Mile Slide actually has a name, quite logically the Corfu Slide…although it stretches from Taunton on the east to Corfu on the west. Bjornstad’s book spends a couple of chapters explaining the mechanisms that allowed the flood to create such a variety of unusual landscapes. The hummocky surface of this landslide had always seemed mysterious to me, but his book details precisely how the original topography slumped away in successive wedges. The feature I refer to as Column Crevice in my post To the Cliffs and Beyond appears to be one of the cracks in the earth where a landslide was developing, left exposed at the end of the flood, a landslide frozen in time. In fact a hike across this landscape would reveal successive events in the process of the collapse of the northern slope of Saddle Mountain.
And I was touched to see that Bjornstad refers to what locals around Othello refer to as The Bench has been named Parting of the Waters. Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Books, Columbia Basin, Disaster, Education, Geology, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Natural Disaster, Saddle Mountain, Science, Washington
Tagged Belfast, Bill Hanson, Bruce Bjornstad, Central Washington State College, Central Washington University, Column Crevice, Corfu, Corfu Slide, Danielson, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Environment, Flood, Fossils, Geology, Glaciers, History, Ice Age, Ireland, Iron Age, Milwaukee Road, Montana, Nature, Othello, Othello Channels, Paleontology, Parting of the Waters, Petrified Bone, Saddle Mountain, Sentinel Gap, Taunton, The Bench, Washington