Sandhill cranes frolic in the fields of the Danielson farm, with the Saddle Mountain cliffs looming over it. Photograph by Phyllis Danielson.
The communities of Oso and Darrington were devastated by the recent landslide, in which around fifty houses and more than thirty people were annihilated in the space of a couple of minutes. It will be a long time before life can return to anything like it used to be, with Darrington’s main artery to the rest of the world cut off. Now commuters from Darrington have to head north, past our Sauk River cabin, to get to their jobs, shops and supplies. It takes a lot of time and gas. My son’s scout troop raised cash and supplies that we took to Darrington last weekend, and I’ve been watching the news about the landslide daily.
Pictures of the Oso landslide reminded me very much of the landslide my family and I used to climb around on when I was a kid. One of our favorite hikes was to the cliffs at the top of Saddle Mountain, where you can climb down to a ledge where sandstone exposures have been carved by the winds and graffito-ed by generations of local visitors. Continue reading
Posted in Cold War, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Death, Disaster, Earthquake, Education, Geology, Hanford, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Irrigation, Natural Disaster, Saddle Mountain, Science, Washington
Tagged Catastrophe, Central Washington, Climate, Cold War, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Columbia River basalt, Corfu, Crab Creek, Culture, Darrington, Desert, Dr. Bruce Bjornstad, Eastern Washington, Education, Flood, Geology, Hanford Reach National Monument, Hanford Reservation, History, Ice Age, Lake Missoula, Landslide, Low Gap, Mars, NASA, Nature, Oso, Photography, Saddle Gap, Saddle Mountain, Sauk River, Senator Clarence C. Dill, Sentinel Gap, Stillaguamish River, Washington State, Wenatchee
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
Although the rock I sat on was in direct sunlight, a brisk upriver wind kept me cool. The papers on my lap rattled in the breeze and the pages of the black-bound reference book chattered, but I was gazing out across a tiny inlet where the river’s water formed an eddy. It was the color and texture of desert-baked glass, slipping smoothly past me, drawn by the rush of the current beyond the boulder point. Across the river a sheer cliff of basalt loomed over me, soaring upward to a rugged crest far above.
It was the summer of 1977. I was studying Russian.
I developed this habit of disappearing when I had a day off work. I would wait for the heat to build until it was well over ninety degrees. Then I would borrow my dad’s gold 1970 Ford Maverick (a color that was marketed as Freudian Gilt) and I would head out. I kept the window cranked down for the natural air conditioning–the only type the car afforded. Higher speed meant better relief from the heat, but I was drawn to the old Corfu Road where I had to slow down. The dust that filtered through the open window was another price I paid.
I don’t know what drew me to this place the first time I went there. I had driven the entire length of the Corfu Road, turned left at Beverly and headed south through Sentinel Gap. I remember stopping on side roads that led to the river bank, but there the river was impounded by Wanapum Dam. Farther on I tried again, where the reservoir behind Priest Rapids Dam kept the current in check. I was just exploring.
I purposely avoided anyplace with people. I had my books and papers on the seat beside me with a couple of bottles of soda and some sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper. I was working on the complexity of the adjectival endings Russian uses, and I knew Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Books, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Death, Education, Family History, History, Native Americans, Washington
Tagged Aeroflot, Armenia, Austria, Beverly, British Columbia, California, Christianity, CIA, College, Columbia River, Corfu, Crab Creek, Culture, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Europe, Eastern Washington, Education, Europe, Family, Figure Two Ranch, Ford Maverick, France, History, Joel Palmer, Kiev, LA, Leningrad, Literature, Moscow, Native Americans, Nature, Novosibirsk, Prague, Priest Rapids Dam, Russia, Samarkand, Sentinel Gap, Siberia, Soviet Union, Spokane, Tashkent, Theater, Ural Mountains, Uzbekistan, Vilnius, Volga River, Wanapum Dam, Wanapum Indians, Washington, Washington State
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