Showing posts with label Washington state. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington state. Show all posts

November 16, 2013

Meanwhile in the Similkameen Valley

A 1935 Packard that functioned as a "school bus" for ranchers' and orchardists' kids in Keremeos, BC. From left: George Hodson (the driver), Ivadelle Clifton, Art Harris, Ike Harris, Wilson Clifton, Wendell Clifton, Mrs. Harris, Shirley Harris, Mrs. Louise Clifton. Photo taken probably in 1936. Click to enlarge. (Photo: Virtual Museum of Canada)

A couple of days ago I was notified of publication of a new issue of The Goose, an online publication of The Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada. The contents promised, "Harold Rhenisch’s memoir on the Similkameen Valley," which caught my attention, because my Canadian relatives either live there or originated there, particularly in Keremeos, "the fruit stand capital of Canda." (You can download the issue as a PDF.)

Three of those scruffy kids are Dad's first cousins: I still get Christmas cards from Ivadelle, who ended up living just over the line in Washington state, while Wendell and Wilson kept the cattle business going. In fact, thanks to my great-uncle Ivan's reproductive success, the Canadian Cliftons outnumber my side of the family.

"Similkameen Peaches," Rhenisch's memoir, starts in the 1960s. It's a fine piece of impressionistic writing — family, local culture, ecology, and history all tossed together. If I were still teaching nature writing, which I'd rather call nature-and-culture writing, I would assign it.
I’m cold. Men have just walked on the Moon. Charlie still owns the jungle in Vietnam, and just a few weeks ago I watched Canadian fighter jets scramble to meet American fighter jets over the Reserve down south, on the Line, as we put it around these parts, above the dwarf shrews of Nighthawk, Washington, at any rate, above the 1858 American-Canadian border, the one put in to keep the peace, although not between any of the people here. Virtually all the people here were Indians and Americans, who all walked back and forth across the border pretty much as they pleased, and saw, really, no great use for it.
And you thought people only talked that way about la frontera? Even in the 1960s, you get the feeling that in Keremeos, "Canada" was an abstraction. Someplace else.

In fact, reading and hearing and viewing photos about the Old West era there, there is a definite sensation that southern British Columbia was more like eastern Washington or Montana than anywhere else. Ontario? Quebec? Far away and sort of foreign.

(A memory of Wendell slapping the table in a Keremeos cafe: "Ottawa wants to take away our guns!")

Maybe that "Old West" unity broke down somewhat after World War I and Prohibition emphasized the differences between the nations. But there is still a lot of similarity.

My great-uncle made no conscious decision to emigrate, as I understand; he was just a young guy moving from one railroad-telegrapher job to the next. Then he put down roots, literally — fruit trees — and later the cattle business. I remember him in his mid-nineties, tottering out to the barn to show me "my boys," the prize bulls.

September 23, 2013

Olympic National Park: Hoh Rain Forest

The west side of the Olympic Peninsula is the wet side, where the trees grow big — but sometimes just when I am thinking to myself about that, I look deeper in the woods and see the really big stumps. A few even still display the holes for springboards.
The glacier-fed Hoh River flows west into the Pacific
M. and I drove up the Hoh Rain Forest road into Olympic National Park and hiked a couple of short trails. The Hall of Mosses trail features a grove of bigleaf maples completely swathed in mosses, lichens, and every local variety of epiphyte.

Says the Park Service website, "one criteria [sic] for the determination of a temperate rain forest is that the amount of moss and other epiphytes exceeds the weight of all the foliage (leaves and needles) per acre by at least two times."
Bigleaf maple trees covered in moss, Hoh rain forest
You don't often get a sunny day in the rain forest. Nearby Forks ("We brake for vampires") averages 212 days annually of measurable precipitation — about 107 inches (2.7 meters or 15.3 hands). The Hoh forest itself averages 140 to 170 inches (12 to 14 feet).

September 22, 2013

Olympic National Park: Hurricane Ridge

The present

Walking around the Hurricane Ridge parking lot and then up the trail, I felt that my energy level was high. In fact, I was congratulating myself at how bouncy I felt up there at timberline. Then Rational Mind kicked in: "Dude, you're at a lower altitude than your house."
Hurricane Ridge visitor center, with Mount Olympus in the background
Timberline is so much lower there, thanks to latitude and whatever other climactic factors. The visitor center is at 5,242 feet (1,911 varas, 1,598 meters), in other words, the same as the high plains city of Denver. Mt. Olympus is 6,900 feet but gets massive snowfall as storms sweep off the North Pacific.
Trail in the Hurricane Ridge area
Looking north: the white streak is a cloud bank on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, while the dark strip on the horizon is Vancouver Island.
The past

Driving up to the ridge, I was trying to remember and reconstruct the last time I had entered Olympic National Park. It was between my freshman and sophomore year of college, and my girlfriend and I had driven up from Portland for a quick backpacking trip in her Volkswagen squareback.

Did we car-camp the first night in the park? I know we hiked to some lake —  Lake Angeles? Why did we go there? What did we eat? What did we talk about? All I can remember is camping beside some lake in the forest. And the "green tunnel" effect of driving on the Olympic Peninsula, which still struck me even after my first year in western Oregon.

I was keeping a journal then, but I can't consult it, for it was one of the volumes that my mother trashed (and then lied about it) after I left them in my old desk at her house. So it goes.

September 21, 2013

Dungeness Days

At the Juan de Fuca Cottages, Sequim, Washington
Back to the travelogue . . .

We left Port Townsend last week  and drove on west to Sequim ("skwim"). While at my sister's home, I had started researching motels in Sequim and nearby Port Angeles, but M. said she wanted to find a classic vacation cottage by the sea.

Luck was with us: the Juan de Fuca Cottages in Sequim had a vacancy, and they were exactly as she envisioned — old enough to be "vintage" but clean and well-maintained — and just steps from the water.

The dark line on the horizon is Dungeness Spit. Closer, it looks like this:
Dungeness Spit
The spit is part of a national wildlife refuge, and there is a county park adjacent for camping. If you were to walk 5.5 miles along the beach, you would come to a lighthouse.

Sandy bluffs inland from the spit
This eroded bluff is what creates the spit. As sand erodes from its face, wind and tidal action move the sand along the spit's outer edge in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, depositing grains as they go.

Beach shelter on Dungeness Spit
After a day in the Hurricane Ridge area (more to come), we moved on west and got serious cottage envy at Lake Crescent, also in Olympic National Park.
The Singer Tavern Cottages at Crescent Lake. There are others.
If you want to visit Olympic Park in the laid-back manner, you can rent various cottages at the old resort of Lake Crescent.
Lake Crescent Lodge
The lodge is the original Singer's (or Singer) Lake Crescent Tavern from 1916, a hotel really, back when guests arrived by ferry.

We can dream.

September 19, 2013

Caution: Meadow Repairs in Progress


I did not see the repairs in progress, but I can think of two reasons why not:
1. The repairs happen too slowly for my buzzy mammal brain to process.

2. The work is done at night by long-tailed voles with tiny wheelbarrows.
(Photo taken in Mount Rainier National Park)

September 18, 2013

Port Townsend Then, Then, and Now

Late 19th-century buildings on Water Street
I first saw Port Townsend, Washington, in the mid-1970s after my dad and stepmom built a house on nearby Whidbey Island. From my Colorado frame of reference, its air of "boom days past" made me think of (pre-casino) Cripple Creek with a waterfront.

Just as bustling Cripple Creek in its 1890s heyday was served by several railroads and a streetcar system, Port Townsend's boosters saw it destined to be Puget Sound's major port.

On Port Townsend's waterfront
A thriving lumber port, its Downtown area — the waterfront — was devoted to commercial shipping and to the business of separating sailors from their money as efficiently as possible. Respectable people lived on a higher level, literally, in the Uptown area.

But the railroad never arrived, and Port Townsend stagnated, although the arrival of the Coast Artillery Corps at Ford Worden made a difference. From 1902 through World War Two, batteries at Fort Worden, Marrowstone Island, and Whidbey Island ensured that any foreign battle fleet entering Puget Sound would be triangulated by multiple guns.

On successive family visits, we would always take the ferry to Port Townsend, gawk at the Victorian buildings awaiting the restorationist's paint brush, check out the maritime restoration projects ongoing among the wooden-boat cultists, and eat some seafood.

The folks moved back to Colorado in 1990 and, in essence, gave us a vacation by flying us out to bring back Dad's Jeep, which we drove home via the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and San Francisco. But first we loaded it on the Keystone ferry to Port Townsend, ate a bowl of cioppino (me), and paid Downtown one last visit.

Where poetry is cute.
Now it is twenty-three years later. All those Victorian buildings are restored and full of restaurants and "shoppes." There is even a writers' "workshoppe."

I saw fewer wooden hulls and more expensive motor yachts. The town is now billed as an "arts community," whatever that means, and it attracts prosperous retirees—I can't blame them.

Fort Warden is —has been for a long time — a state park with beaches and trails, a conference center, and you can even rent a house on Officers Row for your vacation stay.

In a  town where "shangai" was once a verb, now it is the name of a restaurant at the marina.

September 16, 2013

Parkitecture at Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park

The "Stockade Group" Visitor Center
The "Yakima Park Stockade Group" buildings at Sunrise were built in the 1930s–1940s, modeled consciously on frontier blockhouses. I think that they would look familiar to a Roman legionary in first-century Germania as well — who thought that the roots of the National Park Service ran that deep?
Sunrise Lodge, side view
Sunrise Lodge was built in 1931, originally as part of a never-competed resort hotel. Behind me — but un-photographed — was a parkitectural "comfort station" that is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

September 15, 2013

"You mean there's a senator for all this?"

View looking NE into the Cascade Mtns. from Mount Rainier National Park.
Said by the very urban poet Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997), whom the not-so-urban poet Gary Snyder in the 1950s coaxed  into working one season as a fire lookout in the Cascades.

The incident is found on p. 31 of Snyder's book The Practice of the Wild, which is on my hypothetical desert-island book list.

And that whole brief era is described in detail in John Suiter's Poets on the Peaks.

It was probably the same summer that the two of them encountered a party of anglers on a forest trail and Ginsberg intoned, "WE are forest beatniks." A line that I will never have the opportunity to use.