Wednesday, November 15, 2017

CwHD 30

If this is your first visit to CwHD, a brief introduction is available. Just click on the CwHD Intro link in the sidebar. To return, simply click the Home link. Older editions are archived and listed by date. Conversations with a Hypoxic Dog began on May 1 of this year. Words and Language and other Nonsense remains the focus; but a bit of History was added several weeks ago.


THE CHINOOK

From Broughton Bluff on past the town of St Helens where it bends sharply north, the Columbia runs fairly straight and wide. The prominent bluff, named for a British lieutenant who explored the river in 1792, overlooks the Sandy River. Named the Quicksand River for the consistency of its banks and bottom, the Sandy was just one of many rivers that debouched into the Columbia. The silt brought by these rivers and the shallow, slow water created many islands large and small along this reach.

While the larger tributaries brought silt, the smaller streams and creeks created waterfalls. The Cascades are relatively young mountains, and water erosion has left a few deep, narrow side canyons, but also many canyons in the making. Downriver, preoccupied with their destination, Lewis and Clark noticed and noted fewer details of the landscape than they did when they were homeward bound. From April 9, 1806, bound upriver, comes this journal entry from Merriwether Lewis:

... we passed several beautiful cascades which fell from a great height over the stupendous rocks which closes the river on both sides, the most remarkable of these cascades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock into a narrow bottom of the river on the south side ...

After camping at the mouth of the Sandy, they paddled on. Encouraged by tidewater and the imminent success of their journey, they focused on the end goal and missed the Willamette River and the fertile valley it drains. They corrected this oversight on their return, but did have to backtrack to locate the river the native Americans had described. Clark traveled some distance up the Willamette, but not far enough to see Willamette Falls though native guides had described the area to the south and the fertile valley it drained.

From the journals as edited by Nicholas Biddle, this entry from April 3 - 4, 1806:

13 miles below the last village, he entered the mouth of a large river, which is concealed by three small islands ... The current of this river is as gentle as that of the Columbia; its surface is smooth and even, and it appears to possess water enough for the largest ship. Its length from north to south we are unable to determine, but we believe that the valley must extend a great distance ... being naturally fertile, would, If properly cultivated, afford subsitance for 40,000 or 50,000 souls.

Lewis and Clark meet the Chinooks

As the cultural changes of the native communities became as dramatic as the geographical changes of the landscape, the expedition of Lewis and Clark encountered a wide welcoming river, but taciturn, contrary natives. The cooperation they had come to expect was replaced by hard bargains and what they saw as petty theft by the natives known as the Skilloots.

This Chinookan speaking tribe occupied both sides of the river between the Washougal and Cowlitz Rivers. They had a fair sized village where the airport is located and a large village near the mouth of the Willamette; and they effectively controlled traffic and trade on the Columbia acting as middlemen for all tribes between the coast and the Dalles. Lewis and Clark commented on the many European articles, from guns to buttons, that the Skilloots had stockpiled.

The bounty of the sea, the river, and the surrounding woods made for large populations and the leisure to develop diverse local customs. Trading had become a major part of this way of life. Early 18th century population estimates place as many as 80,000 natives along the river. With the coming of European traders, the lives of the Chinookan people changed, and the change was not for the better.

Disease swept the tribes. By the time of Lewis and Clark, 1805-06, the native population was reduced by half. Initially smallpox emptied the villages, but successive waves of malaria, measles, and influenza also took a heavy toll. Population estimates tell the tale. By 1780 there were 20,000 natives. By 1805, the number was reduced to 12,000. By 1850, only 4,000 remained. By 1910, 1,000 clung to desperate lives.

Couple a skilled trader with a deep suspicion of Europeans and the attitude the expedition encountered is easy to understand. Lewis and Clark met the hostility with some aggression; but, in general, managed to avoid any major confrontation. As they paddled on through the Coast Range and the cold rains fell, they had a bigger issue to deal with: the Columbia itself.

From Clark's journal, November 4, 1805:

... N. 28º W. 3 miles to a Stard bend & campd. near a village on the Std. Side passed one on each Side, proceded on untill after dark to get Clere of Indians we Could not 2 Canoes pursued us and 2 others Came to us, and were about us all night we bought a fiew roots &c ...

Post Office Lake, Washington RM 95 near Lewis & Clark campsite




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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

CwHD 29

If this is your first visit to CwHD, a brief introduction is available. Just click on the CwHD Intro link in the sidebar. To return, simply click the Home link. Older editions are archived and listed by date.


Conversations with a Hypoxic Dog began on May 1 of this year. Last week a new format was introduced. Words and Language and other Nonsense will remain the focus; but a bit of History will be added. Additionally, I will now publish just once a week, on Wednesdays. This edition continues downriver with Lewis and Clark just 125 miles from the sea.


ROCKS

My daughter sat on the foredeck and my wife and I filled the small cockpit of our West Wight Potter, a jaunty little sailboat just 15 feet in length. Leaving the glassy calm backwater behind Rooster Rock State Park, we eased down a short channel, gave the rocky submerged point some clearance and turned the bow upriver.

The quiet water of the narrow channel from the park mooring posed no problem for the Potter. Once on the Columbia, the current became a different kettle of fish. A crown like that of a roadway marked the deepest water of the main channel as it flowed along at three or four knots. Our little 2 HP outboard could push the boat at two or three knots. I shaded the main flow and pointed her bow upriver. We were on our way, sailing to Cape Horn.

Cape Horn Columbia River, Carleton Watkins, 1867

Intrepid though the this first voyage on a new boat was, the notorious Cabos de Hornos at the tip of Tierra del Fuego was not our destination. That Cape Horn and this Cape Horn are similar in size, but both the weather and sea state are vastly different. The Columbia is not the Southern Ocean.

Historically, several shoreline outcrops on the river were daubed 'Cape Horn.' Two remain. Our goal was the basalt cliff outcrop brooding over the Columbia at RM 132. On November 2, 1805, William Clark located the prominent feature at "... S. 47° W. 12 miles to a Stard. point of rocks of a high clift of black rocks ... " Strong local winds characterize the area, and the winds along with the general appearance apparently gave rise to the name.

Our Cape Horn is an exposed section of Columbia River basalt. The rock was a product of several hundred fissure lava flows which covered most of Washington and Oregon and parts of Idaho. These flows were events of the Early Miocene, 17 to 5.5 million years old. The estimated volume of these eruptions was at least 700 million cubic miles, the largest such flows in the earth's history.

A reporter for the Utah Desert News, Andrew Jensen, filed this report as he traveled the river in 1895:

... As we proceed to the lower end of the gorge through which the Columbia passes through the Cascade Mountains, we notice across the river, in the state Washington, the so-called Cape Horn, also called Gibraltar ... [It] is composed of solid rock of apparent bark formation, rising abruptly from the water's edge ... These rocks are at the upper portion surrounded by cone-shaped pillars known as the Needles ...

Jensen's 'bark formation' is columnar basalt. From Wallula Gap to Astoria this type of rock provides a clear picture of the region's geologic past. After the massive lava flows of the Miocene, it was the relatively recent Bretz Floods of just 10,000 years ago which eroded the earthen layers and exposed the basalt. A good source for more information on the geology of the river is here:

CLICK on photo to link to video

Passing the beach at Rooster Rock Park, we were tempted to join the folks swimming in the warm shallows. The boat has a flat bottom with a lifting center board, and it would be a simple matter to beach her and have a swim. Noise from the bow seemed to be insisting on a change of course; but the Captain was having none of it. The mate suggested lunch. We pressed on. Phoca Rock, that curious phallic lump near the center of the river, became the Captain's goal. We would double Phoca mutiny or no.

From Clark's journal, November 2, 1805: "... at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter ..." Though they make no mention in their daily journals of seeing seals in the area , the rock was named for them. Phoca in Greek means 'seal.' In his notes from the winter camp at Fort Clatsop, Clark writes: "... 11 miles to the Pho ca rock in midl. Rivr. 100 foot high, Saw Seal's; ..." These were probably harbor seals, frequent visitors on the river from the mouth to, historically, the Dalles.

Phoca Rock , Penny Post Card ca.1910

The rock sits just 30 feet above the river today, erosion doing its work. As we motored on, the afternoon warmed and the wind came up from the northwest. Up went the mainsail, out rolled the jib. We sailed past Sand Island and came abeam of Cape Horn. Appropriately, strong gusts now saw the Captain taking in sail. It had also occurred to him that the return trip would find the wind on the nose, always a more difficult occupation. Wind against current began to creat chop. Confidence waned. The mate feared sea sickness. We gybed away from Phoca Rock and began to beat down river.

Putting into the lee of Sand Island, some lunch, and a general lull in the afternoon breeze restored our confidence. We returned without incident to the shelter of the moorage behind Rooster Rock.




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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

CwHD 28

If this is your first visit to CwHD, a brief introduction is available. Just click on the CwHD Intro link in the sidebar. To return, simply click the Home link. Older editions are archived and listed by date.


Conversations with a Hypoxic Dog began on May 1 of this year. This edition launches a new format. Words and Language and other Nonsense will remain the focus; but a bit of History will be added. Additionally, I will now publish just once a week, on Wednesdays. This edition continues downriver with Lewis and Clark just 140 miles from the sea.


WIND AND WEATHER

The prominent thrust of Beacon Rock found the explorers through the mountains and now at tide water. On October 31, 1805, Clark wrote:

... a remarkable high detached rock Stands in a bottom on the Stard Side near the lower point of this Island on the Stard. Side about 800 feet high and 400 paces around, we call Beaten rock ...

And from his journal of April 6, 1806, on their return trip, he noted:

... the river is here about 1 1/2 miles wide; it's general width from the beacon rock which may be esteemed the head of tide water ... it is only in the fall of the year when the river is low that the tides are perceptible as high as beacon rock ...

As the river widened, the current slowed and became shallow with sandy beaches at what the explorers called 'bottoms.' The weather, too, changed. Once through the heart of the Cascade range, the arid eastern reaches gave way to a " ... countary a high mountain on each side thickly covered with timber, such as Spruce, Pine, Cedar, oake Cotton & & ... " And more often than not they woke to " ... cloudy rainey disagreeable morning[s] ..."

Drawing by Roger Cooke, Washington State Historical Society
Lewis & Clark Today

The journals of Lewis and Clark noted 128 "rain days" from November 1805 (Beacon Rock) to March 1806 (Fort Clatsop). An average winter for northwest Oregon. Astoria, for example, recorded 127 days of rain during the winter of 2003-2004. "Rained all the after part of last night," wrote Clark on November 5. "I slept very little ... " And on the 6th, " ... A cool wet raney morning ... "

As wet and disagreeable as the conditions were, when the wind began to blow their troubles multiplied. The Gorge, as is well documented, is a wind funnel. When high pressure sits to the east and low pressure flows in from the coast, the resulting pressure gradients create strong winds that increase in velocity as they wend their way through the constrictions of the Gorge. Folks in Corbett, a small town perched on a bluff above the western end of the gorge, like to tell visitors that they use anchor chain for a wind gauge. If the chain hasn't lifted off the ground, it's not really windy.

From Lewis (January 31, 1806, Fort Clatsop):

The winds from the Land brings us could and clear weather while those obliquely along either coast or off the Oceans bring us warm damp cloudy weather. The hardest winds are always from the S.W.

This is a typical weather pattern for the winter months on the Oregon coast. Had he spent a summer in the Northwest, he would have noted a shift in the pattern. The wind, he would find, would come primarily from the northwest. With this shift, the rain relents. Winter months in the Coast Range bring 140 inches of rain; summer months receive less the ten inches.

November 14th Thursday 1805

rained all the last night without intermition, and this morning. wind blows verry hard ... one of our canoes is much broken by the waves dashing it against the rocks ...

In the summer of 2004, I paddled a sea kayak from Beacon Rock to Cathlamet (RM 40) and then, off the river, through the sloughs to Skamakawa and on to the Lewis and Clark Wildlife Refuge. My journey was done in stages over the course of the summer. No broken canoes or lashing rain and wind.

Not far down river from Beacon Rock, paddling the Washington side to stay out of the main channel, I picked up a bit of breeze and some chop. When the wind is from the west, against the river's current, it can kick up waves and white caps in short order. Running your hand against the lay of your hair gives you the idea. The river was getting the least bit tousled.

Into this head wind, I sat up and put a little more muscle into each stroke. Ahead on the river were two aluminum fishing boats bobbing up and down in the mouth of Skamania Island's north channel. "Can't be too bad," I thought. "Just the wind getting funneled past Skamania. No problem."




I put my head down and paddled harder. Chop became two foot waves with their tops blown off. I began taking water over the bow as I slapped into the face of the waves. I knew the boat was up for the conditions (it was a sea kayak after all); but the paddling was beginning to get too much like work.

I peered down river looking for my fishermen. They, more prudent than I, were gone. One more faceful of water made up my mind. I steered for the east end of the island, into the relief of shallow water and respite from the wind. Laughed at myself.

Turned tail and skedaddled, ya did, I thought. But then, as the old climbing adage goes: there are bold climbers and there are old climbers; but there aren't any old, bold climbers. I eased over to the lee of a bend on the Oregon shore and paddled down river.



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Monday, October 30, 2017


CwHD 27

If this is your first visit to CwHD, a brief introduction is available. Just click on the CwHD Intro link. To return, simply click the Home link.


Conversations with a Hypoxic Dog began on May 1 of this year. On Thursday, November 6, a new format will be launched. Words and Language and other Nonsense will remain the focus; but a bit of History will be added.

Miss Construed

Historically, words misconstrued have created a great deal of mischief. In 1977, Jimmy Carter, then newly elected President, fell victim to inept translations. He said that he was happy to be in Poland; the translator rendered this as "... he was happy to grasp at Poland's private parts." Carter suffered several such incidents and became, literally, a Polish Joke.

Each week Miss Construed will visit CwHD with examples of and insights into word gaffs. How curious to think that an Italian astronomer's use of the 'canali' in his 1877 description of the Martian surface would lead to Orson Welles' classic 1938 radio broadcast 'The War of the Worlds'. Adapted from the novel by H.G. Wells, the broadcast caused a good deal of panic as a sizable number of citizens throughout the country thought they were listening to an actual news broadcast.

War of the Worlds Headline (linked to broadcast)

* * *

History also has its part to play in the ongoing travelogue, "A Brief History Of The Columbia River.' Travel literature is an old and respected genre. A Greek named Pausanias who lived some 2000 years ago is often mentioned as one of the earliest travel memoirest; but examples of the genre are fairly common in both Arabic and Chinese literature.

In 1336, Petrarch's climb on Mt Ventoux in France is often noted as the first mention of traveling simply for the sake of enjoyment. Petrarch wrote that he climbed Ventoux just for the pleasure of seeing the view from its famous height. In the 17th century, Japanese poet Bashō undertook several journeys for no other purpose than to visit friends and famous sites. His The Narrow Road To The Deep North is the definitive work of poetic prose.

By the 19th century, young English travelers had created the concept of The Grand Tour. Before a career could begin, one must travel to broaden one's horizons. Often a written account followed. This literature of tourism was pioneered by Robert Louis Stevenson. His An Inland Voyage (1878) and Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) are among the first books to suggest that camping might be an acceptable recreation.


These tales of bold journeys by mere tourists help to popularize the narratives of more daunting exploration. Cook's voyages, Byrd's attempt on the South Pole, Lindbergh's flight all became required reading. Darwin's account of his voyage in the Beagle has a far greater readership than his more important On The Origin of Species. And The Journals of Lewis and Clark are widely read and studied for their first glimpse of the Pacific Northwest despite the errant spelling, capitalization, and syntax. H. W. Tilman's climbing in the Himalaya in the 1930s and his subsequent sails to high latitudes in the 1950s provided the grist for many such tales. And it was Tilman's understated style that became the model for most of the writers who followed.

Exploration, whether physical, intellectual or spiritual, seems hard-wired into the psyche of homo sapiens. A need there is to go to terra incognito and then write an account. Sailor Webb Chiles has written:

People who know of me at all probably do so as a sailor; but I have always thought of myself as an artist, and I believe that the artist's defining responsibility is to go to the edge of human experience and send back reports.1



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1Webb Chiles, Introduction to weblog www.inthepresentsea.com

Thursday, October 26, 2017



Dawg Sez
23

If this is your first visit to CwHD, a brief introduction is available. Just click on the CwHD Intro link. To return, simply click the Home link.

This is the sixth installment of my brief history of the Columbia River. As I've mentioned, I am only considering the sections of the river that form the Oregon-Washington border. As Lewis and Clark's voyage down the river dovetails neatly with this part of the river, I will include snippets from their journals as well.

The journals are best read in their original format even though the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are all problematic. Any added annotation is mine. The river, historically, had changed very little for thousands of years before Lewis and Clark recorded what they saw.


Beacon Rock

I began this exploration of the Columbia River in part through the eyes of Merriweather Lewis and William Clark. Lewis brought with him a Newfoundland dog named Seaman. The dog is mentioned several times in the journals, but from August 1805 through July 1806 he receives not a line. Seaman's Creek in Montana was named by Lewis for the dog apparently on their return journey; but little mention after that. The creek today is called Monture Creek.

As the Columbia winds through what is now the Columbia River Gorge (with Clark and Lewis paddling along, Seaman standing in the bows), a major rapid and several large landslides mark its course before it reaches tide water at what is now called Beacon Rock. The Columbia derives its power as it drops on average two feet for every mile. Through the 100 mile section from above the Dalles to tide water, the drop is nearer five feet per mile. From the reach of tide to the mouth, the Columbia flattens to just a 1/2 foot drop per mile.

the 'cascades' and lock at Cascade Locks
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photograph (from Wikimedia Commons)

The aerial view looks westward,downstream, and was taken September 8, 1929. Clearly shown is the main drop of Cascade Rapids where the Columbia River has been diverted southward around the toe of the Bonneville landslide. At the left is Cascade Locks, completed in 1896, which facilitated steamship travel upriver of the rapids. The Bridge of the Gods, completed in 1926, took advantage of the natural constriction of the Columbia between the eroded toe of the Bonneville landslide and the southern valley margin. The bridge still stands at its present location but was raised about forty feet during construction of Bonneville Dam to accommodate ship traffic on the pool that now drowns Cascade Rapids. Lewis and Clark's map has this has this note: ... the Great Shoot or Rapid. 150 Yards wide and 400 Yards long crowded with Stones and Islands ...

The other major geographical feature, alluded to in the photograph description above, is the Bonneville landslide. Clark remarks (October 30, 1805):

a remarkable circumstance in this part of the river is, Stumps of pine trees are in maney places at Some distance in the river, and gives every appearance of the rivers being damned up from below from Some cause which I am not at this time acquainted with ...

These landslides from the steep cliffs to the north dammed the river until it was eventually able to breach the tongue of the slide and carve a new path through the vast slide debris. In legend, native Americans recall this as the Bridge of the Gods. No consensus exists on the dating of the various slides. The probability is that all of the dating is correct in some way. From 1200 to 1700, the cliffs tumbled and diverted the river.

Southern face of Table Mountain, slide scar, photograph by Eric Prado

Below 'the Great Shoot', the river began to level and the currents eased. Near what Clark first named 'Beaten Rock', they got there first taste of salt. The huge rock, known in geology as a monolith like Gibraltar, marks the eastern extent of the Pacific Ocean's tidal reach. Despite Clark's entry, the explorer's intent no doubt was to affix 'Beacon' as the name. This was a milestone in their journey. They all felt then that the end was near.

Beacon Rock, U.S. Geological Survey photograph


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Monday, October 23, 2017


CwHD 25

If this is your first visit to CwHD, a brief introduction is available. Just click on the CwHD Intro link. To return, simply click the Home link.


This edition of CwHD continues my series of observations on writers and how character, or the lack of same, stamps its mark on their literary style. As I observed earlier, how one lives colors every aspect of what one does. The old computer science dictum still applies: garbage in equals garbage out.


KNOW THYSELF

This pre-Socratic momento mori was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Socrates later expanded the idea and his thought became: The unexamined life is not worth living ( Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν).

mosaic from Roman excavations

Hemingway's protagonist in For Whom The Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan, struggles with a more salient momento mori as he sits on a Spanish hillside, mortally wounded, waiting for the soldiers to come. He thinks suicide may be an option; but decides against this option for there was "... still something you can do yet." Written in 1939, Hemingway himself still had something he could do. By the late 50s, his options were gone; and the shotgun beckoned.

As I mentioned last week, the man's life style went counter to his writing style. How he wrote---simply, incisively, with an understated elegance---was not how he lived. His life seemed to be one futile attempt to be the characters he created in his fiction. He knew his creations; but he did not understand himself.

This conflict between creation and character and the abusive lifestyle that followed led to a breakdown of his abilities and ultimately his death. His life became complicated, his thinking muddied, and his actions predictably angry and destructive.

Heminway, Cuba

Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard's Almanack wrote: There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one's self. Need something to do? Have a good long look in the mirror.



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Thursday, October 19, 2017


Dawg Sez
22

If this is your first visit to CwHD, a brief introduction is available. Just click on the CwHD Intro link. To return, simply click the Home link.


This is the fifth installment of my brief history of the Columbia River. As I've mentioned, I am only considering the sections of the river that form the Oregon-Washington border. As Lewis and Clark's voyage down the river dovetails neatly with this part of the river, I will include snippets from their journals as well.

The journals are best read in their original format even though the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are all problematic. Any added annotation is mine. The river, historically, had changed very little for thousands of years before Lewis and Clark recorded what they saw.


Memaloose

'Native people' is a clumsy phrase. Those who use it mean well, and there is no better term. 'Indian' carries a slightly (and in some cases, not so slight) pejorative tint. And, of course, the word is based on a serious error of navigation on the part of one Cristofor Columbo. Indigenous people, the original inhabitants of a region, have no nifty moniker. They might be known as first people, aboriginal people, or even autochthonous people. Native will do for this account.

From the Dalles to Hood River is about 22 river miles. The terrain and flora begin to change as the river cuts its cleft through the Cascades. The transition is obvious. Lewis and Clark make several observations on the change.

Near the end of October, 1805, they pass a village near the Klickitat River and stop to smoke a pipe.

after brackfast we proceeded on, the mountains are high on each Side, containing Scattering pine white oake & under groth, hill Sides Steep and rockey; at 4 miles lower we observed a Small river falling in with great rapidity on the Stard. Side below which is a village of 11 houses here we landed to Smoke a pipe with the nativs and examine the mouth of the river, which I found to be 60 yards wide rapid and deep ...

As they drifted and paddled downriver, they came upon 13 graves on an island. This is Memaloose, today only 1/3rd remains above the flooding waters of Bonneville Dam. Repeatedly looted and, in native people's view, desecrated by the grave and obelisk of one Victor Trevitt, the native remains were relocated in 1937 (either by the various tribes or the Corps of Engineers), and the count then was given at 650 burials.

Penny Postcard 1908,  Gifford photograph

Clark described the above ground graves as 'squar vaults.' These burials, odd to Clark, were common among native people world wide. In Tibet, for example, a similar practice is called 'sky burials.' The body is placed in the open, usually a high rocky place, and allowed to decompose and be scattered by winds and birds and other carrion eaters.

passed three large rocks in The river the middle rock is large long and has Several Squar vaults on it. we call this rockey Island the Sepulchar. The last river we passed we Shall Call the Cataract River from the number of falls which the Indians say is on it- passed 2 Lodges of Indians a Short distance below the Sepulchar Island on the Stard. Side river wide, at 4 mile passed 2 houses on the Stard. Side, Six miles lower passed 4 houses above the mouth of a Small river 40 yards wide on the Lard. Side

Clark's 'Sepulcher Island' is, of course, Memaloose. The name Memaloose seems to be derived from the Chinook word memalust, which means "to die".



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