June 8, 2010
Woke up in the lovely and manicured Deschutes River State Park east of The Dalles. All the campsites are on a huge mowed lawn and I was one of the few people there.
The promise of seeing four mountaintops all at once from the Washington side of the Columbia took me about 7 miles north to Goldendale where I was able to see Mount Adams and Mt. Hood but not Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Rainier. I loved the view in spite of the haze. While in town, I visited the local Historical Society housed in a beautiful old mansion in town that turned out to be one of the best local museums I’ve seen. Lots of cowboy memorabilia and homesteading family things.
I drove east on the two-lane highway on the Washington side of the Columbia up to Pasco, Washington, to see Sacajawea State Park at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. There is a wonderful little museum there telling the high points of the Lewis & Clark adventure with illustrations and stuff to touch, like a flint lock rifle, and examples of beads, thimbles, etc. they took along for gifts for Indians. Lewis had asked Sacajawea to trade her blue bead belt (there was a beautiful one like it on display) for a sea otter skin, and then later gave her a new blue coat in exchange. The museum emphasized Sacajawea’s contribution as translator, peacemaker, natural food advisor, some time guide, meanwhile carrying her infant/toddler son around with her for over 3,000 miles. Lewis & Clark camped at the confluence of the rivers for two days, and I imagined turning the clock back to watch the friendly Indians welcome them with drumming and singing. Maya Lin, the creator of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., is creating a memorial, now in progress, at Sacajawea State Park, that will be done in August.
A little further east I went to the Whitman Mission National Historic site, the place where the massacre of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman too place. I’ve wanted to see this place for a long time and it did not disappoint—beautiful grounds, manicured lawns surrounded by native grasses and streams. The Whitmans intended to prepare the Cayuse Indians to be competitive with the white settlers as farmers and builders, but when the Indians began to die of measles and the whites didn’t, the natives thought Whitman’s medicine was killing them.
Tomorrow I’ll return to the Lewis & Clark story. Adios.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Returned to the Whitman Mission this morning; the peacefulness of the place is ethereal. If you “looked over Jordan” to that place, you would want to go right there. Under the welcome sign to the exhibit was this quote: Cultures are not ‘superior’ or ‘inferior,’ they are for better or worse adapted to a particular set of circumstances.” The Cayuse Indians the Whitmans unsuccessfully tried to teach to be farmers were a nomadic, proud people who hunted and moved with the seasons.
I drove east on two lane back roads towards Lewiston. Waits burg, Washington was a jewel of a town along the way. Ahead, near Dayton, were the Patit Creek Campsite Sculptures-- over 80 life sized steel ‘cut-outs’ representing the Lewis & Clark encampment of May 2, 1806 including 37 human figures and 27 horse figures set among the grain-covered rolling hills. This display gave a sense of the size of the party.
Onward to the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center in Lewiston. On the way, there was an empty state park where I spent two quarters for an excellent hot shower. At the Discovery Center was After leaving the Center, I began to look around for a place to stay overnight and found a small, well-kept place right on the Clearwater River about 10 miles east of Lewiston, which I’ve been watching flow by as I write this. Attempted to send out a photo of my site, but no cell service in these mountains. Oh well, time for some hot chocolate!
Outside of the city of Billings, Montana is the famous inscription of “Wm. Clark July 25, 1806”, etched on a rock cliff beside the river. This is the one piece of physical evidence that is left from the Lewis & Clark trip after 200 years and the property is a National Historic Site with a classy new interpretive center at “Pompey’s Pillar”, named after Sacajawea’s toddler who was traveling with the party. While we watched the video on a large screen, there were three smaller screens along the side of the room that showed additional detail from the speaker’s narrative.
After this stop I left the Lewis & Clark Trail for awhile; my friend, Judy, who lives in Billings was my sightseeing buddy for the day; she took me to a beautiful park to see native Indian petroglyphs, some dating from 9000 years ago. After seeing the restored and classy historical downtown we dropped by the Moss mansion, built by a local business magnate in 1903. While out and about, Judy’s husband replaced the light over my trailer license plate, a very handy fellow.
Little Big Horn & Devil’s Tower I set out early Wednesday, June 16 for the Custer battlefield, Little Big Horn. There were lots of people there and a large gift shop with lots of books. I remember the place from the movie, The Horse Whisperer; also, while looking for a local radio station in the car, there were preachers on lots of the stations, just like in the film.
Later while driving through the NE corner of Wyoming I revisited Devil’s Tower (remember “Close Encounters of a Third Kind”?) The campgrounds are beautiful here and I impossible to leave. I walked around the Devil’s Tower; a storm was blowing through, and the Ranger said there was a tornado warning. It got very windy but didn’t last long. June is a ‘no climbing’ month so that Native Americans can do religious rituals here. There were a lot of tourists here today and that surprised me. I think the Ken Burns series last winter may have renewed interest in the Parks.J
I stopped at the South Dakota Badlands, then drove south and east for miles & miles on a ribbon of 2 lane highway until reaching the Missouri River. I felt thrilled to finally be at the place where Lewis & Clark made their way up this river. There appeared a vision of a beautiful, well-kept South Dakota state campground which had electricity and showers, and it turned out to be the real thing. I had a peaceful time here before heading into Yankton Friday, June 18.