Washington

Washington: Day 4

Mt. Hood looms above a Yakima farmThe road led south this morning through the Yakama reservation, and I found my gaze caught by the massive shape of Mt. Adams on the horizon.  According to legend, three of the mountains in the Cascade Range were originally members of the clan of giants who lived before recorded time.  Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood were brothers who were both in love with a fair maiden, and who fought over her until the earth rumbled, shook and spouted fire.  The force of their battling was so great it overwhelmed the lovely maiden.  Dying, she collapsed bleeding to the ground and the younger brother fell to his knees beside her in remorse.  But the elder brother stood looking down upon them in pride and rage.  It was thus that the angry Great Spirit found the trio.  As punishment for their warring, he transformed the elder brother – who stood tall and proud and aloof – into Mt. Hood, who still stands aloof on the far side of the Columbia River and gazes from afar on the object of his desire.  The younger brother, who knelt in sorrow and agony over his beloved, the Great Spirit transformed into Mt. Adams, and beside him he tenderly placed the stricken maiden who became Mt. St. Helens, the loveliest mountain in the Cascades (until she blew her top in 1980, but that is another story). 

I passed a number of huckleberry and fruit farms as I entered the reservation, and the sight of all those wonderful cultivated fields with Mt. Adams above them made my photography sense twitch in anticipation.  When I saw the local museum, I paused to learn more about the Yakama tribe and take some photos at the RV park next door.  As always in these spooky trips, it is often the serendipitous that delights more than the planned activities.  The tiny museum was delightfully full of wisdom.  A wonderful mural of the animals living on or about Yakama land had been painted on one wall.  It showed how the Yakama used nature to teach life lessons to their children: “The otter takes time to play.  The lesson is – a light heart keeps everything in proportion.”  I liked it so much I asked about it at the desk and found they had made a children’s book about it, which I purchased. 

Columbia gorge at MaryhillAfter my museum visit, I drove up through the foothills of the Cascades and down to the Columbia gorge, over which presided elder brother Mt. Hood.  My destination was Maryhill and the replica of Stonehenge created by her owner.  To my delight, the new Stonehenge stood on a bluff above the gorge, and the scene of the bridge over the Columbia and Mt. Hood was spectacular.  Out came the camera, of course, and I had to force myself away from the scenery to explore the replica Stonehenge, which was itself fascinating. 

Then I was across the bridge and entering Oregon.  It is so different from Washington, and yet there is enough similarity to let you know the states are sisters.  I wound my way through desert hills and passed farmland over which elder brother kept watch on this side of the bridge.  Then I was winding downward on a road which had obviously been constructed by a rattlesnake with a twist in its rattle, coming off the tall plateau and down into the hills and valleys surrounding the John Day River.  And there, in the middle of nowhere amidst spectacular scenery, was the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds.  I’d arrived! 

Clarno PalisadesThe Palisades – huge upthrustings of rock that loomed over the valley below – were magnificent, and full of fossils.  I hiked with a nice couple right up to the rim of the massive rocks over foot-wide dirt and gravel pathways with stunning (and terrifying) drops down the hillside, should I happen to slip and fall.  My knees shook over the worst bits, and I was glad to obtain the safety of the cliff face and take photos of the beautiful view and the fossils we found there.  Back at ground level, I took a trail through the massive boulders that had fallen from the Palisades, and found many more fossils to admire – leaves and branches captured in stone after an ancient flood. 

The road to my hotel led through still more spectacular scenery, over tall desert mountains and down into the river valley again.  I stayed in an historic hotel in the tiny town of Mitchell (one main road – very short).  The one town restaurant was already closed, so I got a soda at the dusty but well stocked general store, had a chat with the folks staffing the register about the ghost of Patty, a local girl who’d been killed by her mother (methods and reason behind the killing unknown) and who haunted all the local buildings, knocking items off shelves, playing havoc with the lights, etc.  Then I purchased a frozen dinner from the desk staff of the hotel, who had a handy list of items for sale – just in case visitors came late to their doors – and ate on the front porch overlooking the stream. 

All in all, a nice day!

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