Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More Vacation (Astoria, Seaside, Trout Lake, petroglyphs)

So, our second day in Astoria (Thursday) we went to museums. First, to the local marine heritage museum (the Columbia River Maritime Museum), which highlighted the work of the coast guard (the one of our military services of which even a pacifist can, by and large, approve). It was a nice museum, but about two-thirds of its exhibits I found distressing. We started off by watching a 3-d film about sharks, which was a mistake (though the part about mantas was wonderful, and I learned that sawfish are rays that have evolved to look like sharks, not sharks that have evolved to look somewhat ray-like). Then there were all the exhibits about how the locals had massacred the once-florishing marine life in the area. Particularly unnerving was the harpoon gun (which pointed out into the room) and a sample of the harpoons it fired to kill whales, along with a sample  o the tools used to butcher the whales once slain. Melville wd have been delighted, but it gave me the fan-tods. The final third or so of the displays were devoted to naval warfare, which was also distressing in its own way (one room contained the complete bridge of a warship (WWII era, I think), having been built around the display rather than the other way around. The parts I liked best came in the middle: a sequence of maps charting the discovery and slow mapping of the NW coastal region, including one that seemed to indicate that Bellingham was named long before Seattle, Tacoma, or Olympia existed, which I hadn't known; also that Mt Adams didn't appear on maps that did have Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Baker. That, and a diving suit that had obviously seen a lot of use. Janice noticed that the hand-gloves were semi-mittins, with thumb, two fingers together, other two fingers together. I noticed that the man who wore the suit must have been quite tall (over six feet).

After some lunch we went on to our next stop, the Flavel House. This was the Queen Anne style mansion built by the town's leading citizen back in the 1880s. Both Janice and I enjoy seeing old houses, manors, mansions, and the like, both because they're beautiful and functional and because of what they reveal about the times. This one had the largest pocket doors I ever remember seeing (though Janice says the ones at HighClere Castle must have been larger) -- I love pocket doors, never having lived in a place that had them. It also had a sequoia growing in the yard that was a sight to behold. We didn't get to see the off-limits basement or the attic, with the servants' rooms and the access to the tower lookout, but I was struck by the tin bath (apparently claw-foot tubs, like the great one at our b-and-b, came along slightly later). Janice was struck by the doors upstairs that set off the family's rooms from the rest of that floor (guest room, bath room, nursery, et al). These didn't reach all the way to the ceiling (that space being given over to wooden tracework above the doorframe), so it didn't block noise, and the family had no staircase on their side of the divide leading down, which seemed an inconvenient arrangement.

On the walk back, we passed by the house where the present-day descendents of the Flavel family live (or at least lived until recently): the Other Flavel House, a huge mansion now in a dilapidated and abandoned state that was diagonally across from our b-and-b. Badly in need of being painted, with all doors and windows boarded up and the lawn left to its own devices, it wd have done the Addams family proud. I'd have much rather toured it than the other house, but unfortunately it's not open, being stuck in litigation between the city of Astoria and Captain Flavel's great-grandchildren (the recently deceased 'Hatchet Harry', who twice tried to murder neighbors and fellow townsfolk, and his sister, who's now in her eighties).* Given the family's history of delaying tactics in their many legal disputes, it seems likely the house is doomed and will fall to pieces before any one, the Flavels or the town, can established legal title to it. At any rate, here's the link to a picture of it I found online --one of many, it seems; I'm not alone in finding it fascinating:


By now it was getting later in the day than we'd planned, so we decided to skip Fort Clapsit (a Lewis and Clark site, where they ended their long march west by reaching the Pacific) and go on to Seaside, where we walked along the beach (long, smooth, flat, and sandy), found the Lewis and Clark saltworks, where three men boiled five kettles of seawater day and night for six weeks to collect four bushels of salt for the Expedition to use on their way back. I was skeptical that anyone cd know where the exact spot is in order to put up the little reconstruction that's there now, but a nearby sign explained that around the centenary of the event, a very old woman (Native American) who was ninety or so said her father had told her when she was a little girl about the white men's strange behavior and pointed out the spot. So it's not so much documented as based on oral tradition, which might well be right (I'm thinking here of the famous example in Bede). We had supper in a Finnish restaurant (never eaten in a Finnish restaurant before, that I know of; wasn't ethnic Finn cuisine, but tasty enough), then it was back along the promenade to the car and then back to Astoria.

The next morning we packed up and were off to Trout Lake, though before going I did get the story of the current status of the (Other) Flavel House. Over the next few days we had lots of good company, good conversation, and hospitality. Astoria was great, what followed towards the end of our trip was great, but getting together with friends was the highlight of our trip.

Departing on Monday, we headed to east up the river to look at petroglyphs (and two pictographs as well). I'd only known about these previously through Beth and Ray Hill's INDIAN PETROGLYPHS OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST (1974), which I'd seen at the Antiquarian Book Fair a few years ago but missed the chance to pick up then and so hunted down a copy for myself later. The Hills wrote about the thousands of petroglyphs that once lined the Columbia river gorge near The Dalles, almost all of which were destroyed when they built the big dam there. What I hadn't realized was that a handful of these petroglyphs were chiseled out of the rock wall and thus survived; in recent years, these were set up in a display in Columbia Hills State Park.  It was a great display, in which three figures particularly stood out: a (humming?)bird, an owl, and a demon-face. All three can be seen among the photos at the following website:


We didn't get to see the 'She-Who-Watches' figure, because the petroglyph trail is now closed except by appointment -- apparently due to vandalism you can now only enter the petroglyph area under ranger supervision. Still, they've propped a few dozen petroglyph-stones up in a long line opposite the parking lot, so we cd get a good view of those at least.**

After a night in Ellensburg, we backtracked a bit by driving east on I-90 to Vantage, where we visited the Gingko Petrified Forest state park. The name is a bit misleading, it turns out: these is not a forest of standing stone trees, like the stone-tree-in-a-case we saw at Yellowstone, but petrified logs buried by a eruptions and excavated in modern times. Only three or four gingko trees have been found, but since these were the first pieces of petrified gingko wood ever found,*** they named the park after it. I've been in a lot of museums and a fair number of art galleries over the years, but I don't think I've ever seen an art gallery as beautiful as the display they had there of all the beautifully polished petrified woods, many of which they've been able to identify by tree (douglas fir, redwood, magnolia, cypress, spruce, etc etc). It was truly a stunning sight. After viewing the displays inside, we went outside and round by the side, where it turns out (as Janice knew, but I didn't), there was another petroglyph display. Once again these had been rescued when their site, down near the Columbia where it flows down from the north and turns west, had been flooded by yet another of the river's many dams. There weren't many of them (perhaps two dozen or so), but they were all cemented together into one great wall, which was thus crammed with petroglyphs. Among my favorites were the one I dubbed The Grail, the one of two halo'd figures together, and the ten-legged bug. V. impressive, and a nice finale to the trip. On our way out of the park, we stopped by a rock-and-gem shop (whose name I forget) which was very like Jerry's Rock and Gem right here in Kent: beautiful pieces of petrified wood (both polished and unpolished, many of them identified by tree-type), other fossils, from a (large!) dinosaur bone to a fossil turtle, many polished stones or all kinds (I got one from Greenland as a present), and a very friendly shop cat named Mr. Wiggles, whose company it was a pleasure to make.

 From there it was the long drive back home, greeting the cats, settling back in, and getting ready for a regular working day tomorrow.

Thus endeth the vacation: it was a good one, but it's nice to be home again.


current reading: C. S. LEWIS AND THE MIDDLE AGES, by Rbt Boenig (2012)

*for more on Hatchet Harry Flavel, see Calvin Trillin's 1993 article in, I think, the New Yorker, a copy of which was available in our b-and-b as a part of local history

**There were Beware the Rattlesnakes signs all around, which I thought was pretty clever of the park rangers -- people might ignore a Do Not Trespass sign, but a Snakes Warning sign is likelier to inspire good behavior.

***before that they'd found leaf-impressions and, I gather, seeds and nuts, but no wood.


Wurmbrand said...

Seaside! I taught, I suppose, their high school's first class on fantasy there, around 1979.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Wumbrand

Do you remember what works you included in that 1979 class? I'd be curious to see a syllabus, if one survives.

--John R.