I am sure everyone around me will be glad that I've stopped freaking out about my birthday. It was a surprisingly happy day (two days, really, because Catherine gave me two days worth of presents to celebrate the big three five). No one can be depressed on their birthday if they wake up on in a sleeping loft in a cabin overlooking the Skykomish River on a beautiful summer day in Washington. It's just not possible.
Catherine did me the great favor of packing our bags whilst I went for a birthday jog--great for clearing my sleepy head. I ran up Index Creek Road (twice), good surface, gradual uphill climb (quick downhill on the way back). Since Chong cancelled our lunch plans, we weren't in any hurry to get to Seattle, so we went for another hike after leaving the cabin. We did the Heybrook Lookout Trail, and enjoyed clear views of the river valley. Catherine managed to add a few photos to her "Susan Scared" collection after I climbed to the observation deck of the lookout tower. These will make a nice addition to the group of shots of me looking like I'm about to die that she's captured over the years.
We did eventually force ourselves to drive into Seattle. I'm afraid that I've completely lost the art of urban living. As I said to Catherine later that evening, "I've maximized my misanthropic potential." After dumping our bags at the boat, we went up to Capitol Hill for my birthday dinner. Broadway is supposed to be prime people watching territory, but I was all, "People! Get away from me! Now!" Creepy kids. They need to get a hair cut and get a job, that's what I'm saying. Broadway hasn't changed much over the past fifteen years. Businesses come and go, but the street urchins look just about the same.
Anyway, dinner was good as usual, and Catherine bought me a few books at Bailey/Coy to augment the present she gave me earlier in the day (a watch). Neither of us felt like walking around, so we went back to the boat to watch the traffic on Lake Union. Very nice evening.
My real present was the trip to Blake Island/Tillicum Village on Friday. Tillicum Village isn't as lame/exploitative as it sounds, I'm happy to say. We did, however, have this whole conversation about preserving tribal traditions. I seriously believe white people use Tradition as a major weapon of oppression--we like to keep our tribes in blankets and canoes. We like them exotic. We encourage them to remember their traditions and get angry if they'd rather be stock brokers. This is really a dilemma--how does a tribe pass on its history to its young people and still exist as real people? How do white people learn about different Native American tribes without acting like colonialist, imperialist idiots? Tillicum Village is definitely a tourist spot, but on the other hand, it employs a lot of people from coastal tribes, and it does give a glimpse at Native American history that white people otherwise don't see.
I am thoroughly disgusted at the fact that I grew up with one foot on the reservation and managed to completely avoid learning about any of the tribes' history. Seriously, my parents currently live...I don't know, 15 feet, 20 feet? (however long their back yard is) from the reservation, and yet it might as well be on Mars. Until I was 12, I lived 5 minutes from Suquamish. Then I lived just off the Colville Reservation through high school. In college, I could see Lummi Island out my window. Yet, anything I know about any of the Northwest Coastal tribes or the Colville Confederated Tribes I learned as an adult. In school, the only thing they gave us was that damned Chief Joseph film they made us watch twice a year from junior high through high school.
Anyway, I think Tillicum Village was pretty good at getting people to stop and think about life as a Native American for a few minutes, even if it was all about traditional life. The presentation kind of collapses all the tribes together, barely distinguishing the Haida from the Lummi from the Makah, etc., but I guess there is only so much you can do in 30 minutes.
It was really a good day. The boat ride over to the island took about an hour, and we were pleased to have a female captain. Spectacular views of Seattle, Bainbridge and Vashon Islands as we traveled. Although I'm in theory a vegetarian, I've never been known to turn down a good salmon dinner, so Tillicum Village was a good dining choice. After the meal, we spent a few hours just wandering around the park, spending time on the beach, watching the birds, enjoying the sun. Peaceful ride back to the city, too.
Supper was sandwiches at the Elliott Bay Bookstore, where Catherine bought me a few more books. My birthday loot really stacked up at the end of the day! She had already bought me a Raven book on Blake Island (I love the trickster, he's always been my favorite ever since Brian told me about him). I think I ended up with 7 books altogether, plus a watch, plus the cabin rental, the boat rental, and the trip to Blake Island. I should turn 35 more often.
The bad thing about living in a small town: everyone knows your business.
The good thing about living in a small town: everyone knows your business.
Mark's funeral broke the attendance record for the Ellisforde Church of the Brethren. More than 300 people showed up, and they had to sit people in the Sunday School rooms and the church basement. Fire trucks from Oroville, Tonasket, Riverside, Omak, Okanogan, Brewster and Pateros showed up. The DNR showed up. The County Sheriff and local police showed up. Ernie Boltz read the scripture Shawn selected from Mark's bible, then they played the music Mark had wanted. My mom said it was "weird" and "eerie." Turns out it was Elton John. The Fireman's Prayer was read, and the firemen gave Shawn a flag. After the funeral, they had a three gun salute outside.
I don't really have to worry about Shawn. She said there were 30 rigs--not including the ambulance--at the house the day Mark died. The minute the call went out over the scanner, everyone showed up to help. Although the "helpful advice" she's been getting is starting to get on Shawn's nerves, it makes me feel better to know people are looking out for her. We took her out to dinner at Whistler's, and people instantly converged on the table to talk to her. Glenna Brown took the baby for a long time so we could sit and have a quiet meal (not that Marsie was any trouble when she came back. She's cute as the cutest bug!).
I was nervous about the visit, but it mostly went okay. It helped to see that people are actually changing the water on the alfalfa for her and all that. It freaked me out a bit to look across the room and see a black box with Mark's ashes, and part of me still kept expecting him to walk in the room just like always. I don't know how Shawn stands it, but she's a stronger person than I am, so I guess I'm not surprised she's surviving.
I saw the list Shawn was keeping to write thank you notes, and was glad to see a long list of names with dollar amounts jotted behind them. I don't know how she's going to make it financially, and I guess a lot of other people don't know how she's going to make it, either. How do you make a $10/hour job pay a mortgage, car payment, utilities, and food for a mother and a baby? It's not like the cost of living in Tonasket is lower than anywhere else. In fact, dinner at Whistler's cost us a lot more than a similar dinner would have cost us at home. How is she going to do it?
Well, at least she has a job. Generally, when people think of poverty in the U.S., they think of urban issues: inner city kids or homeless men on the sidewalks. People seldom talk about rural poverty. I don't know, I think Americans have this idealized vision of people living off the land, being healthy because they work outdoors all day, and enjoying the fruits of their labor with every harvest. Well, let me just say, that's not the way it is. According to a report I read in the Seattle P-I last week, Washington is second on the list of states where people go hungry (Oregon is first). The stats were based on people accessing food banks, which tells me that they are actually under-reporting the problem. Where, exactly, are the hungry people of rural Washington supposed to get this food bank food? Drive to Wenatchee? As if.
True story: The guy who owned the property behind our orchard at Whitestone bought a used car. He told my dad he was really excited about having a car so he could finally make one of those long trips he'd always wanted to make. "Going to Seattle?" my dad asked. Nope. This guy was going to *Okanogan*, a whole forty miles away. Turns out he'd never been out of the valley in his entire life. This isn't the type of person who is going to be able to access the resources intended to abate hunger.
Take also, for instance, the Makah tribe from Neah Bay. According to Robert Sullivan, the per capita annual income for the Makah tribe in 1995 was $5,200. Everyone (white) thinks that Native Americans are rich these days, that they get huge allotments because of the casinos. Well, there's no casino in Neah Bay, and even if there were, who the hell would go there? It's incredibly remote, and no one would drive all the hell the way out to Cape Flattery to go gambling. There aren't any jobs outside the "Beautification Committee." And I'm not even going to start listing all the other issues that might keep a tribe impoverished in the U.S.
When we go to visit my parents, I come away depressed for a number of reasons, not the least of which is finding myself plunked down in the middle of a dying, impoverished town. The stores are boarded up, the houses are falling to pieces, no one has a job, there's no water, the price of living has sky-rocketed. I drive down the highway and look at these vast, brown wastes of land where there used to be orchards, but the owners went bankrupt and had to push them. There are just wind machines sticking up in empty fields of brush now. There's a burn ban on, so some of the orchards that have been pushed haven't yet been burned. They are just stacked in piles, growing drier, waiting to be lit on fire. I actually had to fight back tears at one point when I was driving, it's like driving past heaps of giant bones waiting for the crematorium.
There's just no hope for an agricultural recovery, and it's mighty fucking depressing. It's worse than it was when I was a kid, and everyone is getting desperate. Eastern Washington is a tinder box waiting to go up in flames. People are hungry, people are resentful. The white people look around and see all the Indians and Mexicans on the street and start blaming it on them. I was having a conversation with my aunt about how much I hated Brewster, it's an ugly, depressing town, and halfway through, I realized we were in agreement, more or less, but she was blaming it on the fact that the population was 3/4 Hispanic (I didn't even know that. It's been ugly my entire life, long before formerly migrant workers started to settle there). Hispanic, Hispanic, Hispanic! I can't even count how many times I heard that word used in a negative manner last week. It is apparently interchangeable with "Ecologist" in my family. Who knew it was a swear word?
My cousin, Meaghan, who is ten, was in the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. A couple of boys walked by and said, "Hola" in a friendly manner. Meaghan's response? "I'm not Mexican, you know!" Fair enough. She's part "Louisiana French," and 1/8 Coeur d'Alene Indian. I hate the fact that she's already learned that she's not supposed to be brown, she's not supposed to be Mexican.
We live in a fucked up world, and I can't figure out how to make it better.
Trail Reviews (in the order of appearance):
Rainy Lake: My uncles helped clear this trail when they worked for the Forest Service in the old days. It's hyper easy and good for kids (1 mile each way). It's paved for wheelchair use, but can get a bit bumpy with duff and gravel. Well worth the walk even if it is raining--where else can you see such a beatiful glacial lake with so little effort? There's not even any grade changes, just a flat trot out to the lake. You need a Forest Pass to park in the parking area. Keep driving east on Highway 20 to the Washington Pass overlook for some spectacular views.
Slate Creek Trail (Twisp River Trail #440): Easy hike, good trail for families once the creeks have gone down. Mostly a ridge trail, in that it follows the course of the canyon above the road. Not very hilly despite what the published information says. The single track was in good condition with only faint tire marks, so bikers must not be using it all that much. We went out and back, although allegedly you can do a 13 mile loop if you feel like walking on road FS4440 (yuk).
Mutton Ridge Trail #365: This was probably our favorite of the week, even if it did go straight up the side of a freaking mountain. The trailhead is near the sign for Salmon Meadows campground above Conconully (don't go into the campground looking for it like we did, you won't find it). Drive past the campground sign (away from the campground), across Meadow Creek, and there you will find the trailhead for three trails: Mutton Creek Trail #391 (it's only a mile long and good for kids), Mutton Ridge Trail #365, and Angel Pass Trail #344. Angel Pass Trail and Mutton Ridge Trail coincide for the first mile. When you get to the fork, go *left* otherwise you will be going to Angel Pass.
This trail goes up, up, up through the forest. It's dry with little undergrowth, and is broken up by the occasional high elevation meadow. It's also free range country, so watch out for the cattle. We started two stampedes on accident. Be prepared to get your feet wet just before the two-mile mark, the cattle have torn up the creek banks pretty thoroughly, so it's kind of a balancing act to get across the last time. You may see the two-mile marker to the left of the trail--it's attached to an fallen tree.
Pump House Trail: You might want a walking stick for this one. It's not terribly strenuous, but it does climb uphill the entire way. Also, the path is really rocky (like a riverbed), so a walking stick would be handy on the descent (and also to beat down spider webs).
Heading west on Highway 2 from Stevens Pass, turn left onto Index Creek Road just before you get to Baring. Figure out where to park your car where someone won't have it towed--it's mostly private property on either side of the road. Once you park, walk across the suspension bridge just off Highway 2 (you can drive across it, but I don't know where you'd park once you got there). After you cross the suspension bridge, walk on Index Creek Road until you see a sign to your right that says "Skylandia." Cross two foot bridges, and turn left onto the old logging trail (before the pump house). We missed it the first time, but it's actually pretty visible. This is a great trail, really wet and verdant and mossy. No mistake, you're in the northwest. Look for the giant old-growth stumps, in some of them you can still see the logging notches under the moss. There is a campsite to check out, and about a mile up the trail there is a patch of asphalt, why is it there? No idea. The locals have made good use of a giant fallen tree, incorporating it into a footbridge. The trail apparently extends some way up the mountain, but we had to stop when we came to a creek bed with no obvious crossing. I didn't want to break a bone trying to cross so close to the start of hockey season.
Wallace Falls Trail: This trailhead is easy to find, as it is located in Wallace Falls State Park, Goldbar, Washington. We took the "Woody Trail" instead of the railroad grade. This lower trail is shorter, but allegedly a little more rugged. We had no problems--it was easier than Mutton Ridge, but harder than Slate Creek. The trail system is quite accessible, so very popular, and we were never really by ourselves. And I'll admit, we stopped at Middle Wallace Falls, we just didn't have enough daylight left to go to Upper Wallace Falls (I was tired of uphill by then, anyway).
Nice view of the falls, nice place to spend the day. Two thumbs up for accessibility and la buena vista.
Heybrook Lookout Trail #1070: You need a Forest Pass for this one, too. It's right off Highway Two at the 37.6 mile marker (just across from the Snoqualmie-Mt. Baker Forest sign as you head west from Baring). The trailhead is on the north side of the highway, the forest sign on the south side.
When you stop to register at the trailhead, you will see a pile of walking sticks. Take one 'cause you're going to need it on the descent! Be kind and put it back when you're done with it. This trail seemed short, about a two-mile round trip, but it goes unrelentingly up (900 feet elevation change). Actually, the up isn't the problem, it's the down. We definitely used the walking sticks.
Don't give up even if you don't like uphill climbs. Pretty soon you'll be at the lookout tower and will have the best view you've had all week.
Blake Island: We hiked around Blake Island after eating lunch at Tillicum Village. Not a challenging hike by any means, but definitely one of the most beautiful places to work off your dinner. We interrupted our progress to hang out on the beach for a bit. The island is only accessible by boat, so we had plenty of opportunities to watch boat traffic, one of my favorite past times. This was the second easiest hike of the week (Rainy Lake being the easiest), but one that I would repeat daily given the chance.
I'm officially a 60-minute runner. We had to get up and run early last Saturday, we were freezing to death. The thermometer at camp said 38 degrees when we went by on our way to the road, no wonder we were so cold. Even Carl got cold, and he had all the blankets in his tent.
Anyway, I felt good at the 60-minute point, but I know the run was easier because the air was cold and dry. It was a great run up the river. We went running and/or hiking every day we were on vacation (one of my upcoming notes here will be trail reviews), and I feel all the better for it. I'm not a great believer in "nature as great healer," not by a long shot, but it did do me good to get away from everyone and spend some time out in the wilderness for a change.
Camping was fun, it's amazing how much I like my extended relatives. You'd think we'd hate each other given that I'm the only left-leaning person in the clan, and my uncle truly believes "ecologist" is a cuss word. It just goes to show that politics don't have to be divisive. Just because we don't agree doesn't mean we don't get along. Maybe there's a little bit of compromising going on, maybe I should push my point a little harder, but frankly, I'd rather just go wading in the river and forget about it all for a few days.
Hard to escape the fact that Bush is an idiot, though. I spent some time fuming about his forest-land power grab maneuvering last week. I'm glad someone showed up to protest him in Portland, even if they got tear-gassed for their efforts.
Anyway, camping. Was fun. Played in the river, went for a couple walks, went hiking on the Slate Creek trail, took the kids up to Rainy Pass for the short hike into Rainy Lake. Ate a lot of food I didn't have to cook myself (bonus!).