Yakama-Cowlitz Trail

This sign sits in my garage in West Seattle, a gift I don’t quite know what to do with.  It was given to me by the folks at the White Pass Country Museum in Packwood, Washington, when I was researching the Yakama-Cowlitz Trail.  I suspect one reason it was “surplus” was the spelling of the name Yakima–which is the spelling for the city but not for the people.  It was also a nudge–finish that article on the trail!  So I did.

This summer’s issue of Columbia, published by the Washington State Historical Society, features my article on the Yakama-Cowlitz Trail to Cowlitz Pass, a trail taken for thousands of years by people from both sides of the Cascade Mountains.  Cowlitz Pass stands just southeast of Mount Rainier, on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Mount Rainier visible from Cowlitz Pass

During the winters some Yakama people lived in the Tieton and Naches River valleys on the east side of the Cascade Crest.  The Cowlitz lived in the Big Bottom of the Cowlitz River on the west. In the summer months, the Yakama came up what is now Indian Creek from the east side; the Upper Cowlitz or Taytnapam came up Summit Creek from the west side.  They hunted deer and mountain goats, gathered huckleberries, and socialized.

Gradually, through intermarriage, the Taytnapam acquired some characteristics of the Yakama, in language and dress.  In years after American settlement, they continued to cross the pass to visit relatives.

I found out about this trail through the writings of archaeologist David Rice, the work of Gifford Pinchot anthropologist Rick McClure, and the advocacy of Ray Paolella for the William O. Douglas Heritage Trail.  As a youth, Douglas hiked up to Cowlitz Pass and spent time with the sheepherders there.

Efforts are afoot to map some 23 miles of this historic trail.  The last four miles from the west are Forest Service trail #44 which begins from the Soda Springs campground where the real sign is posted.  It’s a wonderful day hike or backpack, but beware of mosquitoes until late summer.

Kettle Falls

When I visited the site of Kettle Falls while researching Hiking Washington’s History, I had read the description by Mourning Dove of her family’s visits to the “roaring waters.” The traditional fishing site, where many tribes gathered in the summer to catch salmon, is now buried under Lake Roosevelt, created by the damming of the Columbia River.

Last winter, I met Lawney L. Reyes at an authors’ night at Island Books.  He was clearly the oldest author there, and I bought his book, White Grizzly Bear’s Legacy.  Just a month or so ago, I met his nephew on a bike ride in West Seattle, and returned to the book.

Reyes, too, wrote about Kettle Falls, where his people, the Sin Aikst, once fished.  The Sin Aikst are now known as the Lakes tribe and have been absorbed into the Colville Confederated tribes.  Reyes describes the tribes gathering in June.  “As a boy, I would stand in wonder as the chinooks, some more than a hundred pounds in weight, leaped the churning falls…. I still recall the roar of the falls and the voices of the people shouting instructions to each other.  I’ll never forget the beauty of the hundreds of tepees of the different tribes.  They lined the shores of the river close to the falls.  There were horses and people everywhere.”

Kettle Falls was once the center of Sin Aikst culture.  Reyes quietly and poignantly tells the story of the loss of this food source and history when the dam was completed in 1942.

Coal Creek to Redtown Trail

See my article on this hike, “Find a Trail to History,” in the October 2017 issue of Northwest Prime Time.

The Coal Creek trail to Redtown, site of industrial mining in the late 1800s, was the first hike I did in Washington and the inspiration for Hiking Washington’s History.  I could walk out of my suburban home, follow a social trail down a hill, then a deer trail through wet land to Coal Creek. Coal Creek Trail The trail followed the creek, past an old farm-site (with apple trees), past mining artifacts (wagon wheels chained to a tree, chunks of coal), onto the old road-bed of the Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad, past a cinder mine and the remains of the railroad turn-table, and finally reached Redtown.  Near the end of the hike there were old interpretive signs and a black hole in the ground–an air shaft going down 100 feet to the mines.  Coal CreekThe trail was rich in both natural and human history.

In the 30 years since my first hike King County has greatly improved the trail, part of the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.  Updated, easy to read interpretive signs mark the Redtown end of the trail.  Bridges and stairs have been constructed.  The Primrose loop has been restored.

The most important charms remain–the concrete blocks of the turntable covered with fall leaves, the North Fork falls full in October, the remains of a wood-constructed plume in the creek and the visible coal seam, even the bricks discarded from the Mutual Materials lot, now a housing development.  You can still walk this three-mile trail, out of sight of homes or parkways, and be greeted by this weathered sign, an historic artifact on its own.  Coal Creek sign

Oregon Trail markers in Washington

There are twelve Oregon Trail markers in Washington, marking Oregon Trail markerthe Oregon Trail cutoff to Puget Sound.  In Washington the Oregon Trail followed the Cowlitz River from Fort Vancouver to Cowlitz Landing, then went overland on a rough wagon road to Olympia. There are markers at Vancouver, Woodland, Kalama, Kelso, Toledo, Mary’s Corner, Centralia, Grand Mound, Tenino, Bush Prairie, Tumwater, and Olympia, the end of the trail on south Puget Sound.   The trail marker pocket park in Toledo, maintained by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sacajawea Chapter,  has been restored and will be rededicated on September 27, 2016 at 1 p.m.

Everett’s Weyerhaeuser Building

A hiking and walking friend, Linda Paros, alerted me a few weeks ago that the ornate Weyerhaeuser building in Everett was up on moving blocks.  What’s up? she asked.  The Seattle Times and the Everett Herald had the answer in mid-July.  It’s moving–again.

Weyerhaeuser buildingThe 93-year-old structure first sat at the foot of Pacific Avenue near Weyerhaeuser’s Mill A, the largest lumber mill in the world when it was built in 1912.  Although Weyerhaeuser headquarters was in Tacoma, near the Northern Pacific Railroad, from which Frederick Weyerhaeuser had bought timberland, the company’s largest mills were in Everett.  The local office building was designed by architect Carl Gould in a Gothic style to showcase local wood products from fir, cedar, and hemlock.  Fifteen years later it was barged to sit near Mill B on the Snohomish River.   After Mill B closed in 1979, the office moved again in 1984 to Marina Village to house the Everett Chamber of Commerce near the city’s newer economic enterprise, the U.S. Navy’s Homeport.

It will move this year to a development in the Port of Everett’s Central Marina, retaining its historic claim to the waterfront.  If nothing else, the building has showcased the strength of its structure.   The building is included in the Everett chapter of Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities.IMG_1960

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historic murals

Main Street Moments

In writing Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities, I chose a moment of significance for each city.  See Main Street Moments, a photo essay on the University of Washington Press Blog.

Each city had at least one moment when it was significant in the history of Washington Territory or the state.

Vancouver started as a fur-trading post in 1825, commanding a vast empire from Alaska to California.

Olympia, at the Washington end of the Oregon Trail, became the territorial capital in 1854 and fought off rival cities until statehood in 1889.

Walla Walla boomed on mining rushes to claim the title as largest city in the territory in the 1860s and a rival to Olympia for the capital.

Tacoma won the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad and boomed for two decades in the 1880s and 1890s.

Seattle boomed as a jumping off point for the gold rush in the Yukon.

Everett’s corporate titans and labor unions clashed in the early 1900s.

BellinghamBellingham’s four-towns city emerged from logging, mining, railroads, canneries and a university.

Yakima marketed the riches of the Yakima Valley.

Spokane reclaimed downtown and the river running through it with Expo ’74.

Bellevue changed from a suburb to an edge city.

The Chinese at Coal Creek

History is never finished and done, in the past.  The writing of history brings new revelations about the history that may not yet have been told, that has been intentionally neglected, usually the more shameful events from the past.  When I wrote about the Coal Creek Trail in Hiking Washington’s History, I knew there were Chinese miners at this site in a Seattle suburb, but I did not know the full story.

R. Gregory Nokes writes about the burning of the homes of 49 Chinese miners near the Coal Creek mines in 1885 in his book Massacred for Gold.  The book also recounts the killing of more than 30 Chinese gold miners on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon in 1887.  The source of the information about Coal Creek is a Statement of Claims prepared by Chang Yen Hoon, the head of the Chinese legation in Washington, D.C.  Chang sought compensation for various acts of violence against Chinese immigrants in the U.S., including losses of $4,054.88 from the Coal Creek Mine in Washington Territory.

That wasn’t the first such incident at Newcastle.  In 1876, 40 Chinese mine workers were driven from the same mines, according to a coal miner who wrote to his wife:  “The miners at the Seattle mine [at Newcastle] drove all the Chinamen away from there Saturday last” (quoted in Historylink.org Essay 219).

The name China Creek lingers in contemporary Bellevue near the site of the Newcastle mines.  It is most often associated with a trail, a housing development, and the Golf Club at Newcastle, with no mention of the source of the name.  Ironically, the golf course at Newcastle has recently been purchased by a Chinese company.