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The deadliest wildfire in American history, my great great grandfather, and William Butler Ogden

This picture below is my great great grandma Lillian’s husband, William Armstrong. He died young, at fifty two, which explains why I never heard about him until I started researching my genealogy in earnest. He died 4 years before even my grandmother was born. His wife Lillian (Gaga) outlived him by almost 50 years and developed a reputation for being a mean tempered lady who would hit you with her cane and move the furniture around at night and claim it wasn’t her. (okay it might have been the Mansons but that’s another story entirely.)


William Butler Ogden Armstrong

Willliam’s father, Ferdinand Amesley Armstrong II, descendent of Scottish and German settlers from New Brunswick, moved to Marinette County, Wisconsin from his birthplace in Aroostook County, Maine.

Ferd Armstrong (nickname Pinochle!) and his wife Therice had 3 children (Nelly, Charles and Jenny) in their new home in the forests of Peshtigo, Wisconsin before tragedy hit. The Peshtigo fire was a very large forest fire that took place on October 8, 1871, when youngest Jenny was 5 years old. It burned approximately 1,200,000 acres and was the deadliest wildfire in American history,[1]with the estimated deaths of around 1,500 people,[1] and possibly as many as 2,500. Half the population of Peshtigo died that night. Read about the gruesome story here.

illustration-of-peshtigo-fire (1)

All the records in town were destroyed which is why there is so little info on the Ferd Armstrong family prior to 1871, but apparently they came through unscathed. They must not have lived near the center of town, where people were vaporized and the town was obliterated.

In reading about the fire in this fascinating history, I learned about an east coast bigwig named William Butler Ogden, a lumber and railroad magnate who was the first mayor of Chicago. He was heavily involved in the development of Peshtigo, which at the time of the fire was a thriving lumber boomtown. Ogden owned mills and a woodenware factory there. After the town was obliterated, he stayed in Peshtigo for two months overseeing the rebuilding of the town, before moving back to New York for the rest of his life. Ogden and his wife Marianna Arnot never had any children.

In 1872, one year after the fire, my great great grandfather was born in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. His parents named him Willam Butler Ogden Armstrong. I can only speculate why. Perhaps my 3rd great grandfather Ferd was friends with Ogden, and he and Therice respected the work he did in Peshtigo. [UPDATE: Ogden was his boss – Ferd was timber superintendent at Peshtigo Lumber] Were they thinking of me when they named their son, hoping someone in the distant future would remember and learn about William Butler Armstrong? The name Ogden even stayed though another generation in my family, as my 2nd great uncle was named Ogden Armstrong.

Between 1873 and 1884, Ferdinand Armstrong II made 9 separate land purchases in Marinette County totaling over 700 acres. Was timber land cheap after the fire? Or what was that land? The information that is available only whets the imagination and doesn’t give a whole lot of answers. They had four more children after WBO and lived in Peshtigo until their deaths.

My great great grandfather William Butler Ogden Armstrong would have been 24 at the time of the photo below. Could he be on the right in the hat? His brother Ferd III was 22, and brother Edward 18. That would be Philip, age 8 in front. The standing woman is not identified. Is that my 3rd great grandmother Therice Harris? [UPDATE: No, she died 15 years before this photo was taken]

ferd armstrong and family 1896

FERD ARMSTRONG AND FAMILY –This photo of Ferd (Pinochie) Armstrong, timber superintendent for the Peshtigo Company, was taken about 1896 on his farm near Beaver. The log house in the background was his private school in an earlier day. Sallie Stephenson of Menominee is seated next to him.

peshtigo 2019-01-04 at 5.12.44 pm

Modern day Peshtigo


“I was born close to a saw mill, was early left an orphan, christened in a millpond, graduated at a log school house, and at 14 fancied I could do any thing I turned my hand to, and that nothing was impossible…” —William B. Ogden



Willam Butler Ogden



Im Nebel

Seltsam, im Nebel zu wandern!
Einsam ist jeder Busch und Stein,
Kein Baum sieht den anderen,
Jeder ist allein.
-Herman Hesse

Thursday, Mid September 2011, North Cascades
Gloomy on the way to the trailhead. Though it is mid morning the light is reminiscent of an ominous dusk. I stop at a pullout in the forest which is the only cell signal for miles and my last until next week. Remembering I left a couple of the summer’s luscious peak nectarines behind at the house, I use the opportunity to call A. back at the station and urge her to enjoy them for me. I’m in a bad mood and she can sense it. She cheers me up and I’m glad to talk to her. I promise to lay off the Joni Mitchell (yes, busted) and continue on my way. Nearing the trailhead I see something weird that looks like a large white dog, but as I draw closer I see it is a mountain goat galloping along the road, then disappearing into the woods. I’ve never seen a goat down on the road before. Very strange. A good omen, I decide, as the sighting has elevated my mood somewhat.

At the trailhead I hoist my pack onto my back and begin hiking, thankful for the cool weather, which means no harassment by bugs. Within ten minutes the precipitation starts: too light to warrant raising one’s hood but over time it builds up and runs down my neck. I alternate up and down. Usually I would wait until reaching the pass before eating lunch but hunger is gnawing at me much earlier. I stop at Monkeyflower Rest. This is the ninth time I’ve passed this spot this summer. Each time pass I resolve that my next visit will be the one when I’ll bring papa’s ashes to rest here, with the grand view, the flowers and the small cascades flowing over granite. Now it is time to bring Nana’s remains as well, to rest beside Papa here, where I am sure to visit often. Yes.

The precipitation can more accurately called rain at this point. I struggle to wrest my lunch sack from my pack, beneath its rain fly. I try to assemble a turkey and cheese sandwich without soaking everything. Okay. Remind me: why I did not do this at home earlier? However, I am successful at sating my appetite. Belly full, I continue upward.

A few groups of backpackers and climbers stop to chat with me. I recognize all of them as people I had met over the past week back at the office while they were planning their trips. Now they are hiking out transformed — beaming, glowing, filled with the mountain magic they have absorbed in the past several days of what sounds like remarkable weather. My spirits bouyed, I continue on.

Still, my legs feel like lead, even though I am in my best shape of the season, practically the fittest I’ve ever been. Certainly the fittest since my diagnosis. My pack is the heaviest I’ve carried in ages; what a difference that makes. I’m carrying about 10 extra pounds of food and gear bound for the lookout, including a 2 person tent which will be able to accomodate guests as well as serve as a ventilated, mosquito-free shelter for rangers to retreat to during those hot, buggy late summer patrols. I thought I would enjoy pushing myself a bit.

The danger of these solo patrols, as all rangers know, is the inevitability of being alone with your thoughts for days on end, with no one to pull you out should you go over to the dark side. Those of us who are women are also keenly aware of the difference it makes whether we are in the waxing or waning part of our cycles. Just two weeks ago I was practically floating up this same trail, waxing, ecstatic. Now I am waning, and feeling tired.

Switchback after switchback in the forest, I become annoyed by the cacophany produced by rain hitting my hood. I am warm and remove the hood and allow the rain to soak and cool my head as well as let the sounds of the wilderness reach my ears. Wind in the conifers, a woodpecker wrenching and flipping bark from a tree in order to get at the morsels inside. The sound of my clothes rubbing and my boots crunching still seem overly loud, so I keep stopping in order to silence myself and hear what is going on around me. It is not too long before I am nearing the mythical ridge.

It’s been a strange summer. Though it’s mid-September, my surroundings tell me it is late July. Normally I would by slowed down and constantly waylayed by the juicy blueberries growing all around me, the succulent fruits irresistible, both sweet and spicy. However, there are no berries to be seen today; some of the plants have not even set fruit yet. Instead it is my mood slowing me down, and the weight on my back.

Reaching the first snowfields, I remove my pack, take the opportunity to relieve myself, then get my poles out. I hear a hail, which startles me. It’s the first person I’ve seen since entering the park. Ha! Should have known that taking a pee is the best way to draw visitors. So far I’ve never been caught with my pants down, thank goodness. I am in full raingear, a bit damp and starting to chill from both my sweat and the water that has been dripping from my hood down the back of my neck onto my shirt collar. The man who approaches is in a Hawaiian shirt and running shorts with sneakers and an old glory bandana around his head. He’s new to NW Washington and eager to converse. We chat a while, but my toes are growing cold and I soon prepare to take my leave. He takes out his so-called “ski sticks” and jogs (or whatever a mtn goat does) up the snowfield and into the fog.

Once I’m on the ridge my pack feels lighter – is that possible? I’ve seen the grand vistas from this ridge enough times that I am not concerned that the sky is so closed in. In fact, I enjoy it. Familiar landscapes become alien, your mood deciding whether they are sinister or playful.

As the larger world is obscured, one’s attention is drawn downward, to the little details: mushrooms, lichen, animal fur on the trail, the way water drops turn a lupine into a glittering jewel that’s almost heartbreakingly beautiful.

The socked-in sky also turns one’s attention inward. Here’s a typical mental dialog:

“Feel how strong I am, my body is working hard and it feels amazing. It’s eight years now since my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and look at where I am now. I am proud of myself. The MS has changed my outlook so profoundly. Before, I was content to coast along and now I am striving for the things I want and working to get them.  But look at the side effects of this attitude. I am more self indulgent than ever and want to enjoy everything life has to offer, knowing that it could all be taken away from me at any time. Reality check — How do my actions affect others? Am I working hard enough at my job? Am I a bad mother? Am I sabotaging my marriage? (ruminate, ruminate) Okay, enough now. Get back into the moment.”

I’m getting close to my goal. I realize the poles must be helping to distribute my pack weight. Interesting. I have not seen any bears all summer. Where are they? Last summer they were everywhere. I remember the sow I spied sprawled out on the snowfield nursing her two cubs — one black and one brown.

As soon as I reach the lookout I know I need to strip off my wet clothes and change into warm layers before I lose too much body heat, but first I am curious to weigh the pack. 32 pounds – gaah! I was not imagining things.

I wonder what the next 3 days will bring. I had put out a few invites to friends to come meet me up here but barely a nibble. Everyone has responsibilities, or they feel like hibernating down in town. Who can blame them with weather like this? It’s only a 10 mile hike with basically a daypack. But for what? The opportunity to shiver in an unheated cabin at 6300 feet?

Well, maybe someone will shock me with a surprise visit. Perhaps with an adult beverage or two? Then we can attack the four buckets of extra food and try putting together some crazy combos. Pesto couscous with tuna? Or how about quinoa and green chiles with a side of lentils? Or, digging deeper, TVP with green curry and refried beans. And then there are the unlabeled foil packets. Always fun!

This was the day I planned to explore the fabled granite basin above the northernmost lake. However, a special weather report comes over the radio warning of an extreme weather change bringing frigid temperatures and heavy rain and snow. Since it is due to arrive in the evening, I decide to delay the trip to the basin until next season. Today I will do a double dip north and south along the ridge and get as many chores done as I can while conditions are favorable. This means stirring all 5 composting toilets.

As I am eating breakfast, a suckerhole opens. My heart leaps and I run outside. The sight of a mountainside appearing is quite shocking after the sensory deprivation of being in the cloud since I arrived. I am blown away.

A little while later it’s clear this is more than a suckerhole. Gonna be a good day.

I finish my chores before dark. You know, those composters really work. Someone at the small lake used a fern to wipe with, which always warms my heart.

And I continued to see little details.

Saturday and Sunday
As often happens, the weather was not as dire as the forecast predicted, but it kept the crowds of hikers at home. I only see a few souls about on my patrol and my hike out.

My attention eventually reveals something very special.
My first and only vaccinium deliciosum of the year. I may have made noises that were NSFW as I tasted these.

The delights continued with every step.

For sure I was touched by the mountain magic by the time I emerged. It was good I was fortified by the wilderness because bad news was waiting for me on the outside. Turns out that while I was down and gloomy on Friday, my friend’s husband was fighting for his life and passed away that day. A few short weeks later another friend went to the other side. Someone who had loved this valley as I do.

Autumn and return to winter.

Intense Day

The day started innnocently enough: relaxing on the couch, enjoying a cup of coffee, checking out a couple of the new Fleet Foxes tunes. I think I like them but I am not sure. The style is so soaring and overwrought, yet it’s strangely compelling. I was drawn in to the vortex of it. What do you think?

Fleet Foxes – Grown Ocean from Fleet Foxes on Vimeo.

Next I read an article about the so called “Fukushima 50” who are coming right out and saying they expect to die trying to  cool down a monstrous symbol of our consumption. I sob and sob.  The story is on fox news, a website I don’t usually interact with. I unwisely look at the comments, thinking I’m going to get extra comfort from processing this heavy information with others who had been similarly touched. Those others were there, but in small numbers. Most of the assholes there were spouting off hate filled left vs. right rhetoric, totally unrelated to the story.

Mom called last night to tell me my far away Grandmother has gone to her deathbed. She is ready to go be with her husband. I don’t feel sad about this, at least not on the surface. It feels like the most natural thing in the world.

Meanwhile, an atmospheric river flows into the Northwest, causing an avalanche to block Stevens pass and a mudslide to block the north-south railroad corridor. Rivers surge dangerously high, echoing the images from 2 weeks ago across the Pacific where poison now leaks and seeps into groundwater and the ocean. Look at Snoqualmie Falls!!

Already emotionally vulnerable, I knew I shouldn’t watch this next video, featuring an unbelievably outrageous prediction/concern by a republican representative from Indiana.

His supposition is so twisted that on first reading of the headline I thought, humm, if this person actually believed women would lie about being raped in order to obtain an abortion, he must be explaining why safe and legal access to abortion is so vital to preserve. That’s not what he was saying, of course. I start thinking of my own history. As I do from time to time, I think back to when I chose to save my own life, because I was not ready to be a mother. I never regret my choice for a minute, but occasionally I do take time to reflect on what happened, and to feel sentimental about the child who was never more than potential. I imagine him or her as an adult now, and wonder what would have happened if the father and I experienced that timeline. A rather frightening scenario to contemplate, one I don’t dwell on. And the potential life conceived out of love? That life wasn’t lost to this earth, it was merely delayed. Later, when the time was right, we both had our own children with other partners. By cosmic synchronicity, he and I both had beautiful blond boys at the same time, 12 years later.

Back to Representative Turner’s crazy assertion. What would I have done if abortion had been illegal? I might have gone to an underground provider, or became a mother at 17, but it would be UNTHINKABLE to accuse someone of rape so I could terminate my pregnancy. Are there women out there who would do such a thing? If there are, those people are extremely troubled and probably shouldn’t become parents, and underscores the need for legal access to abortion.

I start thinking of person after person in my life now and also from my past whom I have loved. I start to write tributes in my mind of all of them. Probably someday when they also pass I will share these stories with others. Or, better yet, sooner so they can understand how they have made the world a better place.  I weep a bit more with good memories of friends and family.

Later, I approach the laptop again. Oh hey, what truths is Jon Stewart pointing out now?
Click that link below, I can’t figure out how to imbed it properly.

Well, that speaks for itself; he really nailed it there.

In case I didn’t get enough of my emotional heartstrings going earlier, I decided to check out this touching remembrance of a gay soldier who died in combat overseas. His dad eloquently explains the how foolish this DADT policy has been.


Okay, I took a break to pray for the waters of Fukushima


Did I mention I’m home sick today? And that I planted two apple trees in the backyard Tuesday? And I didn’t have to water them due to the convenient atmospheric river. But Dylan was out in it, on an outdoor field trip, releasing salmon fry into Squalicum Creek (also contaminated, sigh)

I was recently catching up on my Fresh Air episodes from last year and learned some amazing things about water pollution, particularly that caused by “clean” coal. Yes, by cleaning our air we are simply putting the garbage into water instead. This is a highly recommended segment.

Do you ever wonder why there are so many people sick with mysterious autoimmune disorders like MS or lupus? I do.  I recently read that some people think a cure for MS will be found before we know the cause. Does that make any sense to you because it doesn’t to me. I want to know the cause so we can prevent it! I almost wrote “ you dumbasses” but I don’t want to sound like I am criticizing people doing important work that I can’t even begin to understand

Oh wow, look at these twin babies having a conversation.

You know, they kind of sound like Donald Duck.

Then Dr Monkey shared this bumper sticker with me. Thanks.
It's going to be okay

Subdued Superbowl

On superbowl morning I realize that I need  to check in with Mr. beatgrl to see which teams are playing, and I’m secretly a little bit proud of that. The Peelers and the Stackers, okay.  We kiss dadzy goodbye as he departs for the office and it turns into a lazy day — the boys and I lounge in PJs all day long. Miraculously, the kids don’t ask for screen time and instead spend the morning reenacting historical events using Lego bricks. Montgomery bus boycott!! And of course the destruction of the Twin Towers. Around 3:00, I realize I could be drinking or eating guacamole — it’s practically my patriotic duty. I do get a small rush enjoying the thought of my Freedom® but I am unable to muster the energy to celebrate a sports game when the city is in sleep mode with gray clouds sending down a drizzle. Quiet.

A bit before 5pm, his friend heads home and the boy and I finally rally — out of the house to meet friends for dinner. So glad we did. Once outside we tasted the dense air, which was at once oppressive and comforting. We delighted in the empty streets — muffled by low clouds, the nearly unpopulated city being washed clean in a downpour. Once in the restaurant and heading into the bar for a Margarita, I unexpectedly arrive just in time to catch Fergie and Slash on the TV. Lucky me. Dumbfounded and confused, I barf a little in my mind and step back into the front room to rejoin my friends. A little while later, boy and I head over to visit dad, who listened to the event on the radio in his office-cave. We felt a tinge of sadness seeing his lone car in the dark rain as we pulled into the lot.

Back home, I skim the archived LiveSlog of the event, with particular attention to 5:09-5:22 which hilariously summed up the salient points regarding the halftime show. Now I am motivated to watch some video of the performances. Wow, the sound was messed up. I feel for the Black Eyed Peas because that mix really made them sound like crap, at least on the version I watched which some guy videotaped off his TV screen. Still really skeeved by the Sweet Child-O -Mine nightmare but I have to watch it again for the child’s benefit. And then it got worse. As someone in the slogosphere noted – the fake audience performed better than the stars onstage. The LED suit dancing probably looked cool from the stands – they were making hearts, how lovely is that? Didn’t really translate well onto TV, at least via the grainy “person with a camera standing in front of a TV filming” version I saw.  Checked one important commercial (Cowboys and Aliens — looks like crap but we’ll probably see it in the theater.) And we’re done!

Oh yes and there was also a football game but I won’t remember who won until I check the news tomorrow morning.

Then we built a magnetic linear accelerator! The End.

Taping on the last magnet, before attaching the steel balls.



Ps for Web 2.0 critics– leave Fergie alone!

Spring Break Part III – Land of the dead

Hey people, let’s get this trip report over with so we can be in the moment again shall we?

First of all, I can’t believe I forgot about one of the most exciting and scary parts of our stay at Leslie Gulch. I meant to write about the profound silence there. One walk I took alone, the sound of my vest rubbing against me pants seemed deafening. (curse you nylon and zippers! Now I know why real earth folk wear natural fibers.) So the first night we are snug in our bags and suddenly we hear a noise like the sky is being ripped apart. I am ready for anything. Maybe a meteor? Could this be a good day to die? Or perhaps we’ll make first contact with aliens. The noise passed overhead and we stuck our heads out the tent door in time to see the second wave of these guys, so close to the ground it felt like we could get singed by the afterburners:


They came by about the same time the next night, about 10:30pm. The sound was so loud it was terrifying. I bet that for the pilots, ripping through the Owyhee canyon would be like a video game. They were lower than the canyon walls! Still, it scared the shit out of us.

Day 6

Leaving the Gulch, we decided to go explore the Diamond Craters area and scout out Cow Lakes Campground. After the rains, the roads were less than ideal. Thankfully we have 4 wheel drive!! I wish I had gotten a picture of our car completely coated in mud. We bailed out before getting all the way there and came upon a waterfowl paradise. basalt lined pools in this stream were filled with teals, widgeons, and many more. Then we saw the Sandhill Cranes! They were so tall, they towered over the brush. My camera doesn’t zoom enough to get a good shot, so we just took turns with the binocs. Here’s what the cranes look like:


We were east of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge here. A few minutes later, we stopped at the grave of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. You may know him as Sacagawea’s baby, the only child ever depicted on United States currency.


He died of pneumonia at age 61 while traveling through this area.

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau 1805-1866 This site marks the final resting place of the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Born to Sacagawea and Toussaint Charbonneau at Fort Mandan (North Dakota) on February 11, 1805, Baptiste and his mother symbolized the peaceful nature of the "Corps of Discovery." Educated by Captain William Clark at St. Louis, Baptiste at 18 traveled to Europe where he spent six years becoming fluent in English, German, French and Spanish. Returning to American in 1829, he ranged the far west for nearly four decades as mountain man, guide, interpreter, magistrate, and forty-niner. In 1866, he left the California gold fields for a new strike in Montana, contracted pneumonia enroute, reached "Inskips Ranche," here, and died on May 16.

Hitting the road again with a less than favorable weather forecast, we head for John Day country. The Owyhee area is known for its hot springs, including this stunner. But that will have to wait for another trip, when the roads are passable and the river is fordable.

The rest of the day looked a lot like this:

Silvies River

And we ended up in a sad motel in John Day Oregon that night, and ate bad Mexican food for dinner.

Day 7
A new day, we checked out the new John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Visitor Center. This is an amazing museum, with a working paleontology lab inside. Visitors can peer in through a huge viewing window and see scientists working. There were also 6 uniformed NPS rangers available for our question asking pleasure. The “John Day Fossil beds” cover a huge area of eastern Oregon, and reveal millions of years of ancient history, “one of the longest and most continuous records of evolutionary change and biotic relationships in North America.”


It was too nice a day to spend indoors, so we hit the trail at Blue Canyon:

Blue Canyon

Later in the afternoon we headed for the town of Fossil, where we heard there is a public fossil bed where we could look for our own. There were a lot of leaves in here! We found a dawn redwood. This was more the boy’s speed than writing essays at the visitor center for a junior ranger badge.

fossil oregon

Soon it was getting late. We had to find a campsite. we took a chance at some BLM land near the John Day River. This abandoned ranch/tree research station became our home for the night:

john day ranch
john day river

Day 8
The wind farms have really grown in the Columbia Valley. It looks like an alien invasion of robot monsters. I guess this is where my green power program money is going.

New windmill

I’m not totally comfortable with the wind solution to our oil troubles. The windmills are massive, ugly and scary. There’s a whole new road network now to service them, and new power lines. I’ve heard they confuse and kill bats. Just what we need as mosquito borne disease is certain to increase as our planet warms.

Several hours and a few DVD movies later, we are definitely in Western Washington.
samish river

Aaahh, back in Bellingham!

rainy downtown bham

No place like home!!

Go to Part 1 or Go to Part 2

Spring Break Part II: Owyhee Country

Day 4

Leaving the comfort of our cozy yurt at Wallowa Lake, we hit the road. Destination – the middle of nowhere. Based on looking at maps and some light googling, I decided we should head to Leslie Gulch, a BLM wilderness study area near the Owyhee Reservoir. The Benchmark Atlas description of “unique rock formations, some towering more than 2000 feet above the canyon floor” sounded intriguing. Apparently the rocks are filled with holes formed by escaping volcanic gasses. Raindrops started to fall as we got closer to the area. We set off on a 25 mile long dirt road to the area and hoped for the best.

Succor Creek

The whole area we are passing through is open rangeland. If I were a cow, this would be a mighty fine place to be. At least now, in the lushness of spring. They looked pretty happy, and there were tons of cute little calves, often on the road. The land usually doesn’t fare as well. Thankfully, this area didn’t seem overgrazed, as is so often the case.

The pronunciation of Owyhee is interesting.The name of the river

is from the older spelling of “Hawaii”. It was named for three Hawaiian trappers, in the employ of the North West Company, who were sent to explore the uncharted river. They failed to return to the rendezvous near the Boise River and were never seen again. Due to this the river and its region was named “Owyhee”.


A sign informed us upon entry to the gulch that camping was allowed only at one designated campground at Slocum Creek. Once we got there we were pleasantly surprised. The campground was perfect, even relatively luxurious. Completely empty, located in an enchanting area, a brand new bathroom, garbage collection (!), and free!!

Slocum Cr Campground

Each site even had a (certainly for sun protection) shelter, so we could camp comfortably in the rain. Yay! Here I am glassing the hillsides for bighorn sheep (no luck) The herd is over 200 animals.


Day 5
The next day we took a hike up a side canyon called Juniper Gulch. If you are a 9 year old boy this is the ideal kind of trail.

D in Jgulch

This is the view back toward where we came.

Juniper Gulch

Later, back at camp, the boy displays his shell collection which has been growing since he started it in Hell’s Canyon.


Cool news! A new 517,000 acre wilderness area was just created on the Owyhee River as part of Obama’s omnibus bill March 30th, 2009. Right on!

That’s all for now, more to come.

    End of part 2

In the next installment: A place to die: The world of graves and fossils
Go to Part 1

Spring Break – Far Eastern Oregon

Day 1:
Only departed seven hours later than we planned. Woo hoo! We had reservations for 3 nights in a yurt at Wallowa Lake State Park in NE Oregon, which is about 9 hours away from home. It was a beautiful day for a drive and the snow was perfect for throwing at Snoqualmie.

We decided we couldn’t make it the whole way the first day and stopped in Yakima. It was the boy’s 9th birthday and he wanted to celebrate by eating “dinner” at McDonalds. Amazingly, we couldn’t find one (!!!!!!!) except the one inside WalMart. Ugh. He mainly wanted the play area so instead we went to (ick) Burger King. I wanted to try to get us a good hotel deal using the magic of the internet, but where does one find wifi in Yakima? There was a very fancy hotel next door to BK so I strolled into the lobby, made a beeline for the business center, got onto priceline, bid 45 bucks for a 3 star hotel, printed out the confirmation, and we had a room at the Red Lion for the night. Over at the hotel I checked us in, then smiled inside as the folks behind me in line were quoted $90. Booya! We are unpacking our stuff when we realized the boy had no suitcase. Uh oh. I think that was my booboo. I had spent way too much time at home carefully packing it for our 8 day trip. It’s 8:00 and Hubster was about to pass out. He pulled an all nighter the night before our departure finishing a map submittal. So, happy birthday my son, lets go shopping at WalMart and get you an 8 day wardrobe. We said goodnight to daddy and got to hang out a hot crowded Walmart (as close to heaven on earth as I can think of) for a couple hours (one hour shopping and playing wii and one hour in line – or at least it felt like that long.) Thankfully we had shoes and outerwear packed separately so we didn’t have to buy that.

Day 2:
Made it to our new home away from home. Super nice, with beds, couch, lights, heat and electricity. In fact, I think this thing has more outlets that our whole house.

inside the yurt

The lake was formed when a glacier receded and left these massive moraines. I’ve never seen anything like it.

wallowa lake
frozen lake

While daddy napped, the boy and I had some fun throwing rocks onto the frozen lake. At one point, boy threw a huge rock which busted through the ice, releasing a bunch of brown slime. It would be better described as an explosion than a release actually. Gunk shot out in all directions. eeww. Shortly after this the boy wanted to go swimming. It was probably no more than 60 degrees out. Oh, yeah, and the lake was, uh, frozen.
Me: “What, are you crazy?”
Boy: “I’m a Bellinghamster, mom, I’m not from California like you and dad”

Day 3:


The Wallowas are this amazing range that kinda sits off by itself, and has peaks in the 8000-9000 ft range, and supposedly kicks ass (in a good way) according to books I’ve read. The Eagle Cap Wilderness is up there, and I want to come back in the summer and check it out. It is really out there: nowhere near a city and not on the way anywhere, either. If you try to drive any farther east your way is blocked by the Hells Canyon on the Snake River.

cool barn

This is cattle country. this trip was all about the cow. We saw them every day, everywhere we went. Grazing away. I’m amazed I only got one picture.

We got out in the snow at Salt Creek summit. I got my skis out and got a great workout in some marked (but not groomed) nordic routes. Hub and boy didn’t make it very far past the parking lot. There wasn’t really a snowboard slope. Here I am posing at the biggest hill around after I worked up a sweat kicking and gliding.

salt creek summit

It was a warm day, according to the forecast the warmest and sunniest we could expect for the rest of our trip, so we decided to lose some elevation and try to interact with a body of water. We were drawn down to the Imnaha River. What I didn’t anticipate was that unlike where we live, there are private cattle ranches inside or adjacent to most of the the public lands, and those barbed wire fences everywhere effectively cut off public access to the rivers. There’s the Imnaha way down there.


We are near the boundary of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The road started to get really sketchy after a while so we decided not to go too far into these canyons. We had to get home to our yurt and make dinner. Sadly we did not get to put our feet in the water.

To be Continued

[See a whole bunch of pics at my (cough) facebook page (cough)]