Sunday, May 31, 2009

Visiting Paradise

When my sister-in-law and I got off our Amtrak train in Spokane we stayed a couple nights in a perfectly respectable Travelodge.  The next night we had a rustic-at-best cabin at an RV camp in Cougar, Washington.  But the next night we stayed in Paradise.

We signed in at Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier National Park a few hours after it opened for the season.  On May 15th the snow around the inn was piled high, in many places obscuring windows. It was sixty-five degrees, and there was a lake of melted water by the doors. At 5,400 feet above sea level it looked like January, but felt like a balmy spring day.  

According to Great Lodges of the West, by Christine Barnes, the architectural firm for the inn was Heath and Gove of Tacoma, and for the annex (where we stayed) it was Harlan Thomas. The inn opened July 1, 1917, built for $100,000, and became a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

My sister-in-law, dwarfed by the huge piles of snow at the hotel

Our room in the 1920 annex had a small private bath, and was pretty basic.

The view out the small windows was stunning. Although our window did not show Mt. Rainier, it did show the Tatoosh Range.  At night we saw a fox running across the snow in the moonlight.

A handful of well-equipped climbers start off for a day at Mt. Rainier.  Right after I took this picture I met a park ranger named Sarah Pigeon, a name that made me smile since I am a fan of ranger Anna Pigeon in Nevada Barr's national park themed murder mysteries.  I wonder if she has written one set here.

I've stayed at historic lodges before in places like Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, and the Grand Canyon.  This one, like the others, depends on its setting and rustic architecture for its appeal. The rooms aren't new or spacious; there is no telephone or television, but who wants to spend time in a room when natural splendor waits steps away?  The inn features cedar shingles and rock masonry that makes the building fit into its environment beautifully.  The great hall has a two and a half story ceiling, a features two massive stone fireplaces.  There is a huge cedar table that is supposed to weigh over a thousand pounds, six-foot throne chairs, a rustic grandfather clock and piano that was once played by Harry Truman. A man played piano that afternoon, taking requests for show tunes from guests lounging in the hall.  Light streams in through dormer windows high above a mezzanine where tea is served in the afternoon and coffee in the morning.  The second story balcony with its hickory tables and chairs is a good place to read, write a post card, or sip wine.  Large suspended light fixtures from the 1930s with drum shades hand painted with native wild flowers softly illuminate the room. There is also a large comfortable dining room, staffed by young men and women who were just learning their tables and how to operate the new computer system.  The food was delicious. 

I wish we could have seen the inn in summer when the wildflowers are in bloom, but I thought the snow covered mountains were stunning.  Plus this early in the season the area isn't as crowded as it can be when the weather is warmer.  We couldn't hike at this altitude without snowshoes, but we drove down the mountain, stopping for more views along the way, and hiked near the National Park Inn at Longmire.  There was no snow there, and we stretched our legs on a couple muddy fern-lined trails.  

Click on the link below to see more about Mt. Rainier National Park.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bringing the Past and Present Together

I had never heard of the Palouse region of Washington until a few months ago when I began planning for this trip, but here is where my maternal great grandfather, Edward Lemuel Adams,  and his family came from, and where descendants of that pioneer family live today. The Palouse is a large area of rolling hills in eastern Washington state, green in spring, golden in summer, dedicated to agriculture - primarily wheat. It's possible that the term comes from a French word, pelouse, "land with short thick grass", or "lawn."  It might be related to a Native American term.  Appaloosa horses first came from this region.

I knew the family had a farm in Fairfield, Washington, from the comments and notes my grandmother, Bernice Adams Tess, left behind.  Though her father and mother were divorced when she was small, and he was killed when she was eleven, she corresponded with her cousins, and spoke of the family he whole life.  I wanted to see the farm, walk the cemetery and meet the cousins living in the area now.

In a book Early History of Fairfield, edited by Glen Cameron Adams, teacher, printer and historian, there is a wonderful story related by a cousin I met that day, Gerald Holt.  Holt loves to tell family stories.  He contributed this anecdote about the Adams/Holt farm established by Civil War veteran Herman Heinrich Adams and his wife, Annie Lucretia Moore in the 1880s. Gerry Holt's grandfather, Arn,  built the barn; his mother Hermanie Adams Holt features importantly in the story.

The family lived at the foot of Mica Peak in a one-room cabin with a 40-foot tent while Grandpa Holt built the large sawmill for Jim and Emanuel Hansen.  After completing the sawmill he brought his family back to Fairfield, where they stayed with Herman and Annie Adams.  In December 1909, fire destroyed the ranch house.  All the neighbors came as they saw the smoke clouds rising.  Uncle Bert Adams had his rising horse in a pasture behind his house in town and never did catch it to get to the fire.  Everything was burned except a picture of the old buildings which Hermine Adams Holt threw out the door.  The picture with its broken glass still hangs in her home.

Hermanie is gone, but Gerald has the watercolor painting, a little water stained, but a fine representation by an itinerant painter from 1890 of the old ranch.  I was thrilled when Angie brought the picture to our luncheon get-together at Cutters Cafe, in Fairfield.

After the fire the ranch house was rebuilt in brick, and today is slowly being rebuilt by Evans Holt.  The barn still stands intact, pictured here surrounded by green grass.  We went into the house, which is bare of windows, and inhabited by pigeons, and looked out over the fields toward Fairfield.  I tried to imagine Annie's lilacs blooming, the barn filled with horses, and the old steam thresher that might have been a reason my great grandpa left home.  According to Gerald, Len wanted to run the steam thresher, but his older brother Will wouldn't let him.  Len was so angry that they fought, and Len burned a haystack and left to eventually become a railroad engineer.

I knew my great grandfather was buried at Fairview Cemetery, Rockford, Washington, not far from Fairfield.  It's a pretty place on a hill, looking out over the town and the surrounding countryside. Many of the Adams cousins, Gerry Holt and granddaughter Angie, Deral Adams, and Garry Adams, and Dona Adams Kochheiser were all there that cold and windy day to walk the cemetery, talk about who was who, and take photos.  Grandpa Adams is buried next to his grandmother's second husband, Lemuel Peele Moore (1812-1884), but no stone marks Adams' grave.  The superintendent of the cemetery took down what I knew: Edward Lemuel Adams, born July 22, 1872, died May 24, 1914.  Then the cousins discussed how to best mark his resting place.  My Grandma Tess would be so pleased.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Glory of Nature, and School Prayer

Ruby Beach, on the Washington coast

Western trillium

Mount St. Helens

Marymere Falls, Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

It gives me pleasure to consider the beauty I've seen when traveling once the trip is over. This journey had many pleasures, in meeting people, in learning about personal and general history, in the chance to roam outside and see nature in its many forms, from rolling wheat lands, to desert, to swollen rivers and placid lakes, to snow-covered mountains. I've been going through my photos, picking which ones to keep and which ones to discard. These are a few I liked. It has been a while since I posted a poem, so I chose this Diane Ackerman poem, which expresses nicely a prayer in response to nature's beauty.

School Prayer
Diane Ackerman

In the name of daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring noon
and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
And the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
--wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell-- on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Postcards from Washington

Mt. Saint Helens and Spirit Lake, Washington 

Bonneville Dam, Columbia River

Cans of salmon, Washington state

Aerial view of Spokane, Washington

Lower falls at Spokane, Washington

I returned from my two week train/driving trip to Washington state on Sunday, and I'm just beginning to catch up on laundry, mail, cleaning and my rest.  I still haven't downloaded the zillion pictures I took from my digital camera.  I'm behind in my reading, my gardening, my art.  I had hoped to do sketching on the trip, but we seemed never to sit still for very long, except on the train from Columbus, WI to Spokane, WA.  I tried drawing a little in a Seattle park at the end of the vacation, but the magic of seeing someone doodling in a notebook just made me several friends in the park where I was working.  Looks like I'll be working from memory and photos once again.

The short version of the trip was that my sister-in-law invited me to join her on vacation, and agreed to let me track down some distant cousins and quiz them on family history.  In addition she agreed to let me experience the less touristy part of Washington east of the Cascade Mountain range.  We took the train to Spokane, had a cousin tour us around that city.  We rented a car and drove to Fairfield, where my maternal great-grandparents raised their family, and where many cousins are buried and some still live today.  We headed south toward the Tri-Cities area, where Grandma lived on a wheat ranch, and where the Hanford Nuclear Reservation stands.  We drove up the Columbia River gorge, and up to both Mt. Saint Helens and Mount Rainier.  Then we drove around the Olympic Peninsula, spending three days at lodges in the rain forest and along the Pacific Ocean.  We ended up in Seattle, where we boarded the train for the two day ride back home.  

It was wonderful - and exhausting.  We met good people, ate good food, and had a good time. We saw antelope, bison, moose, elk and mountain goats from the train, and lots of other fauna and flora closer up.  

I hope to write more specifically in the upcoming days, but this will serve as a beginning.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

National Train Day

Engine at the Hamilton Logging Company, about 1912, Washington state, my great grandfather's last job

Engine on the Great Northern Railroad, my great grandfather the engineer

My great grandfather, Len Adams

It's funny how coincidences happen. I was on my way to meet a friend for lunch yesterday, listening to NPR, and there was an interview with Larry Tye who wrote Rising From the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class, and he mentioned that National Train Day was this weekend. You can read about National Train Day here: Basically it celebrates the day the United States was connected from coast to coast by rail. It just happens that I am packed and ready to leave this afternoon on a train adventure.

My sister-in-law and I are traveling on the Empire Builder to Spokane, Washington. This Amtrak line follows the rail route of the old Great Northern line, a line on which my great grandfather was an engineer from about 1900 until 1913. One of my goals for the trip is to meet relatives where he grew up in Washington, to see the landscape where that family lived, and to try and understand my grandmother's early life and history. I want to walk the cemetery where he is buried, and talk to people who remember things from before I was born.

I also want to see sights, eat out, draw in my travel journal and have a real good time. I'll be back in a couple weeks.

PS - Train Day was fun.  Even the tiny station in Columbus, Wisconsin gave out goodies like cake and coffee, packs of cards, paper conductor hats for the children.  I heard that in Chicago they had live music.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Note From 1937

vintage postcard from Alton, Illinois, July 14, 1937

Today started out on  frustrating note.  We have two Macintosh computers, and they had both been mostly out of commission since Monday.  I spent hours on the telephone, and had tech guys at my house twice, frowning and speculating, and not getting the problem fixed.  Finally I went to my cable company and requested a different modem, and made a appointment with my Mac tech to come get it all set up again.  In the meantime I was edgy, shaky, in withdrawal.  So rather than fume about not being able to work online, or to check my emails that have been coming and going fast and furious in preparation for my trip on Saturday, I went down to the local consignment shop to look over old postcards.

This one struck me immediately.  A grasshopper beating a drum could be humorous, but it struck me as ominous.  Nineteen thirty-seven. The Dust Bowl.  Lots of people were "beating it," leaving farms destroyed by drought and grasshoppers to start over on the west coast.  Think The Grapes of Wrath.   Tonight I read the back of the old penny postcard:

Dear Ruthie and Willis,
Sent the folks one (a postcard) of the dust storm.  Thought this would be good for you.  Never did see so many grasshoppers.  Julia and I slept out in the yard most of the night under the stars.  You should try it.

Oddly enough the book I plan to read after I get home at the end of the month is Tim Eagan's nonfiction account of the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.

Oh, the computers are working fine once more.  I can relax.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Scenes from the Market

I took these photos (all altered a bit) Saturday at the Madison Farmers Market.  It was mobbed, like a rock concert.  We shuffled along in the sunshine, ogled the tulips bloomed around the square, and blue sky reflected in the bank building windows, bought bakery (apricot and date bars), cheese, and a pot of parsley.  

That's all to report.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My May Garden and a poem

manipulated photo of my daffodils and Virginia bluebells

I love sunny May mornings, every one bringing new flowers to my shady garden. The bloodroot is finished, but the bluebells are ringing, and the lily of the valley is getting ready to bloom. I'll have to dig around for the trillium - it's there somewhere. While not so showy, the catnip at the back of the border on the sunny side of the house is fresh and pungent, making the cat's mornings happy, too.

by Charyl K. Zebfus, 2009 Wisconsin Poets Calendar

There are too many seeds
to break through the soil:
too many larvae
to spin their fine wings;
too many fledglings
to fit in the nest.
Yet nature continues
to swivel, dropping
another myriad.
It looks like bounty,
but rather, is miss,
miss and sometimes
hit. A messy
endless birth,
each living thing
spewed into carnal
form, an
groping for its

Friday, May 1, 2009

Uncle Gene

Ralph Eldo Pierce and his brother Gene Earl Pierce, 1931

Gene and Ralph by the corn crib on the farm in Sugar Creek, Wisconsin

Gene, Earl (their father), Ralph, 1947, on the farm

Uncle Gene in Korea, 1951

Pierce men, 1960

Gene Earl Pierce, 1926-2009

I mentioned yesterday that my only uncle, Gene Pierce, died in his sleep yesterday.  He was 83. Gene was my dad's older brother.  When they were younger I didn't think they were anything alike, but after Dad died and Gene lost weight I was struck by how much he looked like Dad, and like Grandpa Pierce.

Gene graduated from Elkhorn High school, and attended Milton Collage, where he played football.  After graduation, he served in Korea, then came home and married.  He lived most of his adult life in Columbia, South Carolina, and acquired a Southern accent that amused me when I was a child.  He had a beautiful voice, and I remember that when Dad died in 1983, Gene sang at the funeral.  He worked for a candy brokerage firm, and when we were kids he would pack big boxes of samples for us at Christmas.  It's a wonder I grew up with any teeth at all.

Because he and his wife and son lived so far away, and my family didn't like to travel, we only saw him when he came north.  But he always was good about keeping in touch with us, and with his childhood friends.  The past few years he was a great source of information and stories for me, and was generous with old photographs.  I will miss him and his memories.