Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pacific Northwest Day 9 - Hardly Disappointing

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The hostess at the RV camp seemed a bit confused when I asked where to have breakfast. I think she thinks I insulted her biscuits and gravy. I wasn’t.  I just absolutely refused to have breakfast at an RV park (I have my standards).  So, I upped the scale one notch and had waffles and eggs at Rod’s Bar and Grill.  They have a good breakfast. Really.

A good part of the morning was spent birding various roads and campgrounds east of Astoria (using that same reference from the day before).  Gnat Creek was nice, but light on birds.  I did see a slug the size of a hot dog. Damn.  Marsh Wren was nice at the Columbia River Bald Eagle platform.  Green Heron was neat, too.  More Crossbills.

As I was making my way through Astoria the final time, I smelled coffee. With my heightened sense of smell, I knew there was coffee in “that building right there”.  At exactly 10:10am, I was in there buying an absolute gem of a coffee mill.  I could smell it from the road! Not really. Anyway, it is from the Arcade Manufacturing Company.  It sports all original hardware, one imperfection and an intact label!  Nice find!  (As of this writing, I still don’t have it.  I left it at my sister’s house; she said she would ship it.  I did not have room for it on the plane. Rest assured, my nine faithful readers, I will post pictures and info at a later date.)

As I crossed the bridge from Astoria into Washington (after scoring 53 species in Oregon), I made my way to the southwesternmost corner of Washington.  My first priority was lunch.  After wasting time in line at a Subway behind a family that is clearly giving the Duggars a run for the money, I grabbed the sub “to go” and headed off to Cape Disappointment. 

Don’t let the name fool you here.  There is nothing disappointing about it.  In 1788, Captain John Meares named this place because he could not find the mouth of the Columbia River.  (Historic note – Lewis and Clark were the first to travel across the continent to see the Pacific Ocean.  The mouth of the Columbia had already been located by ships sailing the Pacific.  Lewis and Clark, in a sense, connected the dots between the East and the West.)

Pulling up a rock on the jetty, I ate.  More pelican parades (just like Fort Stevens in Oregon), except this time they were overhead.  The large, gray shorebirds on the rocks had me super-excited.  With fleeting glimpses, I was thinking “Surfbird”.  A clear view showed they (there were two) were actually Wandering Tattlers. Not a life bird, but a great bird!  (The photo above is the jetty as viewed from the Interpretive Center.)

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is worth a stop.  With a back porch perched on a 200-foot cliff overlooking the rivermouth/ocean, the view is breathtaking.  Exhibits take you along with Lewis and Clark.  No, you are not eating dogs or dealing with fleas, but you certainly get a better feel for what they dealt with along the way. 

One impressive item in the collection, and on display, is an axe head used by Patrick Gass. He was one of the three sergeants under Lewis and Clark.  Historians are not sure it was actually used during the Corps’ “1804-1806 North American Tour”, but we know he owned it.  Can you imagine if he really used it on the journey?  There it is – right in front of you….

I think it is worth noting that Gass was not one of the original sergeants.  He was promoted after the others suggested it.  The position was made vacant upon the death of Charles Floyd in August of 1804 (just a few months into the journey).  Floyd was not killed by Indians. He did not drown.  He did not have a firearms accident (that was Lewis – he was accidentally shot in the butt by his own man).  Something else happened. Here is the scoop…

Lewis had undergone some medical training prior to the Corps’ departure.  In his boxes of gear, he had bottles of Dr. Rush’s Thunderclappers.  Everybody was dealing with significant bowel trouble, but Sergeant Floyd became especially sick with abdominal pains.  While everybody was feeling bad, poppin’ clappers, poopin’ up a storm, and still feeling horrible, Floyd’s pains disappeared and then returned (all the while still in digestive misery).

The fact that his stomach pains started, stopped, and then returned, only to worsen, suggests to medical historians that his appendix blew up.  The building pressure and pain was the initial infection.  The release from pain was the rupture while the recurrence of the pain was the massive abdominal infection which led to his death. 

So think about that the next time you go to the doctor and they make you mad.  Sure, the shot might hurt or the dental mouthwash may taste icky, but they have the advantage of 21st Century medicine even if it doesn’t feel good.  Having a sweaty, smelly, frontiersman with little medical training (but honest intent) shoving “magic pooping-pills” chock full of mercury(!) down your throat to quell an illness he does not understand sounds pretty damned awful to me.  Ahhhh, the good ‘ole days, right?  Keep in mind, too, that Floyd would have died no matter what.  A ruptured appendix was lethal for everybody in that time. The greatest doctors could not have saved him.

Floyd was the only member of the Corps to die during the trip.  He remains buried in Iowa.  

I snuck a peak at a Swainson’s Thrush before I began my casual drive back to Gig Harbor.  The drive up to and east of Aberdeen was quite eye-opening.  Zillions and zillions of acres of re-planted forests (after the original stuffed had been logged off).  By the time I arrived, it was dinner time.  Pizza and beer with a side of laundry! The only beer Becka had on hand was Corona.  Don’t fault her. It’s not fair. 

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