On a little adventure to Wyoming: FOSSIL BUTTE NATIONAL MONUMENT

On my way there I had 2 mornings of glorious sunrises to greet me on my drive from Washington State to Wyoming.

Managed by the National Park Service, Fossil Butte National Monument, was established on October 23 1972 and is located in southwest Wyoming. This monument holds one of the largest deposits of freshwater fish fossils in the world from the Eocene Epoch, 34 to 56 million years ago. In prehistoric times, this part of Wyoming was a sub-tropical lake ecosystem with calm waters, lack of scavengers and a fine sediment that all worked together to create conditions perfect for preserving fossils from the Cenozoic aquatic communities of North America.

For over the two million years Fossil Lake covered an area of 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 k) long north to south and 20 miles (32 k) wide of southwest Wyoming. Today less than 1.5% of Fossil Lake is protected and managed by the National Park Service. Fossil Butte National Monument promotes the protection of this world-class archeological heritage. The Monument contains only 8,198 acres (33,180,000 m2) of the 595,200 acres (2.409×109 m2) of ancient lakebed. The Green River Formation’s ancient subtropical freshwater lake bed preserved 27 species of fish, 2 bat species,10 mammal species,15 species of reptiles that include turtles, lizards, crocodilians, and snakes, 2 extremely rare amphibian species have been identified, insects including spiders, dragonflies and damselflies, crickets’ stoneflies, true bugs, beetles, wasps, bees, ants, moths, butterflies and flies and plants. As major indicators of climate, plants are allowing scientists to study the ancient ecology of the Fossil Lake area. 

When fossils were discovered, coal miners in the area dug them up and sold them to collectors. Commercial and private fossil collecting is not allowed within the National Monument, although private quarries nearby continue to produce fossil specimens, both for museums and for private collectors.

There are over 80 fossils and casts on display in the Monument’s Visitor Center and a 13-minute video showing how fossils are found and what has been learned along with interactive exhibits. During the summer, lab personnel prepare fossils in public. Summer activities also include ranger programs, hikes, paleontology and geology talks, and participation in fossil quarry collections for the park. 

The base of Fossil Butte is defined by the bright red, purple, yellow and gray beds of the Wasatch Formation. Eroded portions of these horizontal beds slope gradually upward from the valley floor and steepen abruptly. Overlying them and extending to the top of the butte are the much steeper buff-to-white beds of the Green River Formation, which are about 300 feet thick. 

Quarry programs take place Fridays and Saturdays mid-June through late August between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you wish to learn about the research and help search for fossils, meet at the Nature Trail and hike a half mile (0.8 k) to the quarry. All fossils found during the program are collected and contributed to the site’s scientific research.

There are several maintained hiking trails less than 3-miles (4.8k) long and two-track dirt roads (closed to vehicles) that spur off Scenic Drive. Scenic Drive is paved until the Nature Trail then it becomes a dirt/gravel road continuing to the north boundary of the Monument. All hikes allow visitors to take in the site’s unique landscape and geological features. Remember if fossils are discovered do not disturb them and inform a ranger as to the location, so that a qualified team can investigate and determine how to handle the fossil.

Day 13 – Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada and onward to Skagway, Alaska

Whitehorse was only about an hour away from the campsite so a relaxing morning sleeping in an extra half hour and a leisurely breakfast awaited.

After packing up we talked to a wonderful couple from Whitehorse who come here to camp, boat and fish on their days off. After talking for probably an hour and a half and getting recommendations for Whitehorse and the afternoon trip  it was on to Whitehorse.

Whitehorse, Yukon has been the capitol city of the Yukon since 1953 and is the northern terminus of the White Pass & Yukon RR from Skagway, Alaska which ferried prospectors to the riverboats plying the Yukon River to the northern goldfields surrounding Dawson in 1900.

Whitehorse’s second boom time was during the construction of the AL-Can Highway in 1942 when many workers converged on this small town. Construction worker population grew form 2,500 to 3,800 with 1,800 tons of materials and equipment being shipped by rail from Skagway each week in 1943.

This, the only city of the Yukon Territories, has a population was 33,897 people per the 20111 census. A pleasant place to visit as it provides all the services of any town or city. Many attractions and good food establishments are here for the visitor to enjoy.

Parking at the Visitor Center downtown it was off to a recommended spot for lunch, Klondike Rib and Salmon BBQ. Such a fun atmosphere to enjoy as was the wonderful meal. I will definitely go back there for another meal to try out a different menu item, mine was fantastic and very filling.

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Heading back to the Visitor Center to gather some information on the area it was time to visit a real Sternwheeler, the S.S. Klondike that sailed the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City.

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The S.S. Klondike National Historic Site is an old stern-wheeler that once plied the Yukon River carrying passengers, mail and supplies to Dawson City. With only a four and half month shipping season the boats were hauled out of the water on skids in the Whitehorse Ship Yards for the winter months of a frozen Yukon River. This interesting attraction lets you board the ship and on a self guided tour to explore the many areas of its interior at your pace.

Built in 1929 this boat was the largest on the Yukon. Sternwheelers were less vulnerable to paddle damage than the side-wheelers. Built in 1929 an accident sunk her in 1936. Refitted that winter the Klondike went from an ore hauler to carrying passengers and cargo. She carried 300 tons (270 tonnes) of cargo with a draft of only 40 inches (1 meter) and 32 – 1st class passengers.

The lower deck just above water line was for the crews quarters, the cargo, engine room, boilers and with bunks lashed to the sanctions at the aft sleeping accommodations for 2nd class passengers. The next deck held the 1st class cabins, Dining Room for the passengers and a separate one for the crew, Kitchen, Observation Lounge at the front of the ship and the Sun Deck at the stern. Above that was the Boat Deck housing the Officers Cabins. Finally at the very top was the Wheelhouse or “Monkey Island”. Situated well forward and high it gave an unobstructed view for the Master and Pilot to navigate the ship though the dangerous waters.

Next up it was a drive to the outskirts of town to visit Miles Canyon. The canyon is a cross section of volcanic rocks where the Yukon River cuts through a succession of flows south of  Whitehorse. The White Horse Rapids in Miles Canyon provided a significant challenge to the prospectors heading to theDawson City and the gold rush providing the upstream terminus of the Paddle wheelers. The rapids are now tamed by dams along the river.

Finally it was off the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center that explains the Yukon’s history during the Ice Age. Being largely ice-free during this timea local cave provided the oldest evidence of human habitation in North America has been found.

Getting a late start the following attractions were missed but sound fun and interesting making for another visit an enjoyable adventure.

The MacBride Museum houses artifacts and stories of the events and people who settled and built the Yukon.

Waterfront Walkway provides a walking path along the Yukon River connecting several parks along its path.

Yukon transportation Museum is home to the world’s largest weathervane, an old DC-3 and provides exhibits on the transportation used in the far north.

Old Log Church Museum is one of the oldest buildings in the city completed in 1900 and hides stories of the older pioneers of the region.

Yukon’s oldest brewery north of the 60th parallel, the Yukon Brewing Company.

Leaving Whitehorse late in the afternoon the route turned south on the South Klondike Highway to its terminus in Skagway, Alaska. This relatively short 2.5 hour drive of 105 miles (169 k) was a breathtaking day of travel. This 2-lane road of spectacular scenery had many turnouts for viewing vast landscapes and intimate waterfalls. Before the highest point of the road at 3,292 feet (1,003 m) at Whitehorse Pass there is an 11. 5 mile (18.5 k) 11 percent grade of roadway.

Turning west right before entering Skagway along the Dyea Road, Dyea Campsite was the location for the next 3 nights of the journey for 2 full days to explore Skagway, Old Town Dyea and the Chilkoot Trail.

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Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Named by Captain John Meares’ 1778 disappointing sailing to find the mouth of the Columbia River for trading. Being turned away by a severe storm, he named this place Cape Disappointment. While in complete contrast Lewis and Clark’ s Corps of Discovery cheered as they completed their journey with their first sight of the Pacific Ocean on a bluff on Cape Disappointment.

“Cape Disappointment Map 07-27-16”

Cape Disappointment State Park is far from being a disappointment. Steeped in Northwest history, it is a place to explore U.S. military and maritime installations, learn more of Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition and their effects on native tribes of the area. Camp, fish, hike old-growth forests, roam around freshwater lakes, saltwater marshes and ocean tidelands. Marvel at the breathtaking views from the highlands above the sea and wander the beaches that are enjoyed by kite-fliers, beachcombers, sandcastle builders and those who just love to walk. Hike to 2 lighthouses that guided the mariners to the mouth of the river and kept them from becoming victims of the Grave Yard of the Pacific.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

I began my day at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and one of the Battery’s of Fort Canby that defended the entrance to the Columbia River from the mid 1900’s to the end of World War II. The Interpretive center is a museum providing a history lesson of The Corps of Discovery’s journey from settled America along the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Walk along the history path in its interactive exhibits that will entertain all ages. Sitting right above Battery Harvey Allen of Fort Canby to the inland side and overlooking the Pacific Ocean from its cliff side perch it is a wonderful place to start your visit to the park.

Off to the south from the ocean-viewing platform of the Interpretive Center you see Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Start the hike to the lighthouse in the Interpretive Center’s parking lot. You’ll walk through dense forest glimpsing ocean and river views as you make your way to the oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest. Built in 1856 to warn the ships of the treacherous currents and obstacles of the river bar at the mouth of the river.

Continuing on driving I thought I made a very wrong turn as I saw a sign for Waikiki Beach. It is a short ¼ mile (0.4 k) walk to the beach. It was still overcast when I visited although I suspect it would be a nice place for a picnic lunch and to watch the waters and vessels of the Columbia River float past.

Continuing my exploration of the park I stopped a short time later at the trailhead to Battery 247 that is perch on a hill in a strategic location overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. Very deteriorated and overgrown it is an interesting structure to wander through. Although being small I recommend bringing some type of flashlight or headlamp to go deeper into the underground ammunition building. This is also the area where Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery first laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean.

Following the road a little further leads me to the campground. I wish to see if I wanted to spend the night here. I found it to be a nice place right along the ocean and went back to the entry station to reserve a site for the night. I wanted a quiet spot to relax for the night so selected site #157. My site is not right along the beach, although a few are, but only 200 yards (183 m) away. In this group of 9 campsites there were only 2 other sites being occupied.

 

Having settled my accommodations for the night I drove up to North Head Lighthouse to walk the pathway to the base of the lighthouse. This second lighthouse was built as the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse left a section of coast unprotected from a mariner’s point of view. Built 190 feet (60 m) above sea level in 1898 this 65’ (19.8 m) tall lighthouse is still functioning and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. This is located on one of the windiest places along the west coast with recorded winds of up to 120 MPH (321.9 km/h).

Finished for the day I returned to set up camp and have a snack before I took a walk along the beach outside my temporary front door. The beach was an easy walk although exploring higher up the high tide line finds many logs that have been deposited along the beach during the severe storms coming in off the Pacific. Many small windbreak structures have been built by visitors add to the cozy feel of the beach.

Deciding to go back and grab my camera tripod, I return to the beach to watch the sun setting in the west. After a wonderful rest and watching a beautiful sunset I proceed back to my camp, fix a small dinner and climb into the tent early to do a little reading then to fall asleep listening to the waves crashing into the shore.

I will return here again to continue exploration of the trails in the area. The 1.5 mile (2.4 k) Coastal Forest Loop trail, Bell’s View Trail, the 1.5 mile (2.4 k) long North Head Trail and the south portion of the coastal Discovery Trail will be on the short list of walks.

I continue my journey in the morning crossing back into Oregon to visit Fort Stevens then head a little further south to see another fantastic beach.

FORT VANCOUVER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

This National Historic Site has a long history on the north bank of the Columbia River, starting as a Hudson Bay fur trading post. The Park is a collection of 4 distinct sites, Old Fort Vancouver, The Village, Pearson Air Field and Vancouver Barracks, each having a history of transition, settlement, manufacturing and conflict.

“Old Fort Vancouver”, visited before (LINK) which I will discussed more in a future post, was established around 1825 by the Hudson Bay Company. Serving as the main headquarters of the Company’s interior fur trade from Russian Alaska to Mexican California and everything west of the Rocky Mountains.

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Reconstructed Old Fort Vancouver

“The Village” provided the area for housing the workers and their families who supported Fort Vancouver. Established in 1829 it had a population exceeding 600 and was one of the largest settlements in the west at that time.

“Pearson Air Field” first used the Polo Field of the Vancouver Barracks as a site for aviation enthusiasts to gather and show off their aerobatic skills in the early years of the 20th century. During World War I a Spruce Production Mill was built on the Polo Field to supply aviation grade lumber in the manufacturing of war planes. After the war the Spruce Mill was removed and “Vancouver Barracks Aerodrome” was built, in 1925 it was christened “Pearson Air Field,” after Lt. Alexander Pearson. I will go into more detail of this part of the Park in a future post.

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New Years trip to Washington – Part 5

We take a day to rest, clean and organize our things from the adventure at Tillamook State Forest then decide to head north from Vancouver, WA for a day trip to Battleground Lake to enjoy the nature surrounding it. Being winter it is raining off-and-on today, so we go down to the lakeshore so my grandson can have some fun trying to fill the lake with rocks he finds on the shoreline. This is something he really enjoys, he has thrown rocks at Mt Adams, into the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park and now here. Kids are so funny how they entertain themselves. We discussed hiking the trail that goes around the lake but decided that with the rain it would just be a slick mess.

 

 

After our short stay at the lake we head to The Cedar Creek Grist Mill just outside Etna south of the Lewis River along scenic Cedar Creek. A gristmill grinds grain into flour using nature’s forces, usually water being run by a water wheel. The first water-powered mill was reported around 71 BC in Asia Minor. Grain mills in England were counted in the 1086 Domesday Survey In England, which stated there were 5,624, or about one for every 300 inhabitants that year, peaking to 17,000 by 1300.

Cedar Creek Grist Mill is a working museum allowing visitors inside to observe the workings of the mill built in 1876. Samples are given to visitors after the tour of the facility. This is a totally nature driven mill using the water flowing through a plumb to a Leffel turbine installed with its flume (water canal) around 1888. Pulleys, and belts turn the milling stone producing flour, corn meal and sometimes apple cider.

 

 

Resting on a steep and rocky slope in the narrow gorge of Cedar Creek, it is the only gristmill in Washington that still maintains its original structure, mills with stones, and is water powered, this is also the oldest building in Washington State still producing its original product.

 

 

The last owner died in the late 1950’s and the property was bought by The State Fisheries Department in 1961 that removed the old dam and built a fish ladder. The Fort Vancouver Historical Society leased the mill in 1961 and had it registered as a National Historical Place.

Time, weather and vandals took its toll by 1980. “The Friends of the Cedar Creek Grist Mill”, a non-profit corporation, was formed to save the old mill. Using period tools consisting of axes and adzes they replaced the damaged posts and beams. Due to a dam removal in 1961 they had to now get water into the mill, extending the flume 650 feet where the water from the creek could flow into the intake without the dam.

Next to the mill is a covered bridge across Cedar Creek. There is no history on the first bridge although it was completely replaced by a truss bridge in 1935. The 1935 bridge could not support heavy loads, so in 1994 a new covered bridge spanning Cedar Creek was built.

 

 

Sadly it was closed on this weekday right after the holiday but peeking in the windows demands a return visit when it is open.

Orange Empire Railraod Museum

A few weeks ago my grandson and I visited the Orange Empire Railway Museum (LINK) when the annual Steampunk fair was being held. This non-profit museum opened in 1956 to preserve Southern California’s railway history that dates from the 1870’s. With over 200 historic railway locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, streetcars, interurban electric cars, buildings, and other artifacts from Los Angeles and the West, the 90-acre site in Perris, California is open to the public every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas (check site for current opening days, times and special events).

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Chesters Fort and Hadrian’s Wall

Chesters Fort Rendering from the south

After the morning wandering and exploring Beamish we drove approximately 30 miles to visit Chesters Fort (LINK) a part of Hadrian’s Wall (LINK). Driving along beautiful countryside we had to have the car disinfected for Foot and Mouth. Arriving at the fort we visited the museum to learn the history of the wall and fort, then walked through disinfecting mats for our short walk to the fort.

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Welcome to Beamish – A Living Museum of Northeastern English Life

Back in 2001 it was decided to visit England, Scotland and Wales and to delve into the history, architecture and culture of the country.  What we discovered was an excellent way to do this, Living Outdoor Museums. This was the first Living Open-Air museum that I had ever visited and it started a search for additional ones during all future travels in the USA and Europe. Visiting one gives you the experience and a real sense of the past as you discover what life was like. Within the different buildings there usually are actors in period dress demonstrating the daily life of the time being depicted, while answering questions you might have and explaining what it was like living in those times.

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Pompeii – The death of a city

On a fateful August morning in 79 AD Pompeii (LINK), a Roman town-city near modern Naples, was totally destroyed and buried under a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius (LINK) killing around 3,000 people as the rest of the population had already fled before the eruption. A flood of ash and protoplasmic heated air rained down on the town for approximately 6 hours completely burying the town and its inhabitants in up to twelve layers of ash and debris up to 82 feet (25 meters) deep.

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