Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Naches Washington 28/9
Good people. Steve, his mother Dolly, his partner Laura ( who may have had a few ), Di, Matt and Jeff. They didn’t mind that I joined them. They are obviously proud of their country.  They like each other. They like the bar. I would be a regular there if I lived locally. Dolly owns it. Jeff has been laid off for a year but doesn’t seem downcast. Steve was full of nuggets of information about local issues and isms. Interesting that even up here, migrant labour is an issue. There is no animosity, rather a resigned awareness that if Mexicans will do a job for $15 an hour, it puts the local bloke, who charges $20 per hour out of business. They all say to avoid Yakima like the plague, which I will do. All were very anxious to suggest things to do and places to stay en route to Yellowstone. They had interesting tales to tell about May 18th 1980, too. Apparently Naches had a fine dust several feet deep and akin to talcum powder. I think Steve is a bit cleverer than he usually allows himself to be, which is a refreshing alternative to the some of the self-congratulatory folks I work with. Dolly, the matriarch, actually hails from Missouri but came out here with her folks in the early 1950s. Modernisation in agriculture meant that her Dad had to look for work, which he found in the fruit orchards near Naches. I am certain it is why there is such tolerance towards today’s migrants.
I spent the first part of the day at Mt St Helens on the ridge, named after Dave Johnston, 5km north of the mountain. When it blew, he had about 8 seconds before rather more than talcum powder fatally enveloped him. The mountain was covered with cloud when I arrived at 10.30. It was a relief to be on my own and to be able to wait around for three hours for the place to clear. I was slightly emotional when the cloud retreated. St Helens encapsulates my whole teaching career. It was the big geographical event to teach in my first year at Teddies. It remains the best documented example of an eruption and now carries additional relevance in the way that nature has responded and recovered. I don’t think there is any other example I can say I have used in all 30 years in the classroom.  Me and it go back a long way. It was just brilliant to say hello, face to face.
The drive from Toledo to Naches was spectacular. At one point it was only in my rear view mirror that I realised that the viewpoint on the roadside was of Mt Rainier. This volcano, incidentally, is 3 times the size of St Helens and, if it goes off, will probably cause major loss of life in Tacoma and Seattle. Anyhow, I turned around to go back to it and it wasn’t until I’d parked off the road that I realised I’d done the whole half mile on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately, there is hardly any traffic around at this time of year.
The other extraordinary element was the almost instantaneous change from forest to dry grassland. West of the watershed is wet and forested. East of it is much drier and grass prevails.  The change takes place in about 2 miles of driving. Naches, east of the divide, gets 350mm of rain p.a. Packwood, west of it but only 20 miles away, gets 1200 mm p.a. The Columbia River plateau, across which I am driving tomorrow towards my next goal at Yellowstone, is probably one of the flattest parts of the USA.


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