Travels in the Great Northwest (and a bear joke) | SierraSun.com

Travels in the Great Northwest (and a bear joke)

Norm and Alan Nicholls

I am writing this column from Spangle, Washington. Spangle is a small farming community about 20 minutes southeast of Spokane. Wheat fields are standing ready for harvest later this month and the big skies are partly cloudy above the rolling hills.

Last Friday night we witnessed an incredible series of thunderstorms with lightening all around us for nearly two hours. The good news was that it also rained very hard so the lightening caused fires were minimal. What a light show!

Alice’s brother Bruce Wilson and his wife Pat retired here over a year ago. They moved here from southeast Washington (Clarkston) and they are now just about 15 miles away from their son, Andy, and his family.

Their two daughters, Brooke and Anna Kate, live in Bozeman, Mont. and Vancouver, Wash., respectively. Two years ago we went to Bozeman to see Brooke and her family, this year we traveled to see Anna Kate and her family. Vancouver, Wash. is just across the river (and border) from Portland, Oregon.

Last Thursday we took the day to explore the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. If you have not been there, you should make plans to do so some day.

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted, and in less than 10 minutes the eruption leveled 230 square miles of forest, the mountain lost 1,300 feet of height, and the eruption began a massive landslide (debris avalanche) that buried 14 miles of river valley to an average depth of 150 feet. A vertical ash eruption rose to a height of 15 miles and continued for 9 hours, and fiery pyroclastic flows flowed into the valley north of the crater.

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It is incredible to see the changes that occurred as a result of the eruption, as well as the re-growth during the subsequent 28 years.

Politics must be different up here as over a thousand loggers and numerous logging companies were allowed to come into the leveled forests almost immediately to salvage what timber they could before the wood dried out and cracked, making the timber of no value. According to one of the museum displays, enough timber was cut and milled to build several thousand homes. Can you imagine that type of cooperation in Tahoe?

Weyerhaeuser and other timber companies were hired to replant thousands of acres with seedlings and some of these newly created forests now have trees that are 30 to 40 feet high. Mother Nature has also done her job amongst the ash with lush vegetation, wild flowers, grasses and wildlife abounding.

The volcano continues to change on a daily basis including the creation of America’s youngest glacier. Between 1986 and 2004 snow and ice accumulated in the crater about 650 feet thick. In 2004 a new lava dome rose from beneath the ice, splitting the glacier and causing it to move approximately three feet per day. Mount St. Helens is constantly changing and is North America’s most closely monitored volcano.

Following is an attachment of an e-mail I received recently. The following words are posted on a sign in a campground in British Columbia: “WARNING due to the frequency of human-bear encounters, the B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch is advising hikers, hunters, fishermen and any persons that use the out of doors in a recreational or work related function to take extra precautions while in the field.

“We advise the outdoorsman to wear little noisy bells on clothing so as to give advance warning to any bears that might be close by so you don’t take them by surprise. We also advise anyone using the out-of-doors to carry pepper spray with him in case of an encounter with a bear.

“Outdoorsmen should also be on the watch for fresh bear activity, and be able to tell the difference between black bear feces and grizzly bear feces. A black bear feces is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear s— has bells in it and smells like pepper.”

The Truckee Optimist Club’s “Bath Tub Races” at Donner Lake was an annual summer fund raising event during the late ’70s through the mid-80s. It was great fun, especially for the participants. Washoe Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital, Western Nevada Supply, Truckee Plumbing and various Optimist Clubs from around the area were annual participants.

The vessels of choice were normally fiberglass bath tubs used individually, or in tandem. They were normally kept afloat by various flotation devices. An entry one year was actually a fiberglass septic tank. There was a motorized division as well as a manual-propelled division.

Norm Justesen was our early bird winner, followed by Larry McEneaney, Leah Krone, Pat Northrop, Mary De Lisle, Jerry Blakeley, Keith Mickelson, and Al Lamas.

Norm and Alan Nicholls of the Nicholls Real Estate Group are affiliated with Dickson Realty at 11500 Donner Pass Rd. in Truckee.