Sunday, January 24, 2010

Columbia River Gorge and Oregon Coast

After Portland I headed down to the Columbia River Gorge and using a combination of the historic highway and the new interstate. This section of the trip wasn’t part of my original plan (mainly because I had forgotten it was here) but when Ashley mentioned it and I thought back to reading about the area in Richard White’s The Organic Machine I knew I had to stop in. The area was absolutely gorgeous. So far every gorge I’ve been too (this plus Linville and New River) has been a great trip. The Columbia River Gorge is absolutely loaded with waterfalls. There are little ones coming down right at the side of the road every mile or so. And a number of gigantic ones. I hiked up to the top of these two large waterfalls

Wahkeena Falls

Multnohma Falls

One of the coolest things about the gorge is that it is a sight where you can literally stand on a number of major historical events. The area was originally home to a ton of different tribes who lived off the abundance of salmon and other sea and rainforest life in the area. During the multifaceted Indian, European, and American trade, colonization, and war that created all sorts of strange and temporary alliances during the 17 and 1800’s a pigeon language combining local dialects with a variety of European languages swept the area. Later due to disease and colonization most of the natives were replaced by Americans who were also heavily involved in the fishing salmon. During the New Deal era two Dams were built to put people back to work and create electricity for the surrounding areas (and flood some Indian villages . . . but no one ever mentions that). A series of fantastic parks and roads for recreation were also built. During the post-war era a lack of fishing regulation, a new interstate built right through the gorge, and the two dams brought the salmon population to its knees. Today we spend more money trying to fix the mistakes of those projects than we spent on the projects themselves. For instance, it takes constant dredging of a stream that was diverted to make room for the interstate in order to prevent mass flooding of the area. A wide variety of plans have been hatched to save the pacific salmon who can’t make it over the dam including “fish ladders”, catching them and the dropping them off upstream, etc. Hopefully in the future we can find ways to avoid building things that will cost more money to fix than they did to make. I’m worried that the gorge is just a sampling of what’s coming next, the realization that suburbia was a very bad long-term plan for the country. I hope I’m wrong.

After a few hours it started raining so I decided to drive down to the Oregon coast. It has a lot more variety than I had anticipated. Some beaches are very sandy with light rolling waves. Others are super rocky with rough waves (I enjoyed trying to climb onto the rocks at some of these). Towards the south Hwy 101 gets really interesting as you have mountains directly to your left and the coast directly to your right.

A rocky coast

I stopped for one night at Beverly Beach State Park in Newport. It had a small nature trail and a cool beach access point. I had a chance to go to the Rouge Brewery in Newport. At Mark and Ashley’s suggestion I tried the John-John. It is named after the master-distiller and brewer (both named John). It is the Dead Guy Ale aged for 3 months in Whisky, pretty good. I also had a pint of a great Hazelnut Brown. I’m a big fan of Hazelnut Brown.

The nature trail at Beverly Beach State Park

At the bay block I heard a bunch of strange noises which I realized the next day are sea lions. There are tons of sea lions from Newport all the way down to the California border. I saw a few swimming around and a ton at the really awesome tourist trap (Sea Lion Cove). I don't understand sea lion culture all that well but I believe I saw some males fighting for the right to various spots in the cove. They didn't really fight, they just pushed each other a little bit until the smaller sea lion gave in. Sea lions are super-polygamous. I feel bad for the weak sea lions which are never going to mate. They say polyagmy in humans is bad for females, I think its just as bad for the vast majority of males who are going home alone in a polygamous society. Really, a lot of things that are pitched as bad for women and good for men are really only good for a small minority of men (I think Eric Wolf and the peasant studies movement really has demonstrated this).

I thought about Darwin and competition for mating and survial rights. One thing we seem to have that the sea lions don't is some sense of something that at least resembles altruism. Other animals protect their young or have group protection setups, but no interpersonal connection. Freud of course thought that we aren't really all that altruistic that its just a myth that helps us repress the truth so that we can just get along with the group protection we need. Marx thought altruism was a myth that helped convince the masses to keep working in a system that didn't favor them. He thought that if people could see their real conditions they would overthrow the system and create a new more benefical system. But out of that he hoped that we could devleope a new sense of values that went beyond the sea lion approach. I don't really know whose right, but I'd like to hope that there's something more going on with us than sea lions already (although I do see plenty of them in us).

Sea Lion Cove

After Sea Lion Cove I got another speeding ticket. Awesome. In my first 9 years of driving I got one ticket. This week I got two. First the 75 in a 70, now I got nailed in a speed trap 47 in a 30 – totally didn’t see the sign and still thought I was in a 45 . . . So I’m really hoping this doesn’t get reported and rock my insurance. The $300 I owe in tickets is enough to begin with.


  1. "Indian villages"...Native American villages

  2. that's what you would think but for whatever reason indian seems to be the appropriate term in Montana and the west coast. I actually think the term is coming back in vouge - sometimes "american inidan"as well