Wednesday, May 24th - It's just about two hours from Spokane to my next destination, a tiny town called Marcus outside a small town called Kettle Falls north of Spokane. While the terrain south of Spokane on my approach had been rolling prairies, north of the city I was immediately in amongst narrow valleys of farmland separated by small forested mountains. This highway wasn't so big as to scare away the quaint red barns nestled into the bucolic landscape either.
Passed through a few small country town blocks of Kettle Falls and then just out of town, surrounded by tall pine forest again, my GPS had me turn off onto the road for Marcus. Minutes later I found the road skirting what appeared to be a lake, and the lake appeared to be very low, which I thought was odd since the whole west coast has gotten record rain this year. And furthermore, it looked like there was the remnants of a road upon one of the barely exposed sandbars, which also intrigued me.
As I'd find out later, the lake is actually the Columbia river (again), but it is dammed somewhere below here, and they have recently lowered the level quite a bit in anticipation of more snowmelt coming down the line from further up. And the roads? Apparently the town of Marcus had originally been where the lake is now, but when the river was dammed the whole town was moved, and you can still see some roads (as I did) and foundations when the water is really low.
My friend Doug mentioned that Marcus was one of the first European towns in the area .. wikipedia doesn't mention that but it did have a role in a gold rush of the 1860s, since boat traffic couldn't pass the nearby Kettle Falls, Marcus became a staging area for boat traffic on the section upriver of the falls to the "Rapids of Death".
And now, over a century and a half after this little town was founded ... it has a population of 183, no retail shopfronts, not even a post office. But it's ten minutes from the town of Kettle Falls so I think all business is there and Marcus is now just a few sleepy residential streets along the river/lake banks. Doug later told me there's a big apple cider festival every year in Marcus.
The Canadian border is only 35 miles further up the river, but Doug told me he discovered the other day when he tried to take his wife to Canada that they wouldn't allow him in because he was arrested some 40 years ago for trespassing ("even though I had permission to be there!"). I'm similarly not legally allowed into Canada for stupid reasons. Eff Canada man.
My friend Doug I met on my first project in Nigeria in 2012, where he was also doing a beekeeping project just like me with the same organization. In fact it was his mischievious influence that led to me talking to the princess. We kept in touch and in 2014 he joined me on a trip to East Africa to attend a beekeeping conference in Tanzania. We ended up having a grand old time traipsing around East Africa for about 40 days. Doug is in his seventies, a retired beekeeper, joking so much one never is really quiet sure when he's being serious, and he's an inveterate flirt. As I said he got me to talk to the princess, and a classic example of his mischievious influence: when we saw two cute girls at a restaurant in Ethiopia, he urged me to go talk to them. "Ask them where the Air Ethiopia office is" he suggested. "I KNOW where the Air Ethiopia office is!" I objected. "But they don't know you know!" he explained [cue that meme of the guy tapping his forehead knowingly]. I went and talked to them and they told me to sit with them and they'd show me where it was when they finished eating. Sage wisdom! No ladies would have been safe from Doug... if it weren't for the fact that on his previous visit to Ethiopia he had met and married a 22 year old Ethiopian woman.
On this visit shortly after I arrived at Doug's house, he mentioned that Mebrihet had recently moved to Spokane to be nearer civilization and other young people.
"I hope not permanently?" I asked, and he kind of shrugged and said
"maybe? ... it was my suggestion actually."
"Hey want to go look at some beehives?" he suggested brightly
So we drove down the road another ten minutes in his pick-up to a beeyard of his where he had some nucs (small hives recently split off) he had introduced some experimental queens to from the University of Washington. It was around 5pm at this point, there were still several hours of daylight but it was quite brisk and a light rain misted down upon us intermittently. As we opened up the beehives to check if the queens were present and laying an F-18 fighter jet screamed through the valley on an apparent loop that brought it past us once every six minutes. It was quite close, and low, and I figured out it was a six minute loop specifically to try to be ready to get a picture, but never succeeded. Unfortunately for one reason or another many of the queens hadn't taken.
Back at Doug's place he slapped some steaks on the grill for us and we cracked open some beers. As we were finishing a young fellow (early twenties-ish?) dropped in to talk to Doug, apparently he's on the autistic spectrum and doesn't have many friends, and so Doug tries to be friendly and makes him feel welcome to stop in.
Suggested Musical Accompaniment For Next Bit:
Like nearby Marcus, the original town of Kettle Falls was also flooded by the damming of the Columbia River
Thursday, May 25th - The next morning Doug took me to see some sites in the town of Kettle Falls. We poked around an old mill site, and the cute general store in town had a big antique store section that I perused for interesting things. Got several more beers from the fridge -- there's not much craft beer in Australia so I've been buying a lot of beer, more than I could drink, and when I finally returned to Australia I actually left quite a few interesting beers in their pantry! Good thing good beer ages well.
We had lunch at this cute little diner style restaurant in Kettle Falls where we both had bacon burgers ('Murica!) sitting at the counter. The waitress walked by just as I was telling Doug I hoped to avoid petting any dead people in Bellingham, where Maureen works at a funeral home, Doug having asked what I would do there, and said waitress gave me an extremely strange look.
Our last stop was the interpretive centre / museum by Kettle Falls. I just read the wikipedia article on Kettle Falls to make sure I got my facts right and if you have a minute it's actually worth a read, not too long and concisely encapsulates the story of the whole area I rather feel. For most of the last 9,000 years native Americans from a large surrounding area from the coast to the plains would come to Kettle falls to fish during salmon fishing season, with up to fourteen tribes meeting to trade, socialize, and settle disputes as well as catch the fish. The would only catch the weaker fish to ensure that the strongest would go on to breed. On June 19th, 1811, the first documented European explorer reached the site. Fort built nearby in 1825, Jesuit mission in 1845, hotel and resort town in 1891. In 1940 with the abovementioned dam building, Kettle Falls was flooded along with 21,000 acres of prime land used by the native peoples, and in June of that year 8,000-10,000 people attended a "ceremony of tears" as the falls disappeared forever under the lake. The dam now blocks the salmon from coming to to this part of the river at all.
Inside the interpretive center we met a man dressed all in clothes made from pelts like a trapper, and it turned out he had made them all himself and was a thoroughly interesting man. He is or was a history teacher at the local high school, and there were a number of absolutely gorgeous muskets in the museum which he said his students had made under his direction -- I'm not talking about model muskets I mean fully functional and beautiful looking guns! He seemed a bit accent-deaf, he seemed to assume I was just Australian without any further complications (frowny face), and launched into an interesting story about this time he was arrested for vagrancy in the Northern Territory, locked up overnight, but of the two cells in the jail the male one was full so they put him in with the women much to the great envy of the other fellas, and in the morning the local magistrate, who happened to be a friend of his, came and let him out. Immediately he was asked "do you have a license to drive a truck?" "yes?" "good because this truck of pig iron needs to get to Sydney but the driver just died!" ... so shortly after being sprung from jail he found himself driving a truckload of pig iron the thousands of miles toward Sydney. And then apparently some time later he was employed shooting deer from helicopters in New Zealand, apparently with plentiful dear and venison being (at the time at least) worth twice as much as beef, it was cost effective to employ helicopter based teams to hunt deer for their meat. Which I'm only making the connection just now but that's kind of a weird modern equivalent to the trapper he was dressed as in the interpretive center.
And by now it was around 13:00 and I was overdue to get on the road to meet my friends in Seattle for dinner! I'll save the drive to Seattle for next entry