Posts Tagged With: libraries

Two weeks ago, Day 9

My last day on the road, alas.  I got up and out early, and drove north from Seaside to Astoria, where I had an appointment with the curator (the librarian was on vacation) of the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

But that wasn’t until later in the morning, and in the meantime I wanted to visit the Astoria Column.  I’d seen it in the distance any number of times on trips through Astoria, perched up there on its hilltop, but I hadn’t ever actually gone up there.  So Kestrel (my car) and I crept up the steep, narrow streets — Astoria is much smaller than San Francisco in every aspect but its hilliness — to the top of the highest – peak may be an overstatement, but you can certainly see forever from up there.

It was eight in the morning, clear as a bell, and the shadows were dramatic.  I’d had it in my mind that I was going to climb to the top of the tower, but I should have known better.  I always forget about my fear of manmade heights.  I don’t mind natural heights.  I’ve stood at Glacier Point in Yosemite, 3200 feet above Yosemite Valley, a direct drop below, without a hint of trepidation.  But when I visited Chicago I took one look at the then-Sears Tower and said, no way.  Absolutely no way.

Then there’s the whole claustrophobia thing, which I do not forget about.  I am very uncomfortable inside a plane if I’m not in a window seat, because I need to be able to see out, for instance, and I really do prefer my elevators to be glass, although I can manage regular ones if I have to.  But caves don’t bother me, so I guess it’s the manmade thing again.  Odd.  At any rate, the inside diameter of the Astoria Column is about eight feet across.  No windows. 164 steps to the top.  I took about ten steps up and could just feel it closing in about me.

So I came back down and decided I would a) be satisfied with the views from the hilltop, which really were spectacular, and b) take my pictures of the column from the outside, which was much more interesting, anyway, with its mural about exploration.

And here’s the photographic evidence.

The Astoria Column, backlit.

The Astoria Column, backlit.

Towards the northwest from the base of the column.  That's the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.

Towards the northwest from the base of the column. That’s the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.

A view of the column and its spiraling mural.

A view of the column and its spiraling mural.

To the southwest from the base of the column -- those clouds mark the coastline.

To the southwest from the base of the column — those clouds mark the coastline.

A close-up of the very top of the column.

A close-up of the very top of the column.

By the time I was done at the column, it was almost time for my appointment.  The Columbia River Maritime Museum is on the waterfront, appropriately enough.  It’s a fabulous museum, and I highly recommend it to anyone with even the faintest interest in western or maritime history or boats or lifesaving, or…  But today I was there to do research, so I headed back to the library, where I met with the curator.

He was a very nice man, and it was a very nice library, but the library was not his area of expertise.  He was persistent, though, and finally produced the main item I was there to see, a thesis written by a student of American Studies at, of all places, the University of Utah, on lighthouses and their keepers on the Oregon coast.  She’d done a lot of field work on the coast, and research, and interviews, and one of the three lighthouses she focused on just happened to be Heceta Head.  Gold mine.  Even though the museum’s copy turned out to be missing its bibliography.

The curator also found me a number of other interesting items, and I had a very productive morning.

But after a beer-battered scallops and chips lunch at the Wet Dog Café, a place I’d eaten at before and loved (and which, unlike Mo’s, more than lived up to my memories of it), it was time to head home.

It was only a three and a half hour drive.  But it started with being stopped near the very top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge by bridge repairs.  I did mention my fear of manmade heights, right?  Well, I managed to distract myself during the wait by taking photos from the car.  I bet I’ll never get any from this vantage point ever again.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.

The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.

Down, down, down we go, to Washington.

Down, down, down we go, to Washington.

The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge.  I suspect William Clark is the culprit, but there wasn't anything there to explain it.

The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge. I suspect William Clark is the original culprit, but there wasn’t anything there to explain the origin of the name.

When I arrived home, it was to find that the condo hadn’t burned down and that the cats were just fine, and that was the end of this year’s “long” trip.  While I had a good, and productive, time, here’s hoping next year’s holds more new territory and lasts longer.  Sigh.

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Categories: cats, exploring, food, Ghost Light, highways, history, museums, outdoors, parks, research, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two weeks ago today, Day 2

I love research.  Yes, I’m a history geek as well as a writer, and that’s just the way it is.  First thing in the morning I caught a bus to downtown Portland and walked the couple of blocks from the bus stop to the Oregon Historical Society Museum.  Fortunately, the weather had cleared up nicely, and was even warming a bit.

 Their library didn’t open until the afternoon, but the museum opened in the morning, and since I’d never been there before I wanted to see the exhibits. The early history exhibits were well done, but the part I liked the best was the recent history room, highlighting Oregon’s somewhat schizoid politics.  I lived in Eugene, Oregon, for several years during the mid-80s, and had been rather struck by them then — Eugene at the time was a cross between a college town, a logging and other resource-heavy economy, and the hippie equivalent of the elephants’ graveyard.  The juxtaposition was, fascinating, I think, is the term I want to use.  I’d forgotten a lot of that bemusement, and the museum brought it back to me.

 After the exhibits and before the library, I walked up the park blocks, a lovely thing to find in the middle of a city, to Pioneer Courthouse Square, in search of some of Portland’s quasi-legendary food carts.  It was a good place to look for them.  My choices included burritos, cheese steaks and several others.  I chose a cheese steak, which was as good as the ones I’d had in Philadelphia, their hometown, if a sandwich can be said to have a hometown, years ago.

 But the fun part was the quiz the proprietor gave me, based on a page-a-day calendar about famous mustaches, of all things.  The first question described Cesar Romero as the Joker in the old Batman series, and the second Raul Julia in the movie version of The Addams Family.  I got them both right, which won me a very surprised proprietor and a free soda. 

 After enjoying my cheese steak, and my soda, and watching floral decorations being installed on the square for the upcoming Rose Festival, I ambled back to the museum by way of the Multnomah County Library‘s main branch, where I wandered into the children’s room, named after Beverly Cleary, who is a Portland icon, and upstairs to the history section, where I wrote down the titles of some books that looked useful for research that I will interlibrary loan later.  I was very surprised that they didn’t have a local history room.  The Multnomah County Library is, I suspect, the biggest Carnegie library I’ve ever been in (it certainly fits the style, architecturally), but no local history room? 

And then there was the library at the Ohio Historical Society Museum.  Maybe that’s why the public library doesn’t have a local history room?  What I do know is that the librarian pulled a number of goodies out of her closed stacks, including a forest service document, book, really, of all things, discussing the early history and architecture of Heceta Head Lighthouse and its keepers’ quarters, which is going to be the setting of my new book.  So that made my day.

 After several hours in that library, I decided to check out Portland’s streetcar and see where it went, since I had the all-day pass, which includes the streetcar and light rail as well as the bus.  The streetcar went to northwest Portland and the trendy shopping district on NW 23rd.  I hadn’t been there in years, and it was only a couple of blocks from the end of the line to the New Renaissance Bookshop, another favorite bookstore.  So I strolled there and browsed for a bit, but it was getting late and I was tired, so I wound my way back to the hostel via streetcar and bus, and collapsed in a heap on my second evening on the road.

Categories: books, exploring, food, history, museums, parks, research, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three weeks ago, Day 13

 Morning to research and afternoon to explore.

The elk were gone from the campground in the morning, apparently having moved to the Gardiner school’s athletic field.  And the pronghorns were grazing on the hillside, too.  I drove back down to Gardiner, bought milk and ice — the Gardiner supermarket is sensible enough to carry block ice, thank you very much — and went back to the Heritage Center to finish this trip’s round of research.  They let me leave bookmarks behind in their rack, too, which was nice of them.

After that, I headed back into the park, and down towards the Norris Geyser Basin.  Norris has two basins, actually, the Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin (geysers always occur in low spots, which is why they’re called basins).  I wanted to walk the Porcelain Basin, called that because the sinter looks rather like it from a distance.  All smooth and pale and with very little in the way of plants in the basin proper.  The main thing I like about Porcelain Basin is the little spring/spouters that make this really nifty spitting/sizzling sound.  I grin every time I walk by them.

After that, I decided to drive over to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, to see all that high water I’d been seeing in the Yellowstone River for the last couple of days go over those spectacular falls.  The falls were about as full as I’d ever seen them, which is saying a fair amount.  And I discovered a new-to-me place, which is not something I can say very often anymore about my park.  Somehow, in all of my visits, I had missed a little sign along the road between Canyon Village and the Chittenden Bridge saying temptingly “brink of upper falls.”  This time I didn’t.  I turned off down the short road and came to a parking area and a path, which ended in a staircase.  At the bottom of the staircase, it was almost like standing at the railing at Niagara.  Not anywhere near as enormous, obviously, but every bit as loud and misty.  Complete with a rainbow.  Just lovely.  And I saw some veronica along the way.

After that it was back to Norris (it’s only twelve miles one way between Canyon and Norris, across the center of the figure eight that is the Grand Loop Road), which is named after the second superintendent of the park, back in the 1870s, Philetus W. Norris, who had a penchant for naming things after himself.  He has a bit part in Repeating History, and was an interesting fellow.

This time I wanted to walk the Back Basin trail, a mile and a half through the woods and along the boardwalks past geysers and springs and fumaroles.  This trail goes past Steamboat Geyser, the world’s largest but also one of its most erratic geysers (its recorded intervals between eruptions range from two days to over fifty years).  I would give my eyeteeth to see Steamboat erupt someday, but the chances are slim to none.  Still, this is one of the best walks in the park, and there’s lots of interesting things to see.  Including, today, a flower I’ve never seen before, bog laurel or Kalmia microphylla.  It’s the same genus as back-east mountain laurel, which is one of my favorite plants.

By the time I made it back to my car, it was late enough in the afternoon that I needed to head to West Yellowstone (known locally as just plain West), where I had a reservation for a bed in the hostel at the Madison Hotel, the oldest hotel in town, which is, as I know from personal experience, haunted [g].

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If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:

Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures
http://mmjustus.com/fictionrepeatinghistory.html

Categories: exploring, geysers, history, museums, national parks, outdoors, plants, Repeating History, research, travel, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Three weeks ago, Day 12

 “I am back in my park.”

So starts my journal entry for the day.  The park in question being Yellowstone.  I think, with nine visits in the last not-quite-fourteen years and one book set there so far and another in the works, I am qualified to be possessive about it.  My other park is Mt. Rainier, but that’s because I live within sight of it and, depending on where in the park I’m going, as close to it as a 45 minute drive (the northwest entrance, at Carbon River).

I was also back in the land of research and promotion, for the aforementioned book.  My first stop of the day after I hit the road was in Livingston, a small town with a fascinating history.  You see, Livingston was the original entry point to Yellowstone, back in the days when almost all long distance travel was accomplished by passenger train, and you had to be rich to do much traveling.  Oh, for the days when a five day package tour of the park cost less than $60, all inclusive.  Which was a lot of money back in the 1880s.

I visited the two main museums in Livingston to tell them about my book and to leave bookmarks as well as peruse the exhibits.  First was the Livingston Depot Museum.  The building itself is not the first depot on the site and only dates back to 1902, but it is a magnificent building, and they’ve done a terrific job with it.  I think my favorite part was the 1920s film promoting travel to the park.  The other museum I visited was the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, housed in the old Livingston school.  It used to be one of those “everything including the kitchen sink” museums, but it has a new director and new exhibits these days.  The redesign is well done, but it’s very different than it used to be.  One set of artifacts that I am assured is only in storage, but that I missed seeing this time were souvenirs from the early days of the park that had been created by putting objects into the springs at Mammoth and letting the travertine coat them. 

After an early lunch I drove down the spectacular Paradise Valley (where a number of movie stars own ranches) to the town of Gardiner, the northern entrance to Yellowstone and the home of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center, the official park library and archives.  I spent most of the afternoon collecting material on the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake for my next book, and the rest of it at the Yellowstone Association headquarters bookstore getting contact information for their book buyer.

When the research center closed at four, I drove the five miles (across both the Wyoming state line and the 45th meridian marking the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole) south to Mammoth Hot Springs and Fort Yellowstone.  I went to the campground there, paid for and was assigned a campsite, then went up to see how the Springs themselves have changed since the last time I’d visited, two years ago.  They always do.  New springs pop out and grow, old ones die, and sometimes, although not often, they encroach on existing roads, trails, and/or buildings, and then the park service has to figure out how to preserve, say, an historic building like this (click to page 3), designed by Robert Reamer in 1908 in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, and a rapidly growing hot spring, all at the same time.

I was pleasantly astonished at the wildflowers that populate Mammoth at this time of year.  The last time I was in the park in June was 27 years ago, in 1985.  I had forgotten.  A hillside of phlox, several meadows’ worth of larkspur, forgetmenots surrounding more balsamroot, and a few others. 

When I got back to my campground, it was to find, to my bemusement, several cow elk browsing unconcernedly between campsites.  Now in the past, when I’ve stayed at the Mammoth Hotel in autumn, I’ve been kept awake by bull elk bugling under my window all night, and I kept a wary eye out for calves this time, but all in all, the ladies turned out to be good neighbors.  Quiet, thank goodness, and they kept to themselves.

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If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:

Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures
http://mmjustus.com/fictionrepeatinghistory.html

Categories: animals, books, exploring, history, museums, national parks, outdoors, plants, Repeating History, research, self-publishing, writing, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Three weeks ago, Day 3

 Helena, Montana, is a nice town.  If I could stand the climate, which is hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and very dry all year round, it wouldn’t be a half-bad place to live.  Granted, it’s a bit isolated out there in the eastern foothills of the northern Rockies, but no more so than anywhere else in Montana.  It’s an hour from Butte, a couple of hours from Great Falls, and only four hours from Yellowstone, after all.

But I was heading in the opposite direction from Yellowstone.  At least for the time being.

I had two research stops planned on this trip, and Helena was the first.  The Montana Historical Society is headquartered in Helena, with a terrific museum and a research library staffed by some extremely helpful librarians.  I spent the morning there poking through clipping files and microfilm, looking for anecdotes written by people who had been in Yellowstone during the days after the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake since I am going to be placing another character in the park during that event.  The Hebgen Lake Earthquake was the largest (7.2-7.5 on the Richter scale — the 1906 San Francisco quake was a 7.9, for a basis of comparison) earthquake in the Rocky Mountain region in recorded history, and, in the area immediately west of the park, it caused a landslide that killed almost thirty people and created an entirely new lake. 

Inside the park, no one was killed, but a great many buildings (including the Old Faithful Inn) and quite a few miles of road were severely damaged, and what the earthquake did to the thermal features (geysers, hot springs, etc.) apparently put on quite the show.  Some of the changes were permanent, some temporary, but it is safe to say that the Hebgen Lake Earthquake profoundly changed Yellowstone, and the stories people told about it are a novel begging to be written.

From research to what I’ve been calling shilling, for lack of a better term.  After lunch, I went to the Lewis and Clark County Library, where I spoke with one of the librarians and left bookmarks, then I strolled on down Last Chance Gulch, which is a) what Helena was called back when it was a mining camp in the 1860s before it became Helena, and b) the name of the main drag downtown, which is now a tree-shaded, lilac-lined pedestrian mall.  I stopped at the city hall’s historic preservation department, the chamber of commerce, a local bookstore, and at the Lewis and Clark County Historical Society along the way, trailing bookmarks as I went.  I also found a new-to-me quilt shop, and, of course, left with fabric.  Ahem.  My name is M.M. Justus, and I am a fabricoholic.  There.  That’s out of the way.

By that time it was late, and I went back to my motel to get ready to head on the next morning.  I do like Helena.  It was a good place to set part of a novel.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of today.  But there will be more tomorrow.

Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures
http://mmjustus.com/fictionrepeatinghistory.html

Categories: books, exploring, geysers, history, museums, national parks, plants, quilting, Repeating History, research, self-publishing, travel, writing, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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