|Waikiki Beach at Cape Disappointment. Yes, the cliffs are basaltic like those in Hawaii, but the spot was named for a Hawaiian sailor who lost his life here in a shipwreck (one of many).|
|The Astoria Bridge (photo by Mrs. Geotripper)|
Well actually, it was an unlimited letter of credit from the president, one named Thomas Jefferson (maybe you've heard of him). The thing is, you are almost there, and a storm begins, the likes of which you haven't experienced before. Heavy rains, hurricane force winds, and it doesn't let up. You take shelter in the best spot you can find, but it is steep and rocky and wet. For six days the storm rages, and finally it's spent. You load the canoes as fast as you can, head the last few miles to the coast...and you've missed the trading ship.
And that's how Dismal Nitch got its name. The party of course was that of Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery. The correct spelling is "niche", but they kept William Clark's version. He had many original spelling versions of a great many words in his journals.
|From the top of the Astoria Bridge. Dismal Nitch is on the shoreline to the right, while Cape Disappointment would be on the left, just out of the picture. Photo by Mrs. Geotripper|
Here's an example from the middle of their ordeal (from the Washington State Historical Society):
A Tremendious wind from the S. W. about 3 oClock this morning with Lightineng and hard claps of Thunder, and Hail which Continued untill 6 oClock a. m. when it became light for a Short time, then the heavens became Sudenly darkened by a black Cloud from the S. W. and rained with great violence untill 12 oClock, the waves tremendious brakeing with great fury against the rocks and trees on which we were encamped. our Situation is dangerous. we took the advantage of a low tide and moved our camp around a point to a Small wet bottom at the mouth of a Brook, which we had not observed when we Came to this cove; from it being verry thick and obscured by drift trees and thick bushes It would be distressing to See our Situation, all wet and Colde our bedding also wet, (and the robes of the party which Compose half the bedding is rotten and we are not in a Situation (not) to supply their places) in a wet bottom Scercely large enough to contain us, (with) our baggage half a mile from us and Canoes at the mercy of the waves, altho Secured as well as possible, Sunk with emence parcels of Stone to wate them down to prevent their dashing to pieces against the rocks; one got loose last night and was left on a rock a Short distance below, without rciving more dammage than a Split in her bottom— Fortunately for us our men are healthy. men Gibson Bratten & Willard attempted to go aroud the point below in our Indian Canoe, much Such a canoe as the Indians visited us in yesterday, they proceeded to the point from which they were oblige to return, the waves tossing them about at will I walked up the branch and giged 3 Salmon trout. the party killed 13 Salmon to day in a branch about 2 miles above, rain Continued.
|Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from Waikiki Beach|
I'm happy to say that our arrival at the peninsula on our vagabonding journey along the Cascadia Subduction Zone was a much more positive experience. For one, we didn't need a canoe to cross the Columbia River from Oregon. The four mile long Astoria Bridge worked out just fine. The weather was dry and calm. We had a reservation for a campsite in a pleasant forest on flat ground. And there was a pizza shop just down the road from the campsite.
The pizza shop had the audacity to close at like 8:00 pm, so we took our dinner out to Waikiki Beach on Cape Disappointment. It turns out that we were enjoying our evening repast on the very spot where the Lewis and Clark crew reached the Pacific Ocean on November 18, 1805, just a few days after leaving their "little dismal nitch". Strangely enough, Cape Disappointment was not named by Lewis and Clark. The cape already carried that moniker, although only for the previous 17 years. The Native Americans of the region knew the point as "Kah-eese".
The cape was first charted by the Spaniard Bruno Heceta as Cabo de San Rougue in 1775. He suspected a major river was present in the sandy shoals to the south, but his crew was more or less wiped out by scurvy, so he retreated south without further exploration. Twelve years later in 1788, a ship captained by John Meares sighted the cape, but couldn't confirm the presence of a major river, and so named the headland Cape Disappointment. The Columbia River was "discovered" and named in 1792 by an American captain, Robert Gray, and explored by a crew under the leadership of George Vancouver. When Lewis and Clark approached the Pacific Ocean in 1805, they had a reasonably accurate map of the lowermost 100 miles of the Columbia.
|The North Jetty of the Columbia River. The forested area beyond the jetty was once open water.|
|View south from North Head Lighthouse|
The picture above is the scene from the North Head Lighthouse, and all the flatlands in the view are lands added since the jetty was constructed.
|Beard's Hollow, a former water-filled cove|
|Walking in Beard's Hollow|
|Waves once crashed against the base of Cape Disappointment. The construction of the Columbia River jetties has caused the sand to back up and form wide beaches.|
|Source: Northwest Geology Field Trips|
We were looking forward to our next day. In all my travels, I've never been up the western side of the Olympic Peninsula, or into the Olympic Rainforest.