The picture shows the Columbia River Gorge, where Shelley and I spent a few days partaking of hikes and drives and dining in and around the lands once occupied by the Chinooks. The vista is blue with the smoke of a forest fire, and perhaps all the more beautiful because of it. The Columbia is a mighty river, one of the world’s greatest, and it forges its way right through a major mountain range, the Cascades, via the channel it has cut through the gorge.
We began our travels in Chinook Country downriver, on Long Beach and Willapa Bay, and ended them in the Hood River area, overshadowed by the grand edifice of Mount Hood, the nearby volcano the Chinooks called Wy’east. Along our way, we traveled and hiked through almost unsullied nature at the ocean shore and in the desert valleys, under skies that were almost always blue.
Among the finest features of our daily doings were our meals. The Chinook Indians were, in their time, the greatest gatherers of seafood in the world. They gave their name to the Chinook Salmon, a delicacy we were lucky enough to partake of in some of the early runs of the year, just now entering their long upstream migration on the Columbia River. The picture at right shows the rapids of the lower Deschute River, where descendants of the Wasco Chinook still fish from wooden plank platforms with dip nets.
From the tidelands, we sampled Willapa Bay oysters, said to be the most luscious on earth and I’d agree. The sands of Long Beach provided razor clams for chowder, the likes of which I have seldom tasted. And we didn’t neglect that other great Northwest staple food, Dungeness Crab, which was big, lush, and incredibly tasty.
Wow. I’m still full. And I haven’t even gotten started yet on the fresh local Rainier Cherries.