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Sunday, July 20, 2008


Plans are the outlines of narratives cast into the future…subject to change.

Early Saturday morning, my brother Fred and I had to resort to one less car than planned upon. Our daring river assault on the gates of hell…

Hell’s Gate

…morphed into a more pedestrian exploration of Horsethief Lake.

Horsethief Butte

At first, I didn’t even know I had a brother Fred until I found various historical documents. But that’s another story.

Family Photo

Front center: Haley

Back Row, Left to Right: Roland, Fred, Scott, Dexter, Rose, Troy, Henry, Pa and Ma

Luckily, Fred is a master brewer and also generous in nature. Here you can see Fred loading his kayak with home-made beer.

Halfway up Horsethief Butte, it became evident that the name “Horsethief Lake” uses the term “lake” somewhat liberally.

“Horsethief-little-bit-of-Columbia-River-trapped-by-a-railroad” with unfamiliar east side (at least to me) of Mt. Hood in background.

In the olden days, before European immigrants swept across the continent from East to West and thought up the notion of confining rivers behind hydroelectric dams, Native Americans fished here along a radically different kind of river.

Evidence of Indian fishing camps spreads back through the centuries and some of the evidence is actually written into the rocks.

We searched for this evidence in a maze of basalt corridors worn into the top of the butte. The butte seems to receive heavy traffic from beginning rock climbers who descend on ropes like clumsy spiders into the mini-canyons of the maze.

Nothing Here

The old pictograms are difficult to recognize, exposed as they are to weather, rock climbing shoes, and steadily encroaching lichen.

We wouldn’t have been able to find any pictograms at all if it hadn’t been for the warning signs that stand guard over culturally sensitive areas.

From areas like these, one begins to postulate that surviving pictograms must be in sheltered areas on surfaces that are relatively fresh (geologically speaking) and lichen free owing to eroding, fracturing rock.

This message from across time is almost lost.

Protected images are available for viewing by ranger-guided-tour back at the park.

These pictures may have religious significance and it is probably best to treat them with respect. However, it may also be possible that this rock has been tagged by a youngster in a distant time when aerosol spray paint wasn’t an option.

Once you know what to look for, it becomes somewhat easier to locate previously undiscovered rock art.

Here for instance, after pushing on beyond a tree at the apparent end of a draw, we found this scene in a hidden grotto. Having recently finished reading Undaunted Courage, the story of Lewis and Clark, I recognized this stunning pictogram as a depiction of a young maiden offering a starving Lewis a banquet of cooked dog.

On the opposite wall I discovered this magnificent rendering of tribal members worshipping what appeared to be a heavenly chimpanzee. That’s when I realized we had fallen for another of Monkey-cam’s practical jokes.

Fred didn’t bring any beverages from his kayak for the hike to the top of the butte, and all I had was a 16 ounce diet Pepsi which, under the glaring sun, had achieved the temperature of hot coffee. Though the desert landscape juxtaposed against a mile wide river was beautiful…

…we were soon as parched as this dry floral arrangement.

Back on the lake, we immediately broke into Fred’s cache of home-brew.

The beer was magical and the water was cool and a light breeze blew over the face of the waters and I was soon in a state of mind conducive to speculation and relaxation.

Without warning, some kind of little animal appeared on the bow of my kayak. “Fred, can you see this?” I asked.

“Yes.” Fred answered. “I think it may be your spirit guide.” He paused and then added, “I hope I don’t get a little rodent spirit guide like yours. I hope I get something impressive like a moose or a bear.”

“Hey little fellow,” I said to the curious looking spirit guide, “Of course you know I already have a talking monkey.”
“Yes of course.” The spirit guide said. “But both you and I know your talking monkey is imaginary.” It looked at me with eyes that seemed both wise and somehow condescending.

“Well, do you have any great advice for me?” I asked, all the time thinking that you can’t judge a book by its cover and probably not spirit guides either.

“I just wanted to say that the accident wasn’t your fault, so you shouldn’t make a claim with your own insurance company unless you really want to pay the 500 dollar deductible.”
The spirit guide gave me a crazy little grin and then blinked out of this dimension with a subtle poof - the sound of air rushing to fill a tiny vacuum.

“Hey Fred,” I shouted, “My spirit guide just gave me advice about my car accident!” But as I turned to look at Fred, I could see he was preoccupied.

The Narrative Image NAVIGATION AID

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