Our Daily Sykes #73 – "Minam Canyon" Not

Minam Canyon, Oregon - perhaps. (To ENLARGE click TWICE and search for the road & the stream, bottom right.)

Considering only the similar sky and the convenience of being nearby, Horace Sykes might well have taken this canyon-scape on the same trip that deadended for him at Hat Point where he recorded the scene shown yesterday as Sykes #72.  Not typical for him, Sykes captioned both.  That one yesterday “Hat” and this one “Minam.”  We, however, are going to willfully suspend judgment on his “Minam” identification. We feel an intuition.

For those unfamiliar with Minam, it is a small town spectacularly sited at the north border of a braiding of canyons that resemble the curly regularities in the beards of Abyssinian war lords and/or dandies. We are familiar with those from ancient bas-relief sculpture and now here south of Minam we imagine them as seen from space, as on Google Earth, which is our authority in hirsute and other hairdressing matters as in much else, including topography.  These canyons drain the north side of the Wallowa Mountains, which are Oregon’s more than match in size and elevation for Idaho’s Devils, noted yesterday.  (And from the summit of Idaho’s He Devil to that of the Wallowa’s Matterhorn is a mere 40 miles.  Both are a few stories under 10,000 feet tall.)

Now we will once more ride that devil crow, this time from Minam to Hat Point, which is about 50 miles to the east and a little to the south too of Minam.  By highways and forest roads it took Horace 75 miles or more to reach Hat Point from Minam, but what a trip it was and still is – we imagine!   Along the way – if you are driving – you, Horace and anyone will have to cross through the Imnaha Canyon, which to greatly simplify it is one canyon west of Hells Canyon, and for many in its scenery a more sublime spectacle than Hell’s.  (Of course, we have not made any poll in this, but check it out and decide for yourself.)

Returning now to my intuition.  I was stirred or agitated that the Sykes subject printed here might be a look into the Imnaha Canyon, rather than one of the several Minams, but, again, I know very little and speculate much.  Still going back and forth between them, the melody to “Let’s Put the Whole Thing Off” sustained me.  “You like Imnahas and I like Minams . . .”  I did study via Google “helicopter” the Minam canyons “flooding” north from the Wallowas and twice came close to rising with a rousing Eureka from my adjustable desk chair!  But with both canyons an irregular feature upset my discovery and I did recant.  Still I was faithful to Horace’s lead – his caption – until I wasn’t.

So I returned to the Imnaha with a mildly guilty hope and to my surprise soon found a Google blue square (that is, a donated “click me” path to photographs) of the same subject and taken from nearly the same prospect as Syke’s own.   However, to place it on the back of that now feverish crow, the blue dot is located 25 miles southwest of Hat Point and 7.5 miles southeast of the south end of Lake Wallowa, and that seemed to me to be way out of place.  (Still there are not many other blue dots in its neighborhood and with those directions you should be able to find it.)   Add to its seeming askew that the errant blue dot also has its own errant title – alas.   It is named “Hells Canyon Oregon, 1986.”

Certainly, Sykes canyon and the blue dot’s own are NOT Hell’s Canyon.  Perhaps the Google Earth blue dot photo was donated by a tourist from California or the Netherlands: generous but confused although generally in the correct corner of Oregon State.  And for a while at least that is where we will leave Horace Sykes’ “Minam Canyon” as well, somewhere in that fanciful topographical mare’s nest* that is the northeast corner of Oregon State.

* Seen in toto (altogether) from space the northwest corner of Oregon IS a mare’s nest – except for those several canyons the run north from the Wallowa Mountains to Minam.  Those are an Abyssinian’s groomed beard.


Now I have returned to my desk about three hours later and found it!  My “intuition” or hunch about it being a look into Imnaha Canyon and not one of the Minams was right.  Below, I have grabbed Sykes view with Google Earths – for a pair.  The foreground will need some adjusting (Horace was a little lower than Google) but the more distance side of the valley – its west side as it is – lines up well between Google and Sykes.  It is also a good witness to the “gloss” of the landscape that we get with Google, which with all its polishing and burnishing is a wonderfully revelatory tool.

The trick to finding this was turning the map upside down – looking south – and giving Imnaha a chance while abandoning Horace’s caption.   Here he has recorded both a stream and road at the floor of his canyon  – good clues of course.  I soon determined that the road is the Upper Imnaha Road and the river, of course, the Imnaha too.  It joins the Snake about 20 miles downstream from the turns in the river we see on the right.  That confluence is about three miles above another where the Salmon River joins the Snake.

To get to his prospect Horace drove the sometimes precipitous one-lane gravel road up the east wall of the Imnaha Canyon – up from the Imnaha Store and Tavern and Motel and Roadhouse.  Google includes an undated blue-dot photo of the clapboard establishment and it is blazoned with a banner celebrating its centennial.  Horace took his photo looking south from an elevation of about 4200 feet.  The river is 2000 feet below him.

Horace was standing on the exhilirating Monument Ridge, it is called, that carries what Google names the “Hat Point Road” for several miles above yet another valley – one between the Imnaha and Hells canyons.  (Hidden here behind Horace.)  Where this unnamed (we don’t know it) valley reaches grade with Monument Ridge is where Horace turned east towards Hat Point for  the Hat Point Road’s last run up to its nearly 7000 feet high namesake.  The distance between the sweet spot where Horace took this look south into the Imnaha is – as our crow flies – about ten miles from Hat Point across the “Interstitial Canyon,” we are now calling it.

The Imnaha River Canyon twice from Monument Ridge - once by Google and again (and earlier) by Horace Sykes. Both look south and a little west.

Our Daily Sykes #72 – Hells Canyon from Hat Point

Hells Canyon from Hat Point, but not from the lookout there. Horace is too close to that broken pine to have climbed to the top of the timber lookout. (Click to Enlarge)

“What is the deepest canyon in North America?” was one of the cherished questions from the geography quiz my brother Dave and I would plead for when traveling long distances with our parents.  The answer is (and still is, I hope) Hells Canyon, the about sixty miles of it that cuts the border between Oregon and Idaho.

What mysteries we Spokane Lutherans imagined lurked in Hells Canyon.  My dad promised to take us there too.  Although only a day’s drive – a rugged one – from our home it was still “out of the way.”  We understand that such a promise is really the most heartfelt expression of a hope that one can make.  We all wondered at Hells Canyon and wanted to see it, dad included, but could never find the time to go just that way.   Not so its principal competitor the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.

The Grand Canyon was but one National Park we visited on our summer trip of 1950.  We headed first for Yellowstone, and then onward to Jackson Hole, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Big Bend, those caves in New Mexico, Sequoia, King Canyon, Yosemite, and Crater Lake.   Although Grand Canyon is surely grand  it is – again –  still not as deep as Hell.  But it is more often precipitous and also strapped or banded in many variations of red, a better color for Hell and Hell’s own.   And, again, it was “on the way.”  While barging through eleven national parks heading to and returning from Texas we did it in a brand new torpedo-nosed Studebaker.  I can still recall the prestigious smell of it.

Dad was a delegate to a church convention in Houston.  He also had a sister in Arizona we visited.  She fed us squab.  Our parents assured us it was a delicacy but we suspected that it was an economy.  Another of dad’s ten sisters lived in Wichita Falls, Texas, and we found her in a tideflat shack with a TV set stuck on wrestling.  Her son repaired TVs in a small shop downtown.  In that house a clear line ran from the front door to the back, and those were the only doors in the place.  The rest was hanging sheets.  I concluded that my dad had come from a family of struggling Wisconsin farmers whose biggest crop, their own children, had scattered to the winds.

There are only a few prospects above Hells Canyon from which you can see the Snake River.  This is one of them.  The river can be seen reflecting the bright but still confounded sky.   If I have figured it right, the drop here between Horace Sykes camera and the river is over 5000 feet.  If Sykes had turned his camera to the horizon on the right he would have included the summits of the Seven Devils, the most precipitous mountains in Idaho.  The fall from the 9300 foot summit of He Devil to the Snake is nearly 8000 feet – a fall of biblical dimensions, perhaps,  a continuous descent into Hell.   Some of the landmarks on that Idaho-side horizon continue the demonic motif.  There’s the She Devil (second in height to the He Devil), the Gobblin, the Ogre, Purgatory Lake, Mt Belial, the Twin Imps, and the Tower of Babel – a very spiritual ridge.  All of these mountains are strangely gnawed near their summits and the rock itself, because of it, looks like anti-matter might look.

On the other (east) side of the Devils is Highway 95 running north-south along the Little Salmon River.  I rode it in a post-war art-deco bus north out of Boise in 1964, a most enchanting ride.  Over the rolling hills part of the trip the two-lane but paved highway with grass shoulders (not gravel!) dipped with the topography like a roller-coaster.  There was hardly any deep grading through the hillocks.   And I took this trip early enough to experience the splendid collection of hairpin curves on White Bird Pass.  It was subsequently straightened in the 1970s.   Just north of the pass is the in the high-plateau of Nez Perce farmland is the Idaho agri-town of Grangeville. I first visited Grangeville when I was 13, a guest of my brother Dave when he drove down from Spokane on a summer weekend.  For me it was a revelation of teen lust.  The youths of Grangeville spent their weekend evenings slowing cruising up and down Main Street, a libidinous promenade of souped machines, hidden beer, pop music and carefully chosen clothes.

If you look to the far left horizon of Horace Sykes view from the nearly 7000 foot high Hat Point you see clouds.  Beyond them on a clear day you would see instead some of the farms around Grangeville.   Dave and I were then on Grangeville’s Main Street only 43 miles northeast of Hat Point (and perhaps even Horace Sykes for the timing was within range) as the devil crow flies over the deepest canyon in North America.  But at that time I gave it no mind attending as Dave was to other matters, and following after him.

Our Daily Sykes #71 – Mt. Index at Google Road Marker 45522

Heading east on Highway 2 about 35 miles out of Everett you will come to a little canyon, and it is there you may indulge this look at Mt. Index, if the atmosphere allows it. You can prepare for your trip by visiting Google Earth and its highway picture #45522 beside Highway #2. You will also find nearby one of the site's blue squares - this one floating in the river - that indicates there is a picture for you to see. If you tap it, up will pop a snapshot titled "Mt. Index early Spring." From this prospect it is easily appreciated how this face of the mountain is popular with rock climbers. The Google view is from nearly the same prospect as Syke's view and shows the same big rock in the Skykomish River. The mechnical bar on the rock is a digital artifact and none of the rock's. We think we will leave it there for eternity for no flood will foil it. (If you like, CLICK TWICE to Enlarge.)

Our Daily Sykes #70 – A Short and Winding Road

This underwhelming Sykes leaves for the moment his passion for grand landscapes, while tending to one of his frequent motifs, the winding road. Typically, Horace Sykes did not leave a caption nor clues nor cross-references. This slide did not appear in order neatly next to another and another that are similar and so also revealing. So far at least it stands alone. And so does that horizon. Is there another directly beyond it or does the road wind downward into a deep valley? I'll imagine, at least, that he is reaching the summit of Colockum Pass, the rough pioneer wagon road that still crosses the Saddle Mountains between Ellensburg and Wenatchee. On the other side of the horizon we might see the Columbia River near Crescent Bar. Yes, that is unlikely. I have not yet completed looking through the boxes of Skypes slides from the 1940s and early 1950s and confess that the old teamster's pass would be a natural subject for Sykes and so I hold hope of finding him up there. And up there it certainly is at 5383 feet, which makes it easily one of the highest passes in the state - much higher than the 3022 feet at Snoqualmie and the 4056 at Stevens and closer to the 5477 feet of Sherman Pass in the Okanogan between Republic and Kettle Falls on the Columbia.

Seattle Now & Then: "This Place Matters"

(click photos to enlarge)

THEN: One of about a dozen photographs commissioned by the first owners of Fir Lodge, the Bernards. The Lodge is on the left, behind the lead team of white horses. The Bernards did not let us know with their own caption why about a dozen white-clad women are posing in the Seattle Transit vehicle on what now is part of Alki Ave. SW. (Photo Courtesy Log House Museum)
NOW: For his “now” Jean wisely chose to climb a balcony on the building that otherwise would have blocked his view of the Homestead Restaurant. Jean will also be the “official photographer” next Sunday July 4th for the Southwest Historical Society’s “mass photo” of citizens showing their support for restoring the Homestead. For that photo Jean will be hollering instructions from a prospect on 61st Avenue – not the balcony.

Fir Lodge was built of Douglas fir logs in 1904 for a local soap maker, William J. Bernard, his wife Gladys and daughter Marie. They stayed three years on Alki Point before returning to the city across the bay in 1907, ironically the first year that trolleys started running regularly from the West Seattle “pioneer” shoreline to Pioneer Square. Of course, Fir Lodge was not the first “log cabin” built on Alki. That was the structure David Denny started building for John and Lydia Low and their four children in the fall of 1851.

Fir Lodge was built to be rustic, but sumptuously. Certainly a good percentage of Seattle citizens and their guests visited it as the Alki Homestead restaurant, which opened in 1950 and became steady for its long run in 1960 when Doris P. Nelson purchased and ran it and devised the “family style” chicken-based menu that seemed as righteously American as the flag, mothers and apple pie, which the Homestead also served. I knew the zestful Doris and the energy she gave to both her landmark restaurant and the establishment of a home for the Southwest Seattle Historical Society in what was the Bernards’ carriage house and is now the Log House Museum. After Doris died in 2004, the landmark kept busy until the roof caught fire in January 2009.

The Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which secured city landmark status for Fir Lodge in 1996, is staging a mass photo event in front of the now silent building on Sunday, July 4, to express continued support for its preservations and restoration. The photo will be used in a poster and distributed widely online. Restoration supporters are encouraged to be part of the photo, and those who do will hold signs that say, “This Place Matters,” a catch phrase of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The photo will be taken shortly after 1:30 p.m. following the historical society’s annual all-comers Independence Day membership picnic, to be held one-half block south in the courtyard of the Log House Museum. Politicos who have signed on to be in the photo include King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen and former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, West Seattleites all.


Jean writes: While usually we try to position “Location Now” with “Location Then” as closely as possible, in the comparison above, a photo taken from the original photographer’s spot blocked the Homestead Restaurant completely from view.  But for the exacting, here is a closer approximation of that view.

Repeating the original perspective

In addition, turning 180 degrees offers a familiar scene:

Give me your weary. your wet…

And strolling around the block, we see the Homestead down its front walk:

The Homestead Restaurant

Anything to add, Paul?  Yes Jean – several things to add.

FIRST I’d wished that you had reminded our readers that it is YOU who has been invited to take the GRAND GROUP HOMESTEAD RECORDING this coming INDEPENDENCE DAY.  So now I have made a raucous note of it, and add that it is unique to see with what ease someone as monumental as yourself can easily gain the effective prospect for recording landmarks and masses.  So readers please – if you will – come see Jean and get in front of his Nikon this coming JULY 4 (next Sunday and not this) at 1:30  in the afternoon.  That is (how could this be not clear?) in front of the Homestead Restaurant at the Alki Point address of 2717 61st Ave. SW, and that is ONE-HALF BLOCK in from the STATUE of LIBERTY,  which (back to Jean) you have shown us above in its new setting.

Also below are two more examples of “NOW & THEN” out of old issues of Pacific, and both predictably related to the subject above.  One is about the Homestead, published first in 1994.  It prepeats some of the material used above.  The other is about another log structure on or near Alki Point, the Sea View Lodge.   The first of these also features a few more 1905 photos of the Homestead, inside and out, when it was a nearly new log mansion for the Bernard Family.


Following the logs is an extensive and gentle parody on ghost-busters, and in this case vampires ravaging the cows of Moclips.  Jean visited Moclips this evening as the speaker for the annual banquet given by the Museum of the North Beach.  That vibrant roadside attraction broke all our records in book sales for “Washington Then and Now.”  We are thankful, indeed we give thanks by making fun with them.


One thing more.  In between the Moclips mysteries and the hallowed Homestead is one of Jean’s most wonderfully surreal recordings of the Yakima Canyon landscape.  One ordinarily needs to visit a location many times to bring up such.  And Jean often does drive through the canyon with his close friend Howard Lev on trips that are mostly about checking the growth of Howard’s peppers for his popular and spicy condiment Mama Lil’s Peppers.  I use them in my rice regularly.  (This, I believe, amounts to this blog’s first advertisement, although it was not paid for, except in pickles and without asking.)

A Soap Manufacturer's Log Mansion on Alki Point

One of a handful of photographs taken for the Bernard family of their new Alki Point log mansion in 1905. The group was handed to me for copy by Doris Nelson who took over the mansion in 1960 and continued to operate it as a restaurant until her death in 2004. The rest of the photos will be attached below the copy I wrote (with a few changes) for Pacific Northwest's April 10, 1994 issue. (CLICK to ENLARGE)

The Alki Homestead

Except for its listing in the Seattle Tour Map, the Homestead Restaurant doesn’t advertise.  It doesn’t need to.  The menu is traditional American, with basic entrees such as steak and pan-fried chicken, biscuits, vegetables, potatoes – usually mashed – and apple pie.  What brings customers in is as much the place as the plate.  The Homestead and its carriage house are two of the last three surviving log structures on Alki Point.  (In the 15 or so years since this was first published two others have been found.  Neither is on Alki Point but rather up the hill.  When the addresses are available we will share them – here.)

This view of the Homestead was photographed in 1905 when it was the new home of W. J. Bernard, a Seattle soap manufacturer.  Its builders soon gave it up, however; missionary work interested Mrs. Bernard more than the duties of managing the social calendar of a capitalist’s mansion.

In 1907 Seattle’s New Auto Club bought the log mansion and its adjoining carriage house.  Getting from Seattle to West Seattle by motorcar was then still an adventure and most members made it a two-day excursion.  The clubhouse gave them a night’s lodging and a large kitchen for preparing club meals.

Driving to West Seattle soon became both easy and passé’ and the motorists abandoned their log clubhouse to common uses – a boarding house, family home and since 1950, a restaurant.  Doris Nelson, its present owner, has been with the Homestead since 1960

One of Seattle’s most vital and effective heritage organizations, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, is working to acquire the Homestead’s sizable log carriage house for a museum.  Considering that Alki Point is (at least one of) the birthplace(s) of Seattle and that the settler’s first structures were rough-hewed, using this log survivor for a museum is a most well-chosen and promising act of preservation.

(Doris Nelson died of pneumonia on Nov. 18, 2004.  Following her death it was hoped, as noted above, that the West Seattle Historical Society might manage to acquire the Homestead and use in, in part, for an expansion from its Log Cabin Museum, which was originally the carriage house for the Bernard family.  Instead, property developers Patrick Henly and Thomas Lin purchased the Homestead and also kept it going as a restaurant of the same style and menu that Doris had developed.  Then the fire of Jan. 16, 2009 made its interruption.)

Bernard family home porch, 1905.
Fireplace & Piano. Sheet music for "I'm On the Water Wagon" & "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (Click to Enlarge)
Library and fireplace

Finally – we think – how to get to West Seattle before the trolley arrived in 1907.  Ferry City of Seattle takes on passengers at the West Seattle dock on Harbor Avenue.  Actually, the ferry continued to run long after the streetcar arrived.