This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Ever since we have been in Washington Territory we have been hearing of "Chelachie" (Indian for "Fern Prairie"), which seemed to be an exceptional bit of country in many ways. It is about twenty miles from La Centre, and that is the nearest P. O. and base of supplies, yet it had been settled in advance of most of the intervening country, and residents seemed content with their isolation. Mention was often made of fine fruit and cattle raised there, and at our first 4th of July celebration here the speaker's stand was adorned with phenomenal onions and lettuce by an enthusiastic Chelacheite in his first year of sojourn. On one of the last mornings in August we set out on horseback to see "the prairie "for ourselves. The first three miles was already familiar, through a heavy growth of fir with openings laboriously cleared here and there. Then there was rather an abrupt change, the country becoming quite open, the timber having been almost destroyed by long past fires. We catch a cooler breeze from the mountains, and mile after mile the ascent is almost constant, the view continually widening, but it is no gay and smiling landscape that opens before us.
In every direction we see only range after range of steep hills and ridges, clothed with the sombre, ever-present firs, save where rugged rocks here and there dispute the ground. I looked in vain for some new flower or plant. The open space is covered with a dense growth of fern (Pteris aqui-lina, I think,) with a sprinkling of vine, maple, alder and willow by the water courses, and here and there a few firs.
But the eye that seeks for beauty is never utterly unrewarded. The farthest hills "wear the purple "that distance only can give. The firs when young have always the beauty of sturdy vigor, and look their best in the bright sun. Here and there is a dash of gay color where the maples hang out their banners of gold and scarlet, and the Dog-woods have a pleasant fashion of blossoming twice a year, and, best of all, every fresh ascent gives us a better view of the great peak of St. Helens, rising in calm majesty from the dark surrounding ridges, glittering snowy-white in the sun.
Then we descend somewhat, and cross Cedar Creek, swift, like all mountain streams, but with an exceptionally broad and smiling valley instead of the dark precipitous canon that encloses most of them. A mile or two more and we reach Chelachie.
It proves to be an oval plain about three miles in length by one in breadth, walled in, save a narrow space at each end, with almost perpendicular ridges, clothed thickly with firs of not very ancient date, and a fine stream skirts it at the base of the hills. Originally it was covered with a dense growth of fern, which is very tenacious of life, and yields only to repeated cuttings at the season of growth.
But now this valley seems a little Eden in contrast with the surrounding country. The road runs directly through the centre, and the fields stretch away to the hills as smooth as a velvet lawn. The soil seems to be almost pure vegetable mold, not adapted to wheat, but all that could be asked for grass, clover, fruit, vegetables and flowers. This valley, differing as it does from the surrounding region, is supposed to be the bed of some ancient lake.
Just beyond the main "prairie" the hills widen again, and enclose another valley, much smaller, but similar in its characteristics, and at its head stands "Turn-turn" (Indian for "Heart Mountain"), a beautiful little mountain or hill, the most symmetrical cone I ever saw, very steep, rounded a little at the top, sloping evenly on all sides. It is in contrast with all the surrounding hills, which are very irregular, and is covered like them with a thick growth of fir, but apparently much older.
Next day a party set out to visit the "Falls of Canyon Creek," of local celebrity. Warned that the trip would be fatiguing we took horses as far as possible, the way being a mere bridle path, and and at length so steep we are compelled to dismount; then a mile or more on foot, the last portion so steep a descent that it was managed something like this: We grasped the nearest sapling, held on as long as we could, slipping and sliding, getting precarious foot-holds on stones and clumps of fern; then take aim for the next available tree, and let go. A little steeper and longer slide than usual, and we reached the bed of Canyon Creek and looked about us.
The water is low now, and the bed filled with great boulders, and they are tossed together here and there in a way that shows what a rushing torrent this must be in winter. The point where we reach the stream is the only accessible one we see on our side, and on the other, as far as the eye could reach, a solid wall of rock at least a hundred feet in height. We pick our way up over the boulders, and soon a turn of the stream brings us face to face with the falls. The stream narrows above and pours over a perpendicular wall of probably fifty feet. The face of the cliff must be rough and jagged, for the whole face of the fall is fretted into foam, but it smooths almost at once as it falls, and the stream widens into a deep circular basin twenty or thirty feet across.
Well, it is no Niagara, but a beautiful fall, well worth coming to see. As I looked it seemed to be a sentient thing, taking its wild leap, gladly and freely, content through all the years it had Heard no sound save its own dashing.
We lingered, climbing steep cliffs for a better view till the sun was declining, and the signal was given for return. I took one comprehensive look to fix the scene in my memory, and Whittier's beautiful lines flashed across my mind:
" For beauty seen, is never lost, God's colors all are fast; The glory of this sunset hour Into my soul has passed." I felt his as I turned away, and essayed the steep ascent, and it will swell my heart in future days whenever I think of that lone waterfall, shut in by rock-ribbed hills, yet ever singing its glad song to the Eternal.
"Sense of gladness uneonflned By earthly bounds or cliine".