Saturday, November 1, 2008

American Idyll Finale: Lunking at Lassen, Looking for Lena

From the straight blacktop lines of the Nevada high desert we followed a long and winding route into the tall conifer forests of the California Cascades, to Lassen Volcanic National Park. We hiked to Bumpass Hell – no guff – and gaped at the fumaroles, steam vents and boiling mudpots adorning this natural wonder.

After overnighting at our last state park, Castle Crags in California, it was off to southern Oregon where cousin Terri Livingston Helkenn and her beloved Ed have set up new housekeeping along a beautiful stretch of the Umpqua River. They call it a ‘barn’ but the brand-new carriage house that Ed has just completed is nothing like any barn you’ve ever seen or could imagine. We’ve known Ed and Terri only three years – since the quest for Great War family history set me in search of long-lost relatives – but it’s as if we’ve been friends forever.

After three relaxing, entertaining days at Indian Bend on the Umpqua we convoyed to Tillamook on the northwest Oregon coast. Terri and I are grandchildren of two members of the noteworthy Livingstone family of Big Bras d’Or, Cape Breton. Lena, the eldest of eleven Livingstone siblings, lived and died at Garibaldi, just north of Tillamook. We mobbed the library, city hall, county clerk’s office and pioneer museum for traces of Lena, finding none. We located the grave in the Odd Fellows’ cemetery but were disappointed and more than a little sad to discover it unmarked. Except by us who never knew her, Lena is pretty much forgotten.

We camped one last night and enjoyed good fresh seafood on Ed’s 60th birthday. After a fond departure from the cousins we paused at Seaside OR to gawk at the monument marking the place where in 1806 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached the Pacific. Then it was on to Bellevue WA to spend one final convivial evening, with Jan’s favourite cousin Julie and husband Kim.

The rain had spared us pretty much the entire 28 days we spent in the USA. Approaching the Canadian border, rain returned. I confess to a small degree of postpartum letdown. Our adventures in American geography – Shenandoah, Black Mesa, Great Salt Basin, Zion, Cathedral Gorge, Lassen, et al – exceeded all expectations. Yep, I’m sorry it’s over.


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