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A hike into the past with local kids

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Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013 9:00 am

The e-mail arrived on Feb. 25. It was from Lisa Porter.

"I am helping to organize fieldtrips for our homeschool co-op, and wondered if you would be willing to lead a group up Crab Creek in April or May for a hike and a history lesson."

A walk south of Highway 17, past the old Drumheller place to Chief Moses Rock has been on my list for the past few years.

I have made the hike before, several times, but providing a history lesson for our youth was especially enticing to me. Chief Moses Rock is my name for the area, because my studies indicated the chief spend most springs in the area.

I called Lisa and we made arrangements for a day in May to meet at the parking lot on the Ephrata side of the creek. On the assigned day first one, then several vehicles parked, all displaying a Discover Pass, as required.

Close to 20 people, a few moms and a bunch of students, gathered around as I began a safety briefing.

"We will stick close together, within a few yards," I said. "And we will not wander into the brush at any point."

My concern was the possibility of running into a rattlesnake. The youth were interested in the prospect, but the moms were wishing the snake episode could be avoided.

"If we do find a rattlesnake, we will study it from a reasonable distance, but not get close," I said.

I carry a garden spade in snake country. This allows me to move a stubborn snake several yards from an area of concern when required.

This early in the spring allowed for easy travel along the dirt road, as the vegetation growth was slow so far. Later in the year, I have climbed to the top of the hill instead of walking down the road where weeds and grasses completely cover a great hiding place for snakes.

We all had backpacks or carry bags of some sort to hold the bottled water and snacks.

Birds were common, red-winged black birds and a yellow wing or two. Crows or ravens, along with a hawk or two were spotted.

We passed the site where the Lord Blythe house stood. This structure burned several years ago. The history of this man and later the Drumheller Ranch is best told at the Grant County Historical Museum, where Blythe's carriage is on display.

Next we began spotting rock chippings. I explained these small pieces of rock were the remains of the Indians making stone tools.

The chippings became thicker, until we were standing in front of Chief Moses Rock. I opened "Forgotten Trails," by Ron Anglin and published by Washington State University Press.

In 1946 and again in 1956 Billy Curlew, Harry Nanamkin and Cleveland Kamiakin, or variations of these three, traveled with Harold Weaver, forest supervisor for the Colville Indian Reservation and, later, Nat Washington, through  parts of the Columbia Basin, including lower Rocky Ford Creek.  

From the book: "We arrived at the base of a hill to the west and a large rock about 10 feet high and 10 feet in diameter. This, Billy informed us, was the site of one of the most important camps of the Moses Band. Its Indian name is Un-ta-pas-neat, meaning 'rock on the hill side.' About 75 or 80 feet east of the rock, Billy showed us a cleared, circular depression in the ground, the site of the lodge of Chief Moses. Immediately south is another circular depression, the site of the lodge of his brother. Here Chief Moses held court and received important visitors. For the convenience of Chief Moses and his guests a rope to which horse could be tethered was stretched about the big rock."

My group then walked a bit south and east to the trading rock. Again from the book: "As a boy Billy saw the trading rock often piled high with buffalo hides and other articles that were bet on the (horse) races. The rock was also the place at which trading activities were conducted."

At this point it was time to head back to the vehicles.

The students and moms seem to absorb and appreciate the importance of the history of the area. My job was complete and I trust all will remember their hike into the history of lower Rocky Ford Creek.

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