Thursday, February 20, 2014

Looking Back - Bear Country Critters

 We have so many wonderful sights and scenes and memories on which to look back in our years of workamping — so many from Bear Country USA especially. Here is a sampling of critters we were privileged to see nearly every day in the summer of 2006. There is a magnificent herd of elk in the drive-through portion of the park as well as reindeer and several varieties of mountain goats and sheep. This beautiful big guy is just getting his new sprouting of antlers, still in velvet.

 Pretty foxes, one of my favorite animals.

 The two grizzlies were a constant source of amusement and inspired not a little awe. This is Cherokee, the female, making a funny face for the tourists.

 And, just to prove that grizzlies can climb trees, too, here is Cherokee again, mastering this very scrawny pine. Tank, her mate, waits at the bottom for the daring climb to end. He looks a little bored!

 The tourist industry in Rapid City would yearly host a showing of the various attractions in the area. Each one would have a booth with information, handouts, and folks to man the booth, which we were doing here. Our Bear Country display happened to be right next to the Reptile Gardens booth, which came complete with live examples of what one might see there. This yellow fellow got quite a bit of attention! After a bit of trepidation we weren't too "yellow" to hold him.

 Of course, every tourist attraction needs a mascot. There is a brave teenager in that costume, greeting the tourists, handing out treats for the kids, and even doing a little dance to special "bear" tunes. Bet it was hot in there!

 The bear cubs, usually between 10-15 each summer, were the most popular attraction of all. The tourists would stay lined up along the fence watching the cubs' hilarious antics for long periods of time, moving along reluctantly only when the little guys collapsed into sleep. There would be a young employee standing inside the enclosure several times a day interacting with the cubs and giving a talk about bear life, always very interesting.

I had several "favorite" critters. One was the porcupine. You would think they were not so interesting, with their slow movements and their prickly "stay away from me" coats, but I was fascinated to watch them eat. They would hold their food in their little hands and nibble away much as we would do. They made a soft humming sound towards each other. I will never forget the exciting days we spent at Bear Country, still our favorite job. I wish we could be there still!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fort Vancouver

 I haven't blogged for awhile because of illness and weather preventing us from getting out. We did have one short trip over the river to Fort Vancouver. When I lived in Vancouver from 1968 to 1983 we visited the Fort many times. It was always a favorite place, so I wanted to take Mr. Keith there to see for himself. Here he is, posing by this massive cannon. Hey, Mr. Keith, you're supposed to stand behind it, not in front of it!

 In 1818 the United States and Great Britain, locked in a struggle for control, agreed to share access to the fur rich Oregon Territories. In 1825 Britain sought to anchor their claim by moving their Hudson's Bay Company headquarters to the new Fort Vancouver, on the banks of the Columbia River. Dr. John McLoughlin was instrumental in settling the area, which eventually became Oregon, Idaho,Washington and British Columbia. The company moved out in 1860, the era of the beginnings of the Oregon Trail settlers. The Fort burned completely to the ground in 1866. In 1947 archaeologists began digging up the remains of the foundations, and in 1966 reconstruction of some of the buildings was begun. The large house in the picture above was Dr. McLoughlin's residence and the hub of the social life at the Fort.

 This Blacksmith Shop is well equipped and quite accurately duplicates the original shop. The volunteer blacksmiths here have mastered the iron works projects very well and do a good job explaining how it used to be, as closely as can be discovered.

  Mr. Keith always loves to pose in the old outhouses. I can't break him of that habit! This one was next to the Blacksmith Shop.

 The 1845 Bastion was built to protect the fort against threats and to fire salutes to arriving ships. It was three stories high; the top floor held eight three pounder cannons. In my reading, I don't find any evidence that there were Indian attacks or other enemies of any kind.

Officers Row is above the actual old Fort and is a tree lined street of great beauty.
As part of a national reorganization, the U.S. Army returned the headquarters of the Department of the Columbia from Portland Oregon to Fort Vancouver in 1878. Several new buildings were constructed on Officers Row, including this 1886 Queen Anne style home for the Department Commander.  The most famous Commander to live here was Brigadier General George C. Marshall, who lived here with his wife Katherine from 1936 to 1938 while he was in command of the Third Division's Fifth Brigade and directed the region's Civilian Conservation Corps camps. Mr. Keith and I hope to return for a more in depth visit to historic Fort Vancouver when the weather is warmer and we can spend more time exploring.