On October 25, Jack Nisbet and Steve Box led a geology/natural history tour to the Carder/Hanson and Heine conservation easements near Coeur d'Alene, ID. This is Bea Lackaff's account of that day.
While a dozen of us tromped through the chilly autumn forests and across sunny meadows – the conversation rollicked from the earth’s mantle roiling over vast reaches of time; the legacy of the Great Missoula Floods; the “Language Maps” of the peoples living here then and now; the trees and plants around us, and even - a “bathtub ring” of mammoth bones!
These are some of my memories of an outing sponsored by the Inland Northwest Land Conservancy, October 25, 2015, featuring a bus ride to hike INLC conservation easements on the slopes above Cougar Bay, Lake Coeur d’Alene. Author and natural historian Jack Nisbet teamed up with geologist Steve Box to lead and narrate the hike; the families living on the lands we visited told their stories – and fed us! It was a delightful outing.
We have all ridden from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene – but this time it was an adventure back eons to an Eocene tropical landscape, and metamorphosis through basalt flows, glacial lakes, and the cataclysmic floods of the (“recent”) Pleistocene. Entering yet another dimension, we learned how the languages of the peoples living here, and their differences, reflect the very paths and transportation corridors carved into the land by the floods.
Still pondering these things, we arrived at the home of Wes Hanson and Theresa Shaffer, whose land is protected with an INLC Conservation Easement. We were warmly received and offered fresh-baked scones. While we enjoyed our respite, Wes explained family connections to the land and the long struggle to protect the Cougar Bay uplands.
Jolly neighbors, who also happened to be foresters (and raconteurs) joined us for a hike on the easement. It might, in other company, have been merely a delightful morning walk in the forest, warmed by periodic flashes of sunshine thru the yellow flame of aspen and cottonwood. However, in conversation with our fabulous hosts and hike leaders – we learned the tree species, their characteristics and implications; we heard stories of the Western white pine, the Ribes (currant) family, bears pooping Rowan tree seeds in the woods, the local Native peoples flood stories, and European Devil stories. All were spontaneously inter-twining to continually remind us how the more we learn, the more we see how everything is inter-connected.
We had already seen basalt explosions plunging into ancient lakes, solidified in the stone as round “pillows”. Steve explained that the landscape we enjoyed on the hike is in a Pleistocene flood channel – and, for a while anyway, we really understood WHY it is between the ancient, uplifted sea-bottom schists to the south, and the basalts to the north.
The climax of our adventure was a hike on the Heine easement. Here, Joyce Randall served us delicious hot homemade soups (butternut or Italian sausage-kale) and sandwiches, before we made a last climb to one of her favorite view spots. Growing up on this land, she had discovered this spot as a child, and shared it with us, along with stories of days gone by. From the viewpoint, we looked north into the very maw of the on-coming floods; or so it seemed as Steve and Jack told the geologic and Native peoples’ stories. We could imagine the terror, the thunder of the approaching water. We looked about us for higher ground (there wasn’t any), and wondered - what would we have done?
Following warm goodbyes to our woodland hosts, we piled into our bus to munch cookies on the ride home. We’d had a good day in the woods; great food and conversation. Maybe longest lasting will be the delightful wonder over how, no matter how far and wide you explore - across a landscape or back through time – everything is connected and influencing everything else.
Many thanks to the INLC for all the good work they do, in preserving lands where ancient relationships still exist, and in providing outings like this one to help us appreciate how interesting and important - even sacred - they are.