Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What's in a Name?

This is how the Blue Mountains in north-east Oregon got their name.

Backroads Information-Place Names

One of the great disappointments of the late 20th Century is that place names have become decoupled from reality.  Subdivisions are called Fox Run, Quail Hollow, and Poppy Lane but their names have nothing to do with reality, except as a marketing gimmick.

However, this was not always true.  During the settlement of the west names did have meaning.  Many places were named after early settlers so the place name was also the mailing address.  However, up on the National Forests and BLM lands the names became more descriptive.  Some creeks were named after the nationality of the squatters that lived there with many of these being "cleaned up" in recent years.

Some were named after businesses that were operated on site.  So WhoreHouse Meadows was an advertisment as well as a place name.  Unfortunately, in Oregon BLM has now renamed WhoreHouse Meadows to Naughty Girl Meadows.  Visitors today have no clue what the naughty girls did at that meadow!   Maybe, they rode their mountain bikes in the meadow?  Perhaps they played their radio's too loud.  A part of history ceased to exist with the renaming.

On BLM lands in Idaho you can still find Two-Bit Creek and one ridge over Floozy Creek.   Those naughty girls did get around!

So what does this have to do with exploring the public lands.  Plenty.  Use the names as a descriptive guide as well as a location.

For example, Fish Lake.  Fish Lake is a very common name throughout the west.   In my travels, throughout the west I have always found it worthwhile to fish lakes named Fish Lake.  The early settlers were not to concerned about people finding out their secret fishing spots.  Any guess as to the fish species your going to catch at Cutthroat Lake?   Beaver Lakes are worth fishing since it indicates shallow, more productive lakes.

If this is named Duck Pond, where are the ducks?

Other common names for lakes in the west are Gold and Silver Lakes.  It has been my observation that Gold Lakes tend to be more scenic than Silver Lakes which come in second .  So if it is scenery your looking for go to Gold Lake first.  The names probably came from the relative worth of gold and silver in the late 1900th century.  It did not come from the summer Olympics since there are very few Bronze lakes to be found.

You will find a Surprise Lake when you least expect it.  I would keep a clean camp at Bear Lake.  There will be a rocky shoreline around part of Talus Lake.  You will probably have a hard time finding Hidden Lake.  There will be a yellowjacket nest around BeeHive Lake.  Careful around Moose Lake they can be rather cranky.  I would not camp at Gnat, Mosquito, or Mud Lake.  Rainbow Lakes are usually good fishing.   Twin Lakes always come in pairs, so if you do not like one go to the other.

If you like looking for old stuff anyplace with diggins as part of its name should have lots of old mining equipment laying around.  I would not camp in early season in any place named Mosquito Flat, though in the fall it might be a great spot.  Anything with HooDoo or Dalles will have some nice rock formations.

Save hiking for Rattlesnake Creek for the colder months of the year.  

We have a house on Camas Meadows.  The most common wildflower on the meadow is Camas and the meadow turns into a sea of blue in the spring.  Be sure to visit these special spots at the right time of year.

Now sometimes you can get fooled.  Back in the turn of the  20th century the Early Winters Ranger District named a trail with a tricky stream crossing and 4000 feet of straight up elevation gain in less than four miles the Easy Pass Trail.   When  the new summer employees would show up they would be sent on an hike on the Easy Pass Trail first thing.  Some of those folks would quit right then and there, thinking "If that the EASY Pass trail, what do the other trails look like!".

Of course, turnabout is fair play particularly after a 100 years.  I intend to show up at the Ranger Station wearing flip-flops and a couple of grand-kids in tow.  And tell them that for a first hike the Easy Pass Trail was fantastic and do you have any trails where we could get some exercise?

So break out those Forest Service, BLM, or topographic maps and start thinking about those names.  You can find some special spots just by paying attention to the place name.

Elk City, Idaho??

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I LOLed while reading your post today---great job!