Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maryhill State Park, Goldendale, Washington

I have heard the expression "Where in the Sam Hill?" for years.   The answer is Maryhill in eastern Washington, where railroad magnet Sam Hill built a castle for his daughter Mary along with a replica of Stonehenge, an ancient druid monument found in the countryside of England.  Now the expression "What in the Sam Hill" clearly refers to a slang expression for hell.

I like my version better.  Maryhill was the end of the world in the early 1900's, but by the late 20th century it was my travel route from Wenatchee to Portland where the Forest Service Regional Office is located.  I  drove this road at least six or more times a year during my working life.

It is unfortunate that the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area stops at the Dalles just before the most scenic part of the Columbia River makes its appearance.  Come now to explore this beautiful, unique part of America before it gets covered in a carpet of ugly windmills.

The Maryhill Mansion became the Maryhill Museum of Art with an odd collection of art objects for this location.  For example, there are statues by Rodin,  a collection of chess sets, an exhibit on Loie Fuller a modern dancer in the 1920's, the crown jewels of the queen of Romania,and icons from the Orthodox faith.  It is an odd collection in a odd location, that becomes clearer when you read the history of Sam Hill.

As an Orthodox alter boy in my youth, it was definitely a surprise to find the icons in Maryhill.  Orthodox alter boys always prepared the wine and bread for communion.  I believe it was where I developed my taste for wine.

It is a disjointed museum that makes perfect sense once you know its history.  Maryhill Museum of Art is my type of place.  Visit the Maryhill website.  It has great information on the area.  It is closed from the middle of November until March 15th.

Sam Hill also built a memorial to the American soldiers that died in World War 1.  He went ahead and built out of concrete the "completed" Stonehenge Monument.  Since you can no longer walk among the ruins at Stonehenge in England the monument at Maryhill will have to suffice.

There is more in this odd little corner of Washington state!  The total solar eclipse in 1918 and also in 1979 went right through Goldendale.  Lick Observatory from the University of California at Berkeley set up the observing station in Goldendale.  Their observing notes indicate a successful expedition.   There is now a State Park complete with an observatory overlooking town.

Well, maybe in the early 20th century this place was NOT the ends of the earth!

Goldendale is a charming small town.   We stopped for lunch in Goldendale at the Glass Onion.  Well, worth the visit, but check their hours and days they are open.  Great food.  If you are towing park on the street just south of the concrete silo's and walk to the Glass Onion.  Small town food is no longer chicken fried steak!  Susie had the tuna steak perfectly cooked.  Great menu for the adventurous eater.  You cannot go wrong here!

Another place for lunch is several miles north of Goldendale along Highway 97.  It is a Orthodox convent named St. John's Monastery.  For those of you not familar with the Orthodox faith it is the first Christian church founded by the lord Jesus Christ.  In 1054 the Roman part of the church broke away and founded the Catholic Church.  The Orthodox church has remained true to its Christian roots.

No matter what your views on religion and the "Great Schism" of 1054 stop by the convent for expresso and tasty Greek food.   It has become quite the local hang out for those tasty Greek pastries.  It was a favorite stop of mine on those business trips to Portland.  Besides the expresso and great food you can also purchase an icon or two and one of those incense burners used during Orthodox services.  Yes, I was very confused at all those parties in Berkeley during the late 1960's.  Incense at a party??

We went to the Maryhill Winery which is just west of the Maryhill Art Museum.  This time of year it was not very busy.  The wine tasting in Washington is much better than it Napa.  No tasting fees, no hype.  Unfortunately, all of this is coming to an end.  Soon it will be just like the Napa Valley and that is unfortunate.   We remember wine tasting at fruit stands in the Yakima Valley in the 1980's.  Well, the fruit stands with wine tasting are gone.  Wine has gone upscale in Washington so go now.

Wineries have gone into the concert business and Maryhill has followed the trend.  Lyle Lovett was there last year and around tax time they publish their concert schedule.  Here is the concert site.

You can camp at Brooks Memorial State Park, however it is closed during the winter months or at Maryhill State Park  (at a location different than the museum).   We are camped at Maryhill State Park.  If you do not like wind or noise, Brooks is probably the better choice.    Maryhill is between train tracks and two major highways.  But they are rather cramped camping spots and are only open in spring and summer..  There are boondock locations throughout the area, but we decided to pay for the hookups at the State Park.

We drove into Oregon to check out Deschutes River Park.  Short spurs and it appears electric only hookups for $16 during the winter season.  The advantage to this campground is the bicycle and hiking trail that leaves right from the campground and the Deschutes River just before it enters the Columbia.

At Celico Falls you can boondock for free for fourteen days in the parking lot.  No services, but there is a toilet.  I suspect there is water somewhere in the site.  The site is close to the freeway so I suspect you will hear some noise from the freeway.

The site is also a tribal fishing area.  No salmon for sale while we were there, but you might be luckier than us.

Well, where else can you find Orthodox icons and a convent, Stonehenge, Rodin, observatories, and good food in the middle of somewhere?  Oh, and here is the obligatory black and white photograph.

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Mindy P. said...

Thanks for the entertaining article. You might be interested to know that Brooks Memorial State Park will soon be removed from the Washington State Parks system. Ownership is being transferred to Central Klickitat Conservation District, which will continue to operate it as a park with a campground and also an Environmental Learning Center. Come visit us next time you're in the area.

Vladimir Steblina said...

Thanks for the update.

There is a lot to do in that corner of Washington. Keeping Brooks open will help.

Uncle Casey said...

I am doing some checking with some astronomers, but Goldendale's total eclipse of 1979 wasn't it's first in the 20th century. There was another on June 8, 1918 which some of my elderly neighbors remembered and spoke about back in '79.

What I'm checking on is something I remember hearing at the time; that Goldendale is the only place in recorded history to have two total eclipses within a century. That'd be a pretty neat claim to fame! Since the average time between total eclipses for any given place is 370 years, the 60 plus year interval at Goldendale is no doubt highly unusual.

The 1918 eclipse also has a nifty connection to Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity. A team of scientists arrived at Goldendale to make observations and take photographic plates to either prove or disprove Einstein's assertion that gravity bends light. As with the 1979 eclipse, clouds threatened the viewing, but seemed to part just at the right time for viewing totality. Unfortunately for the 1918 scientific team, they needed a much wider view of the star field in order to make their intended observations, so the trip was only a partial success. A 1919 eclipse elsewhere turned out to be the turning point for Einstein's theory, which subsequently launched him into worldwide fame and the history books.