Postcards from the West
Hawk Creek, Washington
I saw one Red-tailed Hawk at Hawk Creek Campground. Plus a first-year Bald Eagle, a pair of Common Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Sage Grouse, Osprey, Kingfisher, Eastern Kingbird, Western Tanager, Vaux Swift, three species of swallow, four of chickadee, Robins, Buntings Flycatchers and more. The place was off the hook, bird-wise. And the fish were jumping on the lake, the lake being Lake Roosevelt, a product of the Grand Coulee Dam.
We turned off toward camp before reaching the dam, though Kwame almost lobbied for the extra drive, associating the dam with Bob' Dylan’s recording of the Woody Guthrie tribute song to the massive project. I looked it up later and learned Guthrie actually wrote the song — as well as ‘Roll On Columbia’ and two dozen others1 — on commission by the Bonneville Power Administration to promote the project.
In the misty crystal glitter of that wild and windward spray
Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave
Well, she tore their boats to splinters but she gave men dreams to dream
Of the day the Coulee Dam would cross that wild and wasted stream
I’m not exactly a proponent of dams and the environmental fallout such feats of engineering leave in their wake. Eighty years later, the area we were was hardly pristine wilderness and I could clearly see why Guthrie was inspired by his time on the river.
While the camp was one of our way stations as we made our way from western Washington to Wyoming, it was a popular vacation destination for boaters of the motoring and fishing kind. We played a few tunes in camp after dinner (Dylan represented by K’s rendition of ‘Buckets of Rain’), and just as we were putting our guitars back in their cases, a boatload of four brawny men came back to the adjacent site from their day out. A woman camping nearby offered her stand-up paddle board to use if we liked; she was done for the day and wasn’t going out again til morning. But the Nighthawks were just coming out, flying with the Bank Swallows and making work of the insects. We thanked her and considered it briefly…then sat dumbly in our camp chairs, looking out over the water til the light had all but completely faded.
There’s even a book about this, 26 Songs in 30 Days: Woody Guthrie's Columbia River Songs and the Planned Promised Land in the Pacific Northwest, by Greg Vandy.