In April I began to think seriously about starting work on a new book. The idea had come to me a month earlier as I was nearing the end of my first read of a 1913 scientific paper written by J Harlen Bretz (Glaciation of the Puget Sound, Bulletin #8, Washington Geological Society). I stumbled across this paper when I was looking for information about Dry Falls. I've known of Bretz and his Scablands work for many years and even wrote a segment about Glacial Lake Missoula for my book on Fanno Creek. However, until I read that article and began digging a little deeper into Bretz's earliest years as a geologist, I had no idea he had begun his field work as a glaciologist.
It is now closing in on the end of June, and I am close to going all in on the project. I've been testing the waters by sharing an outline of my ideas with folks whose opinions I deeply respect. One of these people is a writer and publisher who is also married to an engineering geologist. Their immediate responses were particularly encouraging, because I am sure either of them would have told me not to waste my time if they had seen little promise in the venture. I've also shared the outline with a handful of well-placed and Bretz-savvy geologists, who have shown considerable interest in the project.
All in all, the uniformly positive and enthusiastic responses I've received are very encouraging. It looks as if I have a good story in hand, one that could be marketed to a national audience. The only hang-ups now - besides the perennial practical ones - is the same ones I had a hard time getting past when I was just beginning to write Up Fanno Creek: will my writing skills live up to the subject matter, and do I have the strength of character it will take to see it through to the end?
The differences between this book and the Fanno Creek effort are many; however, telling this story will demand (1) a greater commitment of time, money and spiritual capitol; (2) a significantly higher caliber of research; and (3) a far greater degree of artistry. Quite frankly, I'm not sure I pack enough gear for the long haul I am certain it will be.
To help me get in closer touch to some of the material, I've begun visiting a few of the areas Bretz wrote about in his paper. The Chehalis River Basin is one of those places and figures large in the story of the Puget Lobe glaciation. Roughly 12,000 years ago, as the glacier was retreating out of the upper reaches of the Puget Sound, the Chehalis river became an absolute monster. I'm not ready to tell that story in detail right now, but it will certainly be included in the book.
Over the next few weeks I hope to make several trips through the middle part of the basin - the reaches between Grand Mound and Elma. It was roughly along this line where the snout of the Puget Lobe reached its most southerly advance. I'm not sure where Bretz worked when he visited this area, but I'm sure I'll cross his track from time to time. For example, I am pretty sure he once tramped along this section of railroad track. There was a small community near this sign in Bretz's day, but it was well on its way to dying, thanks to a devastating fire in 1900, followed by the failure of the area's timber industry in the years that followed.
My next post will be about the Black River, a tributary of the Chehalis, and one time a bit of a monster in its own right.