I have lived in Washington for almost 20 years and Mount Adams remains largely a mystery mountain. It is seldom clearly visible. I have had 3 experiences related to it and Ruth has had more. We saw it very briefly on our latest trip because we visited the Yakima Cultural Museum in Toppenish during our final day on the road. This is without reservation a great museum experience. I highly recommend a visit to it. It is so fine that I went through it twice. I was sure I had missed something important the first time so went through it a 2nd time with Ruth. Then we talked to the 2 ladies who were running it that day and I learned something critically important.
Mount Adams is known to the Yakima tribe as Pahto and it is sacred to their tribe. It is a source of both water and food. Ruth’s best day on this mountain involved looking for and collecting huckleberries. I was not there that day, but our grandson was. He helped Ruth collect the berries. My greatest experience on Mount Adams involved an off-season visit in early spring. We picked up my brother Jim in Seattle and tried to ascend this mountain on the way back to Vancouver. Eventually the road was still snow-packed and we had to abandon our plan to see its summit. We drove as far as we could which meant we came to snow and had to turn back. We simply could not go any farther.
Mount Adams was named for President John Adams and is an active volcano. All of the peaks in the Cascade Range are potential volcanoes. Mount Adams has not erupted for more than 1000 years, but it, like all the other major peaks in this mountain range, has the potential to become another Mount St. Helens. Mount Adams is across the Columbia from Hood River, but I have not seen it recently from this town. It is a mountain that hides even though it is 2nd in size to Mount Rainier and is said to be 12,281 feet tall. Others say 12, 276 feet. The other landmark important to this tribal group is Celilo Falls on the Columbia. This system of cascades was drowned long ago to create a lake for commercial development. It is still a highly celebrated landmark in the Yakima Cultural Center. This Indian tribe used to gather salmon at these waterfalls each year, so they were a source of food and I’m sure the Yakimas miss them. I asked the ladies in charge, by the way, about the spelling of Yakama. They told me that is involved a simple misspelling of their official name long ago. Yakama is the correct tribal name.
The cultural center has lots of native art. It often involves a depiction of animals important to this tribe. I was not surprised to find as I explored it a People’s Choice Award given to this tribe at a Washington State Fair in the town of Yakima, date unknown. I never questioned the misplacement of the state fair. I saw a lot of stuff important to this tribe in its cultural center including trees and bears and rock art and much more.
I have been under the impression from the beginning of my time in Washington that this cultural group is highly important to this area. No less than half of Mount Adams is considered their land, but the lady behind the counter told me proudly that the national government recently gave this tribe more of Mount Adams. She told me that now 90% of it is officially under Yakima or Yakama control. I do not doubt this but could find nothing on the internet to confirm this change.
Hank (but more about the Yakimas and their culture center in Toppenish to be presented on another day)