Park Happenings: The Cape is still enchanted

<I>JON SCHMIDT photo</I><BR>When the fog rolls up and over Cape Disappointment it paints the forest with a mysterious and magical hue.

Over the last five years I have enjoyed a plethora of opportunities to explore Cape Disappointment State Park. My excursions often leave me feeling refreshed and re-created. The only thing better than wandering the woods alone is to wander with someone else who shares your passion. Professor A. W. Devoe, author of "The Enchanted Cape: A Story of the Rocky Headlands of the Columbia's Entrance," a newspaper article originally published in The Tribune, June 1932, shares my passion.

Devoe spent four years teaching at Ilwaco High School, and while he was in the area, he spent much of his free time at the cape, crawling and climbing around.

Devoe describes the forest of Cape Disappointment when there were still visible signs of the logging that occurred there by the Spruce Squadron during World War I. Even with this removal of some of the largest Sitka spruce from the cape, the forest still retained much of its wildness. Devoe captured the scene, "An interval in the fall of the rain and we seek the abandoned trail of the logger. Here within the previous decade he felled these forest lords and dragged them, deeply scarring the land, to the edge of the cliff on the Bay." Devoe then describes the renewal of the forest, "Along these healing scars April will hang globes of read and gold salmon berries and generous summer will fill the tangle with luscious blackberries. We follow on breast deep in bracken and sword fern. Within the deepest shade we enter the abode of a ghoulish brotherhood, the saprophytic tribes of mushrooms and toadstools."

In "The Enchanted Cape," Devoe makes multiple references to the Kipling story "The Jungle Book." "Our path becomes a rabbit burrow, and like the Jungle Boy in his visit to the Cobra we creep for many yards through the dark recesses of a tunnel. Tiny mouse-like birds flit by; about us the profusion and tangle of plant forms make apparent that deliberate haste with which leaf and stem struggle to cover every available portion of the mold, and seek every crevice where through a ray of light may filter them. So evident is the dominating vitality of plant life in this wilderness of rain and warm west wind that we turn in sympathy with the forest, again to the imagery of Kipling; 'I will let loose against you fleet-footed vines, I will call in the jungle to stamp out your lines, The roofs shall fall before me, the house beams shall fall, and the maze of the thicket shall cover it all.'" 

For this particular article, Devoe just briefly discusses any cultural history of Cape Disappointment; instead he accentuates the geography. In the following passage, Devoe attempts to rename the cape in order to respect its place in world. "To know the associations which hover about a point is to endow it with interest. If it is significant among the physical features of a continent; if it be one of the nations' gateways; if it is quick with traditions of brave encounter with river and sea and if then beauty and the beneficence of nature are strikingly apparent, surely that point is destined to become a Mecca to the eager throngs who journey far to worship at such shrines. Cape Disappointment! What a misnomer! Rather shall it be Cape of Romance, Cape Munificent."

Devoe was not only fond of Cape Disappointment, he also apparently loved seafood. He spends a third of the article discussing the virtues of eating fresh razor clams, crabs and Chinook salmon. In closing, Devoe comes back around to close "The Enchanted Cape" with his distinct flowery and fancy language, capturing the essence of a magical kingdom. "Long afterwards shall memory of the feast abide a minor pattern in the tapestry of recollection of this charmed region so richly endowed with human interest. This historic site about which there cluster tales and tales; of a sturdy yeomanry who follow the migratory hordes; of those who labored so valiantly against titanic forces of tide and wave and current, and after 40 years confined the Columbia to a channel and made safe passage for ships. Stories and stories of ships buried in the sands, and of those who so eagerly scan the ocean traffic and serve it in stress and peril, Cape Disappointment in region of enchantment! May its legends be ever remembered. May the spell of its enchantment spread across the land, to be often recalled by sojourners in distant places."

The next time you visit Cape Disappointment State Park, take a walk in the woods, bring a friend or at least bring the vision of Devoe. See the forest through the trees. Stumble upon some stumps and sit a spell. Discover a legend lost in the fog or moss. Contemplate your own name for the cape; our cape.

Jon Schmidt is an Interpretive Specialist at Cape Disappointment State Park. To contact him, call the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at 642-3029 or e-mail lcic@parks.wa.gov.

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