Things improved somewhat on the 13th, with Clark able to walk up the stream several miles. “My principal object in ascending…was to view the countrey below”. However, the rain began to fall again and “the weather being so Cloudey & thick that I could not See any distance down.” He would have been fortunate in doing so, even with weather permitting, because of the dense forest cover in the area. He had, however, managed to climb a fair distance, “about 3 miles thro’ intolerable thickets of Small Pine, arrow wood a groth much resembling arrow wood with briers, growing to 10 & 15 feet high interlocking with each other & Furn”.
Rain and high winds continued to hold the party in place for the rest of that day, although three men were dispatched in a canoe to locate safer conditions. These men had not returned by nightfall and the party dined on some of their remaining pounded fish.
The descriptions Clark made of the area continue to describe it today, although fewer large trees of similar size (“a number of verry large Spruce Pine one of which I measured 14 feet around and verry tall”) are to be found. He also noted the presence of “a Small red Berry which grows on a Stem of about 6 to 8 Inches from the Ground, in bunches and in great quantity on the Mountains” and whose taste was “insipid.”
This ‘insipid’ red berry could have been one of several possible red berry plants which grew in profusion in the coastal woods of the time. Bunchberries, false-lily-of-the-valley, salal, or berries known as dwarf cornel or puddingberry were all native to the region. Members of the Corps followed the custom of using a Chinook word to describe the red berry they saw. This word “sol-me” actually could describe more than one red berry plant.
False-Lily-of-the-Valley is usually found in older spruce and hemlock forest areas and produces its red berries in late summer. Some journal readers believe it fits Clark’s description by having a stem ‘6-8 inches from the ground’ and ‘in great quantity on the mountains.’ It is a more likely candidate than Salal. The berries of the prolific Salal tend, in color, toward blue-black. Since native people living in the Pacific Northwest’s coastal areas are known to have eaten Salal berries, dried into small cakes and then dipped in oil, it has long been considered one of the candidates for this identification.
A more detailed description with accompanying photographs of the various candidates for Clark’s insipid berry can be found in Wildflowers, The Coast, Elizabeth Horn, Beautiful America Publishing Co., 1980.
Cranberry bogs function as a natural wetland to soak up excess flood waters and, in the Pacific Northwest, even Lewis & Clark could attest to the abundance of rainfall which can produce flood-type waters.
The cranberries popularly known today were the result of the importation of cranberry vines in 1883 from Cape Cod. Commercial cranberry growing then began in Pacific County where it is today a primary industry, consisting of approximately 1140 acres of operating cranberry bogs which produce ten thousand pounds of fruit an acre. Today’s growers primarily use the McFarlin variety of berries, with others adding Stevens and Pilgrim varietals to their beds.
The industry has gone from the hand-picking done by Chinook natives to mechanical picking devices which ease the back strain of the work considerably. On the Long Beach Peninsula, cranberry farmers harvest by flooding the beds, then using a reel machine to beat the berries off the vines and when the berries float to the top, the workers pull them to the edge of the bog with a boom so they can be lifted out of the water. This is known as a ‘wet’ harvest. In other areas of the County – as well as in other growing regions throughout the country – growers may use a ‘dry pick’ method of harvesting.
The berries generally turn red in late summer and early fall. In this region, the harvest takes place in October and wet harvest bogs lay bright cranberry red in the fields as the berries float in water, awaiting their conveyance to nearby conveyor belts.
The thriving cranberry industry in the area’s boggy lands has been a boon to local chefs who use cranberries creatively in many recipes, ranging from soup to trifle to a myriad of sauces.
The Long Beach Peninsula is home to a Cranberry Museum which displays early harvesting equipment and boasts a self-guided tour of working cranberry bogs.