Milo Yield: Laugh Tracks in the Dust 8-12-13
For you faithful readers who have been bored to abstraction by the two-week travelogue of my route, sights, experiences and friends met on a vacation to Idaho, Washington, and Oregon with friends May Bea and Canby Handy, well, tough luck. Here’s one more educational experience from that trip that I want to share with you.
I want to tell you about the Dry Falls of the Columbia River, which is located about 30-40 miles directly south of the Grand Coulee Dam. Today, the only thing left of the Dry Falls is simply that — a massive lava wall several hundred feet high that stretches for 4-1/2-miles in an arc from the present day overlook site. At the bottom are a few shallow pothole lakes.
But, it’s the story behind the Dry Falls that’s intriguing. A few hundred million years ago the Earth crust cracked open and flooded what is now the Columbia Basin with hot lava miles deep. Eventually, the lava cooled and eroded. Then 10,000 years ago or so the Ice Age began in what’s now Canada and the ice shelf of glaciers crept south until it filled the Grand Coulee with ice and diverted the Columbia River up and over the headlands and out over the ancient lava beds.
The diverted water from the Columbia found a soft spot in the lava beds, began eroding and eventually created a massive waterfall. That wuz the start of the Dry Falls, but the finish wuz much more dramatic. Eventually the continental ice shelf pushed south as far as present day Missoula, Mont., and dammed up a huge valley and created a lake in western Montana that contained an estimated 500 cubic miles of water. Folks, that’s a lot of water being held back by an ice dam.
The pressure on the ice dam finally built up and the dam broke — releasing 500 cubic miles of water in 48 hours. That cataclysmic flood swept through the panhandle of Idaho, carving out the present Lake Coeur d’Alene, gushed across the site of Spokane, Wash., and, since the water couldn’t follow the Columbia River Grand Coulee because it wuz filled with ice, it diverted across central Washington, scouring the lava beds of all top soil, and eventually finding what is now the Dry Falls.
The gargantuan flood piled over the Falls an estimated 900 feet deep. The water couldn’t find a large enuf outlet to the Pacific Ocean, so it backed flood waters up in the Snake River for 200 miles, well into Hell’s Canyon in present day Idaho.
Crashing and carving its way to the Pacific, the Willamette River in western Oregon backed up more than 100 miles.
Within a very short time, the flood made its way to the Pacific, leaving landscape havoc behind it in the Columbia Basin. Rocks as large as houses, entrapped by ice floes, lodged across the Basin and remain there today as stone monuments to the past that must be farmed around in the present.
And, the Dry Falls were eroded north 15 miles from their original site to their current location. It took centuries for the Ice Age to end and the continental ice shelf to melt. But, when it did, the Columbia River returned to its original home in the Grand Coulee and left the Dry Falls literally high and dry — leaving behind a wonderful tourist sight which we enjoyed to the fullest.
Now, isn’t that wonderful geologic story worth waiting for?
Okay, back to the mundane — creation and evolution. I know we’re taught that every living thing has a purpose in the Creator’s grand scheme of things. But, my personal experiences cause me to have doubts about that supposed truth.
For instance, what possible good on Earth is the common chigger, that microscopic critter that lives in the grass, crawls surreptitiously onto your body’s most tender and vulnerable spots and causes an itchy red welt that lasts for days?
And, pray tell, what good on Earth is the lowly mosquito, the biting scourge that kills millions by transmitting diseases? You say the larva create fish food. Agreed, but wouldn’t a non-human-biting critter living in water do the same thing?
And, what about bindweed, cockleburs, poison ivy and oak, goat-head sand burs, kudzu, barnyard grass, prostrate spurge, leafy spurge, and serecia lespedeza for starters in the plant world? Worthless plants in my humble opinion that could just have easily been created or evolved into edible plants instead of nuisances.
My answer is that a Greater Power is playing a big joke on us all.
Well, all joking aside, I’m sure a lot of folks have questioned the evolution of my mind. They may be right in being skeptical according to these wise words from E.O. Wilson: “Real biologists who actually do the research will tell you that they almost never find a phenomenon, no matter how odd or irrelevant it looks when they first see it, that doesn’t prove to serve a function.” Or, how about these words from Kurt Vonnegut? “I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival.”
Have a good ’un. ❖