I became intrigued in general about the eloquent writing found in the journals written by Vancouver, Puget, and Menzies. I marveled at the detail of some of the observations and descriptions they penned while under the most difficult conditions of severe storms, rain, cold, heat, late at night in the cramped quarters of a small tent on shore with only a candle burning or below the decks of the HMS Discovery with a hundred other men.
On May 20, 1792 Captain Vancouver had the HMS Discovery anchored near Restoration Point on Bainbridge Island. From this vantage point he saw Mt Baker to the north and Mt Rainier to the south and observed an interesting geological formation along the southern slope of Mt. Rainier. During the next week he made several references in his log about the very conspicuous and abrupt division in the snowy range of mountains immediately to the south of Mt. Rainier. He speculated the eastern inlet of Commencement Bay stretched in that direction.
On May 26, 1792, Captain Vancouver with 2 launches began their exploration of the eastern waters of Commencement Bay. He wrote, "Towards noon we landed on a point on the eastern shore, whose latitude I observed to be 47° 21′, round which we flattered ourselves we should find the inlet take an extensive eastwardly course. This conjecture was supported by the appearance of a very abrupt division in the snowy range of mountains immediately to the south of mount Rainier, which was very conspicuous from the ship, and the main arm of the inlet appearing to stretch in that direction from the point we were then upon. We here dined,[Browns Point] and although our repast was soon concluded, the delay was irksome, as we were excessively anxious to ascertain the truth, of which we were not long held in suspense. For having passed round the point, we found the inlet to terminate here in an extensive circular, compact bay. [Commencement Bay], whose waters washed the base of Mount Rainier, though its elevated summit was yet at a very considerable distance from the shore, with which it was connected by several ridges of hills rising towards it with gradual ascent and much regularity. The forest trees, and the several shades of verdure that covered the hills, gradually decreasing in point of beauty, until they became invisible; when the perpetual clothing of snow commenced, which seemed to for a horizontal line from the north to south along this range of rugged mountains, from whose summit Mount Rainier rose conspicuously, and seemed as much elevated above them as they were above the level of the sea; the whole producing a most grand, picturesque effect. The lower mountains as the descended to the right and left, became gradually relieved of their frigid garment; and as they approached the fertile woodland region that binds the shores of this inlet in every direction, produced a pleasing variety." p.138, 139 Edmond S. Meany, Vancouver's Discovery of Puget Sound, The Macmillan Company, 1907.
After having read about this conspicuous and very abrupt division, I wondered what might this formation be. Could we see it today? I waited for a clear day to see this location myself. As I looked south and east from Commencement Bay and Restoration Point as Captain Vancouver did in 1792, we can see and appreciate today what he described. There is an abrupt division in the foothills, creating a v-shaped notch. After all these years of my not being aware of it, it is just as Vancouver described.
As I looked at this abrupt division I wondered, what information might this geographic division hold? Where was this division geographically located? What river flowed through such a divide, was it the Nisqually or was it the Puyallup? I had my bet on the Nisqually River emptying into the Nisqually Reach in the southern arm, as it is a larger river system and farther south of Mt. Rainier. I wondered if it had ever been officially named, if not, perhaps I could officially have it named. I have been calling it Vancouver’s Notch for several months so, perhaps we could use that name?
Unlike Vancouver, whose job it was to document and chart, plot and interpret land masses and waterways, we cruise through life and the waterways on auto pilot. If this abrupt division was enough to get Captain Vancouver’s attention, perhaps I could step up to the challenge and find answers to my own questions and eventually educate other Puget Sounders.
I am collaborating with Richard Blumenthal, the author of many historical books relating to Puget Sound exploration and naming of places. We have been in a week long discussion as he educates me regarding the rules and procedures of officially naming a place. I am learning that this is a journey in itself. I see that I have jump-started the process and have the cart before my horse. I need to know what this division is: is it a space- a gap, a pass, a mountain summit or a ridge? Before you can name a place, you have to know what the place is and where it is. After this week of exploring the area, looking at Google Earth and topographical maps, I do have some answers to my questions and also have more questions.
1. This region is not in a wilderness area, but is in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest which borders Mt. Rainier National Park on its southwest side. It is located in Pierce County, WA. One cannot name sites in a wilderness area.
2. The 45 mile long Puyallup River is the river that courses through this division. It originates from the Puyallup and Tahoma Glaciers, its tributaries are the Mowich, the Carbon and the White Rivers and empties into Commencement Bay.
3. According to the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) there are 2 mountain areas in this vicinity that are officially named.
a. Puyallup Point is a summit with elevation 5305 ft. located in map name: Mt Wow. Coordinates(DMS): 465017N, 1215637W
b.The Divide is a ridge with elevation of 3986 ft. located in map name: Le Dout Creek.
Coordinates(DMS): 465320N, 1220406W
1. Now realizing The Divide is a ridge rather than a summit. Is The Divide a part of Vancouver's abrupt division? We have to make certain The Divide is the ridge that we are looking at when we see Vancouver's Notch, as I am calling it.
2. Richard Blumenthal has done some more research and has shed light onto our process. He makes a great statement in another email to me. " If the notch is part of The Divide (i.e., the valley between two of its peaks), there is nothing wrong with an additional name, e.g., Vancouver Division, which is part of The Divide. Think of Snoqualmie Pass as part of the Cascade Range."
1. Fly the area to document these structures in their relationship to the visual abrupt division as described by Vancouver. Get the coordinates of the visual division and compare them to the named structures. I am working on getting cost quotes.
2. Consider Official Names.for the space between the ranges/mountains/ridges: Vancouver Notch, Vancouver Divide, Vancouver Division,Vancouver Pass. There is a class name of a notch, therefore perhaps I could name this location as I have been calling it, Vancouver Notch. Richard informed me that ('s) have to be deleted. We learned this when Vancouver named Puget's Sound, which was changed to Puget Sound.
We all can honor Captain Vancouver by naming the abrupt division after him. He was the first to write a description about it in his log, there is evidence on his master chart/map of this area of a division, and John Sykes drew a sketch of Mt Rainier which shows the notch very clearly.
|1903 photo from Lake Washington Mercer Island showing notch|
| Vancouver named Mount Rainier|
Rear Admiral Peter Rainier
|Thun Airfield Pierce County showing notch 2013|
Even today as the TV weather cams photograph sunrise on Mt. Rainier you can see Vancouver's abrupt division. So next time you are out cruising Puget Sound, look for Vancouver's Notch, as I call it and send me a picture.