"These people seem to be of a different nation from those we have just passed; they are low in stature, ill shaped, and all have their heads flattened. They call themselves Wahkiacum, and their language differs from that of the tribes above, with whom they trade for wappatoo-roots. The houses are built in a different style, being raised entirely above ground, with the caves about five feet high and the door at the corner. Near the end, opposite this door, is a single fireplace, round which are the beds, raised four feet from the floor of earth; over the fire are hung the fresh fish, which, when dried, are stowed away with the wappatoo-roots under the beds. The dress of the men is like that of the people above, but the women are clad in a peculiar manner, the robe not reaching lower than the hip, and the body being covered in cold weather by a sort of corset of fur, curiously plaited and reaching from the arms to the hip; added to this is a sort of petticoat, or rather tissue of white cedar bark, bruised or broken into small strands, and woven into a girdle by several cords of the same material. Being tied round the middle, these strands hang down as low as the knee in front, and to the mid-leg behind; they are of sufficient thickness to answer the purpose of concealment whilst the female stands in an erect position, but in any other attitude form but a very ineffectual defence. Sometimes the tissue is strings of silk-grass, twisted and knotted at the end. After remaining with them about an hour, we proceeded down the channel with an Indian dressed in a sailor's jacket for our pilot, and on reaching the main channel were visited by some Indians who have a temporary residence on a marshy island in the middle of the river, where is a great abundance of water-fowl."
The tribe of Indians known as the Wahkiacums has entirely disappeared; but the name survives as that of one of the counties of Washington bordering on the Columbia. Wahkiacum is the county lying next west of Cowlitz. When the explorers passed down the river under the piloting of their Indian friend wearing a sailor's jacket, they were in a thick fog. This cleared away and a sight greeted their joyful vision. Their story says:--
"At a distance of twenty miles from our camp, we halted at a village of Wahkiacums, consisting of seven ill-looking houses, built in the same form with those above, and situated at the foot of the high hills on the right, behind two small marshy islands. We merely stopped to purchase some food and two beaver skins, and then proceeded. Opposite to these islands the hills on the left retire, and the river widens into a kind of bay, crowded with low islands, subject to be overflowed occasionally by the tide. We had not gone far from this village when, the fog suddenly clearing away, we were at last presented with the glorious sight of the ocean--that ocean, the object of all our labors, the reward of all our anxieties. This animating sight exhilarated the spirits of all the party, who were still more delighted on hearing the distant roar of the breakers. We went on with great cheerfulness along the high, mountainous country which bordered the right bank: the shore, however, was so bold and rocky, that we could not, until at a distance of fourteen miles from the last village, find any spot fit for an encampment. Having made during the day thirty-four miles, we now spread our mats on the ground, and passed the night in the rain. Here we were joined by our small canoe, which had been separated from us during the fog this morning. Two Indians from the last village also accompanied us to the camp; but, having detected them in stealing a knife, they were sent off."
It is not very easy for us, who have lived comfortably at home, or who have travelled only in luxurious railway-cars and handsomely equipped steamers, to realize the joy and rapture with which these far-wandering explorers hailed the sight of the sea,--the sea to which they had so long been journeying, through deserts, mountain-passes, and tangled wildernesses. In his diary Captain Clark thus sets down some indication of his joy on that memorable day, November 8, 1805: "Great joy in camp. We are in view of the Ocean, this great Pacific Ocean which we have been so long anxious to see, and the roaring or noise made by the waves breaking on the rocky shores (as I suppose) may be heard distinctly." Later, same day, he says, "Ocean in view! O! the joy!" Fortunately, the hardships to be undergone on the shores of the ocean were then unknown and undreamed of; the travellers were thankful to see the sea, the goal of all their hopes, the end of their long pilgrimage across the continent.
That night they camped near the mouth of the river in what is now known as Gray's Bay, on the north side of the river, in the southwest corner of Wahkiacum County. Before they could reach their camping-place, the water was so rough that some of the men had an unusual experience,--seasickness. They passed a disagreeable night on a narrow, rocky bench of land. Next day they say:
"Fortunately for us, the tide did not rise as high as our camp during the night; but being accompanied by high winds from the south, the canoes, which we could not place beyond its reach, were filled with water, and were saved with much difficulty. Our position was very uncomfortable, but as it was impossible to move from it, we waited for a change of weather. It rained, however, during the whole day, and at two o'clock in the afternoon the flood tide set in, accompanied by a high wind from the south, which, about four o'clock, shifted to the southwest and blew almost a gale directly from the sea. The immense waves now broke over the place where we were camped; the large trees, some of them five or six feet thick, which had lodged at the point, were drifted over our camp, and the utmost vigilance of every man could scarcely save our canoes from being crushed to pieces. We remained in the water, and drenched with rain, during the rest of the day, our only food being some dried fish and some rain-water which we caught. Yet, though wet and cold, and some of them sick from using salt water, the men were cheerful, and full of anxiety to see more of the ocean. The rain continued all night."
This was the beginning of troubles. Next day, the wind having lulled, the party set forth again, only to be beaten back and compelled to take to the shore again. This was their experience for several days. For example, under date of the eleventh the journal says:--
"The wind was still high from the southwest, and drove the waves against the shore with great fury; the rain too fell in torrents, and not only drenched us to the skin, but loosened the stones on the hillsides, which then came rolling down upon us. In this comfortless situation we remained all day, wet, cold, with nothing but dried fish to satisfy our hunger; the canoes in one place at the mercy of the waves, the baggage in another, and all the men scattered on floating logs, or sheltering themselves in the crevices of the rocks and hillsides. A hunter was despatched in hopes of finding some fresh meat; but the hills were so steep, and so covered with undergrowth and fallen timber, that he could not penetrate them, and he was forced to return."