Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle

Introducing Karen Bertroch

I am pleased to be the new writer for the column Darrell Alexander has been doing so well. I know many, like me, will miss his pieces. I hope to bring information and news important to all of us in the Grays River through Naselle areas. Organizations I'd like to follow include the Naselle Grays River Valley School District, Grays River Grange, Enhancement (diking) District), churches, Naselle Clinic, Johnson Park, and Rosburg Hall. Also I'd like to provide updates on families, plus discuss with you how we're all coping with the covid-19 limitations, vaccinations, and more. The Appelo Archives Center and the Finnish American Folk Festival are integral parts of the Naselle area, so you can expect updates from them. I think we're all seeing new folks moving into the area. Perhaps you'd like to know more about them as I would. Hopefully, I'll get some phone interviews in here, too, so we come to know these folks and hopefully be able to connect personally once we're "turned loose" to get together.

I live in Grays River, near the Covered Bridge. I've lived in the county since 2003 and in Grays River since 2004. I helped Carlton Appelo found the Appelo Archives Center and know many folks throughout the area. Many of you know me because you recognize my dog, Ben, with his head out the back window of my car. I am 75, a cancer survivor (three years) and work part time for Torppa Construction in the truck shop. I have been there off and on for 10 years and learned so much about the timber industry, road building, road maintenance and the history of logging. I worked very hard on "When Logging Was Logging" a book published by the Appelo Archive Center in 2011 so it's 10 years old this year and still available to buy at the center.

You can reach me at or at (360) 465-2414. Please feel free to send me updates and certainly reports on how you're coping with the isolation. Hope to hear from you,

--Karen Bertroch

The first column

It's now February. That means spring is coming, so take heart and listen for the birds calling us outside to smell the fresh air and to notice the daffodils coming up. Grays River is such a lovely place to live, don't you think? Eagle Editor Rick Nelson tells me this column is meant to cover all the communities from Grays River through Naselle. What a rich history we have. I see all water moving into the Columbia, and it gives me an image of all of us moving through these valleys just as the tides do, in and out, on our way to the ocean at the end of our lives, out into the big water, as sailors would say.

I came to Grays River in 2004, house sitting Steve Puddicombe's place. I spent that summer here and fell in love with the valley, then moved here the next spring, wanting to never leave and I've been here since.

Some local news: The Appelo Archives Center is open again on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 to 2. A coffee group meets there most mornings with whoever wants to join them. Ashley is in the kitchen making fresh biscuits and gravy and baking bread and muffins, so even the smell invites you to come and have breakfast. The 2021 calendar is now for sale with logging photos at a price of $25.

Lisa Nelson, Naselle/Grays River Valley School District superintendent, sent along a message: "We now have students from K-8 on campus four days a week, with Wednesday still being reserved for connecting with all students who are choosing to do schooling strictly at home and partner with us over Zoom or other educational platforms.

"The kids (and staff) are definitely happy to be back 'in school.' I even see that some families are posting back to school pictures on their Facebook pages. Classes are still small as we have to ensure we are meeting proper spacing guidelines. As we now move into Phase 2, sports' practices and games will now be allowed as long as we stay in Phase 2. There will be very specific requirements (letter on our school Facebook page) and the number of spectators (very limited), but we are happy for our kids to have some normalcy, once again, and the students and athletes are even happier."

Lisa tells me she hopes to have some numbers about the levy soon.

For folks new to the area, I want to recommend that you read the book, "Beach of Heaven" by Irene Martin who lives in Skamokawa. This book gives a comprehensive, well written history of the area. Irene has been a commercial fisherwoman, a pastor, and a prolific writer. Her books are available at Redmen Hall in Skamokawa and the Archives Center in Naselle. You can call the Archive Center at (360) 484-7103 for more information on the books for sale there, including Bob Pyle's books, as well as Irene's.

I was pleased to watch a movie about my neighbor, Robert Michael Pyle, last week, "Dark Divide." You can find it on the internet. Bob is an internationally known naturalist and an expert on butterflies. The movie was beautiful, but I was not sure the actor did Bob justice. However, it was based on Bob's 1995 book, "Where Bigfoot Walks, Crossing the Dark Divide." Beautiful shots of the Cascades in the movie made me want to take a drive and check the area out. And if you are new, welcome! We'd love to hear your stories!

As I start my musings in this column, please indulge me with the following. I have lived here long enough (18 years) to have my own history here and my own stories. Since most stories start with the name of the character, may I give you some of the names of the people who would be listed in my story?

I would start with the names of three men. Since I have very little family and as a result I am always looking for people I can adopt as "extended" family, I want to start there with a Brother, Mark Linquist; an Uncle, Carlton Appelo; and a Father, Howard Nelson. These men took me under their wings, knew me very well, taught me so much and believed in me. I think of them every day with love and gratitude. I still miss them.

Other names in my story follow. I believe that names mean so very much. They keep memories, stories, people, places and life changing moments alive in our hearts and minds. Here are some names of people who showed me what "sisu" and community mean. The Finnish word, sisu, has many meanings, but to me, it is simply "grit." So these are some names and people I remember: Ila Mae and Bobby Larson, Jenny Pearson, Mary Kandoll, Gary Gilbertsen, Virginia King Wendelin, Glenrose Lindgren Hedlund, Julia Butler Hansen, Donna Gatens Klint, Audrey Wirkkala, Ben Wirkkala, Bob Nelson, Iris Hedlund, Roy Gorley, Joyce Magnuson, Philip Raistakka, Berenice Johnson Appelo, Marie Klint Fauver, Marjorie Elder Kraxberger, Anna Erhlund, and so many more.

Some of these people were gone before I came, but I knew them well through their stories either written or shared by those who knew them. Many more could be added but for today, this is a good gathering of memories. If you have names you'd like to share with us, send them along. Shared memories and stories are the fabric of our hearts and community.

And here is my name, Karen Elliott Bertroch.


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