In the delightful little town of Yachats, Oregon (pronounced YA-Hots) you will stumble upon the beginning of the Amanda Trail. This got me curious. Who was Amanda, and why did she merit a 3.7 mile trail from Yachats to the top of Cape Perpetua, the highest point on the Oregon coast?
When I inquired at the visitor center, I was told that Amanda was an Indian who used to live here, and halfway along the trail was a statue to honor her and her people. Having seen nothing but lily-white faces since I’d arrived, I suspected that Amanda needed a great deal of honoring, indeed.
But I’m 51 and out of shape, so the thought of climbing to the highest point on the Oregon coast gave me pause. No. That’s not true. It didn’t give me pause. It gave me a huge case of Oh Hell No.
But then the lady at the visitor center told me that the part of the trail from Yachats to the statue wasn’t so bad. It was rated “moderate”. It didn’t become “difficult” until you went from the statue up to the cape. Moderate didn’t sound too hard. I figured I could handle moderate. So off I went.
After illegally parking in someone’s driveway, thus shaving off about half of my walk, I set out, intrepid hiker that I am. And got lost. Karma. After backtracking and picking up the trailhead (well, the trail middle, technically) I set out through the woods.
And the view of the coast from here was stunning. I’m not used to being alone in the woods and yet hearing the waves crashing on the beach, but I liked it quite a bit. I tried not to think of bears, or, worse yet, humans of the serial killing variety. I just concentrated on enjoying the scenery.
But moderate, my butt. After climbing over some roots that were thicker than I am, and scrambling up several steep slopes, I began to wonder if this was intentional. If you want to honor the Native Americans here, it seems, you have to be pretty freakin’ determined.
At one point I slipped on the loamy soil and came down hard on my tailbone, knocking the wind out of me. As I sat there recovering, I wondered how long it would take for someone to find my body up here. It is, after all, shoulder season.
But now I was feeling kind of stubborn. I was going to see this statue, even if it killed me. I went around a bend in the trail and came upon a bear statue. Bears. Great. The statue was well done, but seemed out of place here. Like a human invasion in a deserted landscape. And all around it were elk hoof prints. Onward.
Next, I came upon a laminated sign nailed to a post. “The Amanda Statue contains a satellite tracking device that will alert authorities as to it’s (sic) location if the statue is moved. Due to ongoing vandalism to the statue, visual surveillance has been added.”
Sigh. It says a lot about man’s unbelievable level of greed that one would trek all the way up here, over hill, over dale, over big ol’ honkin’ roots, to steal what one can only assume is a heavy statue. Or maybe greed isn’t the motivator. Maybe some people want the past to be forgotten. Now I was really intrigued.
Finally (Thank you, Lord) I entered a grotto, and could see the statue in the distance. But before I approached, I stopped to read the informational sign. And what I read broke my heart.
It spoke of forcing tribes that had lived here for hundreds of years off their land. It spoke of treaties violated. It spoke of starvation and violence and abuse. It spoke of Indian agents hunting “squaws” and “bucks”. And it told the story of Amanda De-Cuys.
Amanda lived with her husband, a white settler, 50 miles off the reservation. She was old and blind, and had a young daughter. The agents ripped her from the arms of her family and marched her back up the coast, barefoot, over jagged volcanic rock, for 10 days. Her feet bled so much, it was said, that you could track her by the blood trail. No one knows what became of her after that.
Tears in my eyes, I then went and sat before the statue. I felt ashamed for complaining on my way up this comparatively simple trail. How soft we have become.
I tried to imagine what Amanda would say if she saw me now.
“Your people stole our land, starved us, tortured us, ripped our families apart, dragged me blind and bleeding over rocks for 10 days, and all I got was this lousy statue.”
Funny. You don’t see that on any of the t-shirts in the quaint little shops on the Oregon tourist trail. And still, I went back, embarrassed at how relieved I was to return to my hotel room and support the local economy, and disgusted by the fact that I might still consider retiring here some day.
A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu