Summer events at mission come to a close

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Gary Lentz will portray explorer and naturalist David Douglas.

The summer of special events at the Whitman Mission National Historic Site, 328 Whitman Mission Road, ends this weekend with two voices from the past.

On Saturday, explorer and naturalist David Douglas will be portrayed at the park.

Douglas was a Scottish botanist who explored the Pacific Northwest between 1825 and 1827. He traveled thousands of miles through what is now Washington, Idaho and Oregon by foot, horse and canoe. His careful notes give an insight into the Pacific Northwest as it was nearly 200 years ago. The Douglas fir is named in his honor.

Douglas will be portrayed by retired state park ranger Gary Lentz. Lentz was born in Pennsylvania and spent much of his early youth hiking the Appalachian Trail. He found many parallels between his life experiences and those of David Douglas, such as a love of plants and the desire to see what was growing over the next hill.

"David Douglas" will be in the Tipi Grove 1-4 p.m. and will be available for a short chat and possibly a "spot of tea." At 2 p.m. he will give a short talk about his life and experiences in the Pacific Northwest.

On Sunday, "the fiddlin' ranger," Reade Obern will perform at the park dressed as Private Gibson of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery. The arrival of the Corps in this area directly led to the Whitmans coming here. Obern will talk about the adventures the Corps had and play some pieces from that time on his fiddle. Obern is a park ranger at Sacajawea State park.

In addition, "David Douglas" will still be found puttering near his tent in the Tipi Grove. Look for both of them 1-4 p.m. Sunday, and stop by and chat. At 2 p.m. there will be a 20-minute talk about the Corps of Discovery and fiddle music of that era.

This weekend brings the end of the park's Diamond Jubilee Summer. Whitman Mission has been a part of the National Park Service for 75 years. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the legislation on June 29, 1936.

There is still plenty to do at the park even though the summer events and ranger programs are over for the season. A visitor to the park may view a 10-minute slideshow, visit the museum and take a self-guided tour of the mission grounds. The grounds include the original building locations, Great Grave, Whitman Memorial and re-constructed Oregon Trail ruts.

Whitman Mission is open seven days a week. Summer hours for the Visitor Center are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The park grounds are open until dark. The entrance fee is $3 for adults; children under 16 are free. Senior passes and other federal passes are honored. Visitor information is available by calling 509-529-2761 or by visiting the park website at www.nps.gov/whmi.

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