More decisions.

The deep dive into the Decisions on Geographic Names in the United States continues.

I wouldn’t want you to spend all your free time in this sea of creeks, ridges, points and reservoirs — only one of us really needs to take this trip — so I’m plucking out some of my favorite entries as I go and putting them here.

These entries are actually all from two years’ timespan, between the start of 1969 and the end of 1970. We’ll see if I keep fishing in other years, or leave well enough alone.

(One note on the entries presented below: I have consistently refused to transcribe geographic coordinates — too much hassle — so when you see ellipses, that’s what’s missing.)

Maybe you’ll get some flavor of why I find this fascinating. If not, I’ll probably be flapping about baseball cards or music again sometime soon, so come back then.

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From Jan.-March 1969:Gossan Ridge: ridge, 1 mi long, highest elevation 975 ft. 38 mi SE of Candle; name derived from the gossans that are found on the ridge; Alaska.”

What is a gossan? I had to go to Wiki to get learned: A gossan is the upper, exposed part of an ore deposit or mineral vein. Go know.

I woulda guessed it was a wildflower.

Oi! I can’t see the bloody gossans!

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Thor, Mount: mountain, highest elevation 12,500 ft., in Chugach Mountains 3 mi. NW of Mount Valhalla; named for Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, because of the noise of avalanches on the mountain; Alaska. Not: Mount Willard Gibbs.”

Sorry, Willard Gibbs. You got the bum’s rush. But chin up, bro: If you gotta lose out to somebody, it’s no shame to lose out to the Norse god of thunder.

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Slims Peak: mountain, elevation 7,112 feet, in the Panamint Range 4.8 mi. WSW of Porter Peak and 23 mi. NE of Trona; named for Charles ‘Seldom Seen Slim’ Ferge, lone resident of the nearby ghost town of Ballarat for fifty years until his death in 1968; Inyo Co., Calif.”

If I didn’t think the Internet had devalued the word “badass” beyond any meaning, I would suggest that this is totally badass. Instead, I’ll settle for quietly envying Seldom Seen Slim his lifestyle. Splendid isolation sounds better every year.

These satellite photos don’t show you jack; I’m just picking out the ones that look like modern art.

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From April-June 1969: “Quien Sabe Glacier: glacier, 0.9 mi long, in North Cascades National Park, W of Boston Peak and Sahale Mountain; Skagit Co., Wash.”

Who Knows Glacier? C’mon, don’t leave me hanging — there’s gotta be a good story behind that somewhere.

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White Alice Creek: stream, 2 mi. long, in the Aleutian Islands … flows ENE to the Bering Sea on the N coast of Amchitka Island 0.4 mi W of Banjo Point; named for a communications site once located here; Alaska.”

If this entry doesn’t make you imagine a guy at midnight in a wind-whipped little shed, lit only by the glow of vacuum tubes, holding a radio handset to his mouth and whispering fervently, “White Alice here. White Alice here. Do you copy?,” then you are truly dead deep down in your soul, and I’m sorry.

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Two Hearted River: stream, 15 mi. long, heads at the junction of its North and West branches … flows NE to Lake Superior 27 mi. ENE of Grand Marais; Luce Co., Mich. … Not: Big Two Hearted River.”

Eat it, Hemingway.

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Chaos Creek: stream, 7 mi. long … flows SE to where it disappears in Big Sand Spring Valley 8 mi. ESE of Moores Station; Nye Co., Nev.”

If I were writing a novel and wanted to put its protagonist well and truly at the mercy of the elements, I would have him/her follow Chaos Creek southeast until it disappears. You’d sure enough need some deus ex machina to get out of that.

There’s a crick there somewhere, I guess.

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From January-March 1970:

Beaver Brook: stream, 8 mi. long … flows SE to the Souhegan River 2 mi. E of Milford; Hillsborough Co., N.H. … Variants: Quohquinapassakessamanagnog, Quohquinapassakessananagnog, Quohquinapassakessananaquog, Quoh-quinna-passa-kessa-na-nag-nog.”

Glad we got that cleared up.

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October-December 1970:

Ogive Glacier: glacier, 6 mi. long … trends SW to a tributary of the Lace River 14 mi. NNE of Lions Head Mountain; so named because of its striking ogival appearance when viewed from above; Alaska.”

Bloody hell, it’s another vocabulary lesson! Off to Wiki once again to learn what an ogive is. To steal blindly, it’s the tapered end of an object. For example, the rounded nose of a bullet is an ogive.

In unrelated news, I have also learned from this fishing expedition that there are no counties in Alaska.

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Whistling Lake: lake, 0.7 mi. long and 0.3 mi. wide, 1.6 mi. NE of Amber Lake and 14 mi. SW of Talkeetna; named for the whistling swans which nest and raise their young here; Alaska.”

Doesn’t that sound beautiful? That sounds like the kind of naturally wonderful place that human beings can f–k up just by looking at. I sure hope we haven’t.


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Northborough: village, 4 mi. NE of Shrewsbury; Worcester Co., Mass. … Variant: Northboro.”

Hey! In this sea of names, here’s a mention of a place I’ve not only visited, but that’s even appeared before on this blog. I’m pleased to know I spelled it correctly.

In this same time frame of late 1970, the Board also verified the proper spellings of the Bay State communities of Southborough and Westborough.

For whatever reason, they didn’t also weigh in on the town of Foxborough. But the same -ugh rule applies to all. As a Foxborough townie told the New York Times a few years ago, “You spell it long, or you spell it wrong.”

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July-September 1970 (we’re jumping around a bit because we can):

Gudde Ridge: ridge, 5 mi. long, highest elevation 1,763 ft. at Round Top NE of Oakland; named for Dr. Erwin Gustav Gudde (1889-1969), for many years a teacher at the University of California at Berkeley, and a scholar of California history who authored many articles and books on the history of California and its place names; Contra Costa Co., Calif.”

Without meaning to defame the undoubtedly pure motivations of the good Dr. Gudde, I wonder if — after a lifetime spent writing about place names — you sortakinda wonder whether you’ve dropped enough of a hint to get your own name put on something. (“Thanks for mowing my lawn, sonny! Did I mention my life’s work was … California place names?”)


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Negro Gulch: ravine, 1.7 mi. long … trends SE to Rock Creek 11 mi. NNE of Chico; Butte and Tehama Cos., Calif. … Variant: Nigger Gulch.”

Yeah, I’d like to think time has caught up with both this approved name and its variant. But if it hasn’t, there was this guy called Dr. Gudde who deserved to have some stuff in California named after him.

Or barring that, there’s always Thor, the Norse god of thunder …


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