History snoopers had better be ready to change a flat tire when driving into the past.

Hazards of history snooping

Be warned. Tracking down history is a dangerous sport.

Sure, there's always the chance that what you're looking for isn't even there anymore, but that's usually the least of your problems.

A recent jaunt with my wife to rediscover the lost Canyon Creek Arch Bridge is a good example.

The bridge was supposed to be about six miles south of Canyonville on the old Pacific Highway, the main automobile route between the Rogue Valley and Roseburg before Highway 99 and I-5 were built.

Heading south out of Canyonville on Main Street, the paved road twisted along the creek and then narrowed.

When the roadbed turned to gravel and began to climb, we pressed on, as if nothing would dare stop this history expedition.

"Pup-whoooooooosh!" That, my friend, is the sound of a sharp piece of shale piercing your beautiful radial tire.

It was a familiar sound. We heard it a couple of years ago while trying to reach the Seabee Monument that sits on a ridge overlooking Applegate Lake, nearly 15 miles up roads that are optimistically described as jeep trails.

Our silly-looking compact spare luckily got us back down the mountain to a tire store. There, we sadly learned that our radial friend was wounded in its sidewall and was headed for tire heaven.

"Street tires on a car are just too thin and susceptible to shredding by sharp rocks," said the tire man as he took our $70 for the new tire. "You should have taken a truck."

Well — duh!

But tires aren't the only things to look out for when you're history snooping.

Mosquitoes bite, bees sting and every once in a while you meet up with a dog who's not having a good day and seems ready to eat the next two-legged snooper who comes along.

Of course, there's also poison oak. It really should be declared Oregon's official state plant.

"Leaves of three, beware of me," they say.

Well, as an experienced rash scratcher, I'm always looking, but a few weeks back when climbing 40 feet up a brush-infested hillside in search of a railroad tunnel, I saw no stinkin' leaves, but believe me, they were there.

Back to that steep gravel road in Canyonville.

It looked so innocent, yet somehow tiny slabs of shale had learned to hide in the gravel, lying in wait for our choice piece of rubber to roll by.

Once again, the compact spare did its job, and after retracing our tracks and crawling along 18 miles of I-5 at 50 miles an hour with emergency flashers on, we drove into the tire store.

"We're a little backed up," said the tire man, "but we'll get to you as soon as we can."

Counting our cash and making sure a credit card was still tucked snugly in our wallet, we waited patiently.

It took less than hour and, unlike that time in the Applegate, we didn't have to buy a tire. But by then it was time to take the long drive home, our mission to find the bridge a failure — but not for long.

That will have to wait until next week. Meanwhile, be warned and be careful. History snooping can be a hazardous sport.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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