Millions of years ago, in the period which geologists call Tertiary, the pressure under that part of the crust of the earth which now is Washington, Oregon, and northern California, became too powerful for solid rock to withstand. Long lines of hills appeared parallel to the sea, and gradually rose hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of feet. These cracked, and from the long summit-fissures issued hot lava, which spread over enormous areas and, cooling, laid the foundations for the coming Cascade Mountains.
When the gaping fissures eased the pressure from beneath, they filled with ash and lava except at certain vent holes, around which grew the volcanoes which, when their usefulness as chimneys passed, be-came those cones of ice and snow which now are the glory of our northwest.
There may have been at one time many hundreds of these volcanoes, big and little. Most of them doubtless quickly perished under the growing slopes of their larger neighbors, and, as they became choked with ash, the lava which had been finding vent through them sought other doors of escape, and found them in the larger volcanoes. Thus, by natural selection, there survived at last that knightly company of monsters now uniformed in ice, which includes, from north to south, such celebrities as Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, vanished Mount Mazama, Mount Shasta, and living Lassen Peak.
Whether or not several of these vast beacons lit Pacific’s nights at one time can never be known with certainty, but probability makes the claim. Whether or not in their decline the canoes of prehistoric men found harbor by guidance of their pillars of fire by night, and their pillars of smoke by day is less probable but possible. TOne at least of the giant band, Lassen Peak, is semi-active today. At least two others, Mount Rainier and Mount Baker, offer evidences of internal heat beneath their mail of ice. And early settlers in the northwest report Indian traditions of the awful cataclysm in which Mount Rainier lost two thousand feet of cone.