Bar Codes

It is unfortunate that many of our tourist visitors are confused by the Washington State Discover Pass.  It is just one of many passes, fees and permits that are required to drive or get out of your car on the Olympic Peninsula. All these permits and the anxiety of having the right one at the right place can negatively impact the quality of an American tradition, the family vacation. A recent visit by some friends from Maryland was a good example.

I called them “The Merry-landers” because they really were, one big happy family. The mother and the two girls “Twilighting” while Dad and the boy went fishing. First, they stopped to get a fishing license with a Stewardship Access Permit and a Discover Pass. Then they went to Hurricane Ridge and bought a National Park Pass. Then out to spectacular Cape Flattery where a Makah Tribal Permit was required. By the time I took the boys fishing, they had no idea what kind of permit they might need.

“That would be a Forest Service Pass.” I informed. As a fishing guide, I see myself as a goodwill ambassador for the tourist industry. A sort of a wilderness concierge who can allay the anxiety of modern travel restrictions through the maze of bureaucratic zones that our country has been divided into.

“I don’t have a Forest Service Pass.” Dad sobbed. It was out of my hands now.

“Quick, get in the bottom of the truck!” I yelled, covering them with sacks of garbage and black plastic.

I drove upriver and launched the boat. Dad and the kid emerged from the back of the truck a little worse for wear to the amusement of some other fishing guides who were probably just jealous because they hadn’t thought of it first. I told the tourists to crouch in the bottom of the boat and not move and I would get them out of there. It was the quickest fishing trip they ever went on. We didn’t catch anything but didn’t get arrested which is the true test of a successful outing these days.

The fact is all these permits are just too much hassle. It’s time to do away with the Soviet style paper permits and allow our tourist industry to join the electronic age. A simple bar code for each person would make it easier for us to get all the licenses, permits, tags and punch-cards that are required and allow our public safety officials a greater opportunity to enhance the stewardship of our natural resources while protecting us from the social costs that are borne by us all.   

Futurists have long envisioned an interactive, skin-mounted bar code that would list an individual permit status along with other vital sign information which could be used in polygraph analysis, blood alcohol/drug screening and a host of other data gathering opportunities.

It may sound silly to have our officials going around inspecting everyone’s bar code. Hopefully they won’t have to. Experts predict that the same Drone aircraft that have been used so successfully in the War on Terror, will soon be circling the skies of America. We cannot confirm or deny that these Drones will be able to monitor and manage thousands if not millions of bar codes. 

Should we have bar codes for People? Imagine a world where you can never be lost. You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.

Sure, some silly civil libertarians will whine about the Constitution but what else is new? We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.

Lord of the Flies, in a Raft.

It was wrong to assert in last week’s column that,

“Stereotyping and profiling have no place on a nature float. Unless you are talking about the American teenager.”

That was an unfair generalization of today’s youth who grudgingly go on vacation with their families when they would just as soon be back home in the basement with a frozen pizza, an energy drink and video games.

It was wrong to be that judgmental. I know that now. After taking a large group of Girl Scouts rafting. These are young people that any country would be proud of. They had sold cookies to finance their vacation all the way from Minnesota to the Olympic Peninsula.

“How did you find this place?” I asked.

“On the internet.” They said. No wonder this place is swamped with tourists. There are lines waiting to get into Olympic National Park, the ferries and the gas stations. That would not be problem if they were all like those Minnesota Girl Scouts.

They were courteous, humorous, scholar-athlete types that were into lining up their educational choices and sports. They liked team sports, individual sports and coming from Minnesota, snow and water sports. These girls could paddle a raft like banshees backwards or forward, whatever you asked. It was like they were trying out for the Olympic paddling team or something and I guess they were. Altogether they were a good example of kids having fun without being hooked to a device. It was actually possible to have a conversation with them.

Device dependency is a serious addiction in this country. Recently there have been concerted efforts to wean young people off their devices by taking them into the wilderness and taking away their electronics. Sometimes with disastrous consequences. There are special device-free summer camps for children who just can’t put their phones down. Sometimes these kids can’t go a day without their phones. In the resulting panic attacks, threats and violence the parents are forced to return the phones to the kids or face dire consequences.

We saw a good example of this on the river last week when we agreed to take a large group of boys rafting. They had been camping without their phones for a week. The stress was beginning to show on the unlucky adults leading the group. Things were not going well. But we figured boys will be boys even if they are a little rambunctious so the other guides and I agreed to take them rafting. What started as a blissful float down a rainforest river soon deteriorated into a shocking example of the dangers of feral children. They refused to listen to the guides. They refused to paddle.

It was like Lord of the Flies in a raft. The children threatened to crush the skull of a guide, kill him to get his phone then sink the raft. Just what these city boys would do after stranding themselves in the middle of a wilderness did not seem to be a concern. They wanted that phone.

I always said, to a guide death threats are the sincerest form of flattery. Olympic Peninsula guides are a collection of woodsmen and women with a tenacious ability to think on their feet in a tight situation. Let’s just say our guides handled these boys with tact, courtesy and a solemn promise to never take them again. At the end of the day the boys went back home to the big city and their data plans. One of the guides spoke for all of us when he said,

“I sure liked those Girl Scouts better.”

Youngsters on the River.

This is a magical time of year when you see a lot of youngsters on the river. It started with a hatch of merganser chicks that mysteriously coincided with the appearance of the first baby salmon to emerge from the gravel where they were spawned last fall. Mergansers eat fish. I don’t like mergansers very much. Although I do admire their parenting skills. A mother merganser can care for twenty chicks or more. Each of these babies has to be fed constantly while everything from crows to eagles to otters tries to eat them. We once watched a mother merganser fight off two eagles who were attacking her brood. The eagles gave up but likely came back. Later, the same chicks were observed without their mother.

The otter pups have come out of their dens in the log jams to swim about in the river. Where the eagles are hunting them. One day we watched an eagle dive into a family of otters trying to snatch one out of the river. It was a battle royal the otters survived by swimming back into a log jam.

The Kingfishers have hatched. Kingfishers are a river pest that seems to have been designed by a government committee. With a beak too big for its head and a head too big for its body the kingfisher insists on hovering in a manner that defies the laws of physics before plunging head first into the water for fish. Which is why I don’t like kingfishers very much either. Their call sounds like someone shaking a tin can full of rocks. Kingfishers like to fly in circles around the boat uttering this annoying, grating call in a vain attempt to lure us away from their nest. The kingfishers are convinced this decoy technique is effective since we always float away leaving them to return to their nest victorious.

The calf elk have emerged from the sword ferns to venture out to the river with their mothers. Cow elk know the shallowest places to cross the river. Sometimes a cow elk will babysit other calves while their mothers are off feeding somewhere. Once the cow barks an alarm the babies stick to her like glue following her across the river like a row of ducklings.

The cool days of June-uary are an excellent time to observe bears. We once saw a bear digging into a rotten stump along the edge of the river looking for insects. She had three cubs. That would have been a record sighting in my book, for the most cubs ever seen with a mother bear.

What should have been a celebrated moment in the history of motherhood was marred by a misogynist stereotyping of an uninformed passenger who said the cubs,

“Probably all had different fathers.”

Stereotyping and profiling have no place on a nature float. Unless you are talking about the American teenager. Given their dependence on electronic devices it is quite possible to float an American teenager through the middle of the scenarios previously described without them bothering to look up from their device.

The only thing worse than dealing with a device dependent teenager is the crisis that ensues when the batteries go dead. This happened on a recent float trip. Mommy and daddy had forgotten to charge the batteries. The teenager was forced to go without their device for over an hour. Our children represent our best hope for the future. They deserve to have their batteries charged.

This shameful example of bad parenting should never be tolerated in America, the richest, greatest nation on Earth.

Device Deprivation Disorder.


On some of these clear spring days you just know summer is on the way. Maybe it’s the seasonally adjusted gas prices that tell you it’s only matter of time before the tourist hordes invade the Olympic Peninsula. With the miracle of climate change people down south, we call them “climate refugees,” are busy planning trips away from their homes where summertime temperatures get over a hundred or so degrees for weeks on end.

While the locals will complain about a wet rainy summer that’s perfect for the climate refugees who have come north precisely for the cool weather. They think being wet is cool and who am I, a concierge of the tourist industry to argue. I tell tourists if it doesn’t rain in the rainforest you have been cheated out of a unique nature experience. An experience unfortunately, that is often marred by a yawning gap in the infrastructure of this great nation. Our country is tied together with a network of cell phone reception that is necessary for our quality of life.

According to some study somewhere, American teens spend an average of nine hours a day online, compared to about six hours for those aged eight to 12. Then the parents of these unfortunate prodigy, who if truth be told would just as soon be on their own phone as talk to another family member, drive the family out into the wilderness where they have to go cold turkey with no devices just because some mountains or trees get in the way of phone reception.

The fact is, there are embarrassing gaps in cell phone reception all over the Olympic Peninsula. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but you’re not a guide in the trenches of the tourist industry dealing with people suffering from device depravation disorder, who discover they have been lured to a backwoods dead-zone where none of their devices work. This is a problem!

I have personally observed the effects of device depravation disorder on humans in the wilderness. At first, they are confused. They think nobody likes them and in all probability nobody does. People on devices have a hard time with personal relationships. They have a lot of anxiety that seems to be based on a vague belief that everyone else has it better than they do which I can identify with since in my case, it happens to be true.

People forcibly deprived of their devices will sometimes be forced to talk to other people in an effort to establish human contact without phone service. People with device depravation disorder often panic while assuming something has gone terribly wrong with their world. It has.

As long as people are on devices, they are just tired and stressed. Once the device stops working the thin veneer of civility dissolves. Sometimes, people with device depravation disorder are forced to take notice of the natural world that is all around us. You can walk through a forest of thousand-year old trees, go to beaches where the whales spout and waterfalls you can watch the salmon jump over. If only the cell phone worked. Nobody is going to like these scenic splendors if you can’t get them on social media.

By neglecting to address the scourge of device depravation disorder and its’ effects on the recreational wonderland of the Olympic Peninsula, we risk losing our share of the tourist market to areas that provide this essential service. Reliable, universal cell phone coverage for tourists is an idea whose time has come. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.  

My Rodeo Career.

NOTHING SAYS SUMMER like the roar of the lawn mower, the spike in seasonally-adjusted gas prices and the most priceless air pollution I know, the smudge of a simmering steak on the barbecue.

The recent hike in the price of beef has got some people thinking about raising their own cows for meat. It’s part of a back-to-the-land movement that gives folks a sense of self-sufficiency. They like having a diet that is not the product of an industrial farming complex. Some people believe raising your own food is a way to cut down on the grocery bill. That is their first mistake. Considering the cost of feed, fencing and vet bills, raising cows is anything but cheap. I know everything there is to know about raising cattle. All of my practical knowledge and cattle-raising expertise can be summed up in one word — don’t. I had a herd of cattle when I was a kid. There were two of them.

Back then they were practically giving away the bull calves born at the Dungeness dairies. We had to feed the calves from a bucket with a big nipple on it. Frisky and Petunia were highly intelligent. They took about two minutes to figure out the bucket and start pulling for all they were worth. About that time, I was glad I wasn’t a real mommy cow. It looked painful.

After a bucket of warm milk there was time to join in the calf games the herd loved to play like “tag” or “butting heads.” Before long, the calves had outgrown their formula. But no matter how big the calves got, they never outgrew their love of tag or butting heads. That could be painful once their horns started sprouting. You had to be careful about getting caught out in the pasture. The herd would come charging at you, wanting to play, forgetting they weighed 500 pounds.

Once the calves got so big, it was time to break them into riding stock. I would have preferred a horse, but that’s life on the range. You have to make do with what you got. I thought there was always a place for some fancy riding cows at the rodeo. Breaking in a riding cow is not for everyone. You have to outsmart them first. We’d bait them in with the grain bucket.

Dodging the flashing horns, I’d sneak a halter and a lead rope on, then wait for the herd to lie down and go to sleep. Then it was just a matter of sneaking up and slowly easing into the saddle, except there was no saddle. That made riding a painful experience. Frisky and Petunia were pot-bellied and razor backed. Sitting on top of either one of them was like riding a rail on top of a 50-gallon drum.

I remember my last ride on Frisky. He was dozing in the shade of an alder thicket. I grabbed the end of the lead rope and slowly slipped onto his back. Frisky was feeling his oats that day. He shot to his feet like a big hairy rocket I stayed on for maybe 8 seconds without getting gored or stomped before he brushed me off in a patch of wild roses.

We were rodeo bound when tragedy struck. One day the cows were gone. Dad said he took Frisky and Petunia camping. There was an accident. Dad saved some of the meat, although how you could eat a barnyard buddy like that was beyond me. That was the end of my rodeo career.

The Pacific Trail.

Summertime has always been the time to hit the trail. With hundreds of miles of trails heading in every direction, it’s often hard to choose one. The elk may have been the first trail builders on the Olympic Peninsula. They tend to travel in single file while migrating to the high country in summer and back down to their winter range in the fall.

The first people to live here followed these trails making them their own. While generations of historians and anthropologists have insisted indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest lived along the seashore and seldom ventured inland, subsequent archaeological discoveries reveal that the Olympic Mountains were inhabited throughout the vast interior for hunting, fishing and gathering everything from blueberries to cedar logs used in the manufacture of canoes.

The first government trail was built by the U.S. Army Twenty-first infantry out of Fort Townsend in 1882. The trail was cut from Port Townsend to the forks of the Dungeness River before the project was abandoned.

In July of 1885 Lt. O’Neil and a crew of army mule skinners began building a trail north of Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge through country O’Neil described as “a crosscut saw business side upwards with the devil on one side and hell upon the other.” They cut a trail, parts of which can still be observed, to a point above the Dosewallips river where the project was abandoned.

In the winter of 1889 the Press Expedition, funded by a Seattle Newspaper tried cutting a trail up the Elwha across the Olympics. Emerging on the Quinault river the following spring half-starved and lucky to be alive after spending the winter in avalanche country. People are still looking for parts of the Press trail.

The most impressive trail building effort on the Peninsula had to be the Pacific Trail. In the soggy December of 1892, a group of homesteaders accompanied by a Jefferson County Engineer began blazing a trail between Forks and a group of settlers from Tacoma that were homesteading on the Queets River.

The country to this day can best be described as a brush-choked quagmire cut with deep canyons of rain-swollen streams amid impassable sections of blown-down timber. Just driving the roads that run through this country today is a good way to get lost.

Imagine walking through the swamps with nothing but dead-end elk trails to follow, a compass and only a vague idea of where you’re going. Of course, you would be soaking wet all day with no way to get dry at night. It took sixty days of surveying through the rain and wind to locate sixty miles of trail while living on a diet of bear meat and spawned out salmon.

Slashing the trail through the brush and blowdowns was only the beginning of the trail building project. If anyone walked on the trail the rain would soon turn it into a mudhole. After a season of rain, a horse would sink up to its belly in wet spots on the trail. There was only one thing to do.

They built what was called a puncheon trail, made from thousands of split cedar planks. When it was completed, the Pacific Trail was the only way by land from Forks to remote homesteads on the Hoh, Clearwater and Queets country until the construction of Highway 101. Amazingly, parts of the Pacific Trail have survived to this day. Walking on what’s left of this trail is like traveling back in time. The Pacific Trail is a monument to our pioneers and the end of the last frontier.

A Sorry Individual.

It was that great American philosopher John Wayne who spoke these immortal words, “Never apologize and never explain. It’s a sign of weakness.” That’s from the John Ford western, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” where the Duke confirms what we have long suspected — things were a lot less complicated in the olden days. Times have changed. These days it’s fashionable to apologize.

Everything is offensive if you think about it long and hard enough, and we have had plenty of time to do just that during the coronavirus quarantine. Stuck in a squirrel cage of cable news shows, infomercials and social media conspiracy theories, it’s no wonder some of us lost our tenuous grip on reality and expressed unfortunate views that are offensive to others. For which, I must apologize. It was my bad to suggest that foreign elements of anarchists, tourists and other questionable types were launching an invasion of the Olympic Peninsula to hijack our blackberries.

It might be on a website somewhere or maybe I made it up. You need absolutely no facts to create conspiracies these days I should have discounted it as just another nut-job, berry-picking conspiracy theory involving Bill Gates, George Soros and the Trilateral Commission. I should have done some research, but no, I took the ball and ran with it. It was wrong and for that I apologize.

For one thing, wild blackberries growing on public lands belong to everyone in this great country. That is, everyone who is willing to make the serious commitment to seek out and find new blackberry patches and boldly go where no other pickers have gone before — in forest lands that have not been sprayed with herbicides, yet. Herbicides kill blackberries.

Wild blackberries are an irreplaceable thread in the tapestry of our history. Native Americans dried them in cakes. Our pioneer forefathers preserved them in sugar. Modern day blackberry pickers have the luxury of freezing them and later sharing them with friends and family.

Perhaps it was the appreciation of the importance of blackberries that made me overzealous in protecting the future of this precious natural resource. That was still no excuse to cause panic and a toxic concern about an imaginary invasion of anarchist berry-pickers, but it knee-jerked my hair-trigger. I am the sorry individual that implied that residents of the Olympic Peninsula should pick all of the blackberries before the anarchists got here and picked them first.

Now, for the first time I am free to reveal the whole conspiracy theory was merely part of an ill-advised marketing plan to sell my guide-model, expedition-grade berry-picking buckets — available in a variety of sizes and colors. These are not your grandma’s berry buckets, no. Their sleek, ergonomically designed, patented spill-proof lids completely eliminate the tragic loss of berries due to hornet attacks or falling into holes in the logging slash.

But wait, there’s more!

These buckets are constructed out of environmentally-friendly, biodegradable, space-age materials that are guaranteed not to harm the ozone layer or threaten baby seals, sea turtles or whales. No, these berry buckets are constructed of 100 percent recycled hemp products. So even if you don’t find any berries, you can smoke the bucket.

And for that I apologize. Just because I am wrong most of the time does not mean I am right some of the time. Going forward at the end of the day, everyone, be they anarchists, tourists, Bill Gates, George Soros or the Trilateral Commission, are all welcome to come to the Olympic Peninsula to pick blackberries.

The Coming Crisis.

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news. We live in a time when people tend to blame the media for bad news, but all we ask is that you don’t shoot the messenger. Of course, people working in the trenches of the media would prefer to report a rescued lost kitten, a found lost puppy or a revolutionary scientific discovery that makes Scotch broom worth money.That, unfortunately, is not how the world works.

There is unpleasantness, discord and strife in the modern world of the future in which we live. Add to that another unprecedented natural disaster that threatens the very foundations of our experiment in democracy. At the end of the day, the most important thing we have to share with each other is the truth. Or something like it. And the fact is my research has uncovered an uncomfortable condition of a coming crisis that could negatively affect the quality of life for you, the dear reader(s).

You have been warned.

Read no further if you are of a sensitive nature or have a nervous condition that causes you to yell at your television. The latest regional forecasts and windshield surveys have predicted that there will be no wild blackberry pie on the Fourth of July.

The importance of blackberry pie in the celebration of the birth of this great nation cannot be overstated. It is a message to the world that, no matter how bad this country is failing, we can still sit down together at the end of the day, have a steaming hot piece of blackberry pie and wish each other a happy Fourth of July.

Baking a wild blackberry pie on the Fourth of July has been a benchmark of what’s right with America, until now. This year, our precious national heritage is in danger of falling by the wayside. Due to the unseasonably cold weather this spring, the blackberries will be late. Blackberry futures have jumped from $35 dollars to $50 dollars a gallon in a reaction to this perceived shortage, or what some have termed a blackberry famine.

Social media posts have warned of an impending influx of berry-crazed outsiders from the evil cities across the water bent on cashing in on our berry bounty. Crowds of citified blackberry pickers often stomp the berry vines in a crude effort to fill their buckets with this black gold.

These foreign pickers seem to delight in stepping on unripe blackberries, robbing us of future picking opportunities while despoiling one of the last natural resources we have left. You’re probably asking yourself right now, “What can we do to protect our blackberry heritage?”

Well, I’ll tell you.

It is not my intent to incite unrest in the berry-picking community in an attempt to sell professional, guide-model, ergonomically-designed blackberry picking buckets online. No, eternal vigilance is sometimes the price we pay for blackberries.

We need qualified blackberry pickers to guard our berries from exploitation by outsiders. The state of Washington Department of Natural Resources rules strictly limit blackberry harvest to “three gallons per day, not to exceed nine gallons per year.”

We have all heard of scofflaws who brag about having a freezer full of blackberries, flooding social media outlets with blackberry pie and ice cream photos in January. These berry-hoarders should be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. Anyone caught with 10 gallons or more of blackberries in their freezer should lose their blackberry picking privileges for life.

Until then, if you see something, say something. The berry you save could be your own.

The Camas Are Blooming.

The Camas Are Blooming

Captain Willian Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition said it best when he first described a prairie of flowering camas on June 10th 1806 as, “a perfect resemblance of lakes of clear water.” Unfortunately, when the Corps of Discovery first tried eating this popular local dish when it was offered by their Nez Perce friends, it took some getting used to. Captain Lewis was very grateful until after supper when he was, “filled so full of wind, that we were scarcely able to breath all night.” The debilitating effects of a new diet of dried fish and camas stopped the expedition in its tracks with a perfect storm of vomiting, diarrhea and flatulence.

This small member of the lily family with a blue hyacinth shaped flower and an edible bulb about the size of a small onion, used to be the most important carbohydrate throughout the Pacific Northwest. Camas was one of an estimated 80 species of plants used for food, fiber and medicines that grew on prairies maintained by the Native American practice of burning the land every three to five years. The fires spurred the growth of useful plants, killed the weeds and kept the trees from taking over the land.

Native American legends say the camas was a gift of “The Great Changer.” This was a mythical hero to many tribes of the Northwest who believed the Changer brought balance to the world by using his power to transform people, animals and landscapes into what we see today. These transformers or changers were called Docuebatl, Kumsnootl and Kwati, (Q’waati) by various tribes. They turned wolves into the Quileute people. Caused the trees to spring up out of the ground and spread camas throughout the region where it has been growing ever since.

Camas was mostly dug in September and October when the bulbs could be preserved the longest. A hundred pounds of camas might be steamed in a stone oven resulting in a gelatinous mass that was pressed into cakes that could be sliced like bread and said to taste not unlike the sweet potato.

In 1999 a highway construction project near Sequim unearthed the remains of a stone camas oven that was used to cook the bulbs 6,000 years ago, indicating camas has been here almost as long as the people.

In May of 1792 Captain George Vancouver sailed his ship Discovery into the Strait of Juan de Fuca where he was so impressed with the beauty of the Sequim Prairie, he named the area “Dungeness” after his home in England.

In 1841 the American explorer Charles Wilkes described the camas prairies as, “All seeming in the utmost order as if man had been ever watchful of its beauty and cultivation.” That is because these gardens had been cultivated for thousands of years.

These indigenous gardens occurred all over the Pacific Northwest. The level, well drained fertile lands were also free of trees which made them very attractive to the invading hordes of European farmers.

The 1500-acre Sequim Prairie was first homesteaded in 1866. The land was considered “unimproved.” The Indian crops were considered weeds and brush. Farmers raised wheat and hogs. The hogs made short work of the camas bulbs.

This pattern of settlement moved to the west end of the Olympic Peninsula where ethnologist Jay Powell documented 9 camas prairies in the Quileute country. Of these only one retains the camas. Located south of Forks along Highway 101. Our one remaining camas prairie can be found in the spring blooming a blue carpet of flowers, “a perfect resemblance of lakes of clear water.”    

The Thunderbird and the Railroad.

MAYBE THERE’S NO such thing as the good old days, but then again, disturbing days of the present can make you wonder what time in history you would prefer. If I had to choose a period in history in which to live, it would be somewhere between the time of the Thunderbird and the coming of the railroad.

Times were tough during the time of the Thunderbird. This was a giant bird that picked up whales at sea and flew them back for cold storage in an ice cave on Mount Olympus, or what was called “Sun-a-do” by the Hoh people.

The Thunderbird reportedly had a habit of dropping the whales when you’d least expect it. But if the whale missed you, it could feed your village for a month or more. And the whale’s landing and ensuing struggle would knock down enough trees to make prairies where the camas would grow.

Life was good, but it was tough. The tribes of the Olympic Peninsula were often at variance with each other and in a state of constant vigilance against every tribe between here and Alaska.

Only the strong survived, so I never would have made it.

James Swan was a historian, ethnographer and chronicler of life on the Olympic Peninsula after the Thunderbird disappeared. He landed in Willapa Bay, called Shoalwater Bay in 1852, when he watched the oystermen hoist 2,000 baskets of oysters for a dollar a basket — to be paid in gold — into a schooner headed for San Francisco.

It was a voyage that could take a week or more. Regrettably, many of the oysters did not survive.

Swan described the Chinook tribe’s method of fishing at this time of year, when the June hogs were running. These were the giant, now-extinct Chinook salmon that used to run in rivers from the Sacramento north to the Yukon and many rivers in between, like our own Elwha.

A beach seine would be set out parallel to shore right at high tide. These nets could be 600 feet long and 16 feet deep.

A canoe drifted the net along the shore until it was time to haul it in, and 100 fish or more could be in the bag.

These Chinook averaged 65 pounds. You’d have to catch half a dozen salmon and put them all together to get them to weigh 65 pounds these days. They had fishing back in 1852.

Once the tide ran out, the fishing was done, and it was time for lunch — salmon.

It was cooked in the Indian style in a frame of split cedar, stuck in the sand with a clam shell to catch the oil that ran out of the fish in the heat of the alder coals.

The rest of the fish would be smoked or salted in barrels for the winter, or sold to the schooners for the San Francisco trade. The rest of the day would be spent in the garden or the tide flats, catching crab, clams and sturgeon.

Eventually, Swan headed north to Port Townsend by way of Neah Bay, where he became a judge, journalist and railroad promoter.

The coming of the railroad marked the end of the frontier all across this great land. It’s no coincidence the Elwha Dam and the largest sawmill in the state were built in Port Angeles when the railroad came to town in 1914.

That was the beginning of the end of the fishing.

All of which makes you wonder. If Swan would’ve been better off, he’d just stuck to fishing.

After the Thunderbird but before the railroad.