Olympic Peninsula Heroes.

ON JULY 3, President Donald Trump proposed a “National Garden of American Heroes.” The proposed national monument would feature the greatest Americans to ever live. This, despite the fact that Americans can no longer decide who is a hero and who is a villain, since — in the divisive times in which we live — one person’s hero is another’s villain.

Our national historic heroes are a reflection of ourselves, and we are not a perfect people in a perfect union. America has been a mess of competing heroes and villains since the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791.George Washington was seen as a despot by the Pennsylvania moonshiners, but he put down the revolt and is still revered as the father of our country.

Similarly, significant figures in the history of the Olympic Peninsula were seldom perfect people when viewed through the modern lens of historical hindsight. That does not diminish their accomplishments.

In fact, monuments to awful people who did terrible things keeps our history relevant when contrasted to noble individuals who influenced our history in a positive way. So here goes, a list of individuals who would belong in any proposed monument to Olympic Peninsula heroes:

Kwati, or Q’waati, also known as “The Great Changer,” was a heroic figure to many tribes of the Northwest who believed he brought balance to the world by using his power to transform people, animals and landscapes into what we see today. His accomplishments were many and varied.

Kwati turned wolves into the Quileute people, caused the trees to spring up out of the ground and killed the Thunderbird. He also had an eye for the ladies. This was back before the #MeToo movement, when Kwati was known to turn women who had rejected him into rocks on the bottom of the Hoh River.

While some may claim these Native stories are only legend, they are no less plausible than the tall tales told by Apostolus Valerionos. He was an Italian working for Spain under the name Juan de Fuca when he claimed in 1592 that he found gold, silver and pearls in the Straits that bear his name to this day. All we know for sure was that Apostolus, or Juan, was flat broke by the time he got back to Venice.

Explorers spent the next two centuries looking for the Strait of Juan de Fuca at a tremendous human cost in shipwrecks and human lives. Anna Petrovna, the first European woman to visit the Olympic Peninsula, was shipwrecked north of La Push in the winter of 1809, then kidnapped during the course of a running battle south while crossing the Hoh River.

Petrovna’s husband, Navigator Nikolai Isaakovich Bulygin, went mad with grief. At a parley, Petrovna advised her husband to surrender, saying she had been treated well with kindness, and that Chief Yutramaki would send them to the two European ships then sailing the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Hearing this, Bulygin tried to shoot his wife. His expedition was eventually captured. Thirteen of the 22 shipwreck survivors were ransomed to an American ship. Petrovna was not among them.

If you found yourself shipwrecked on the Northwest coast during the years of the fur trade, you would be indeed fortunate to meet Yutramaki.

Also known as Machee or Ulatilla, he was a Makah Chief noted for his kindness to foreigners. He tried to rescue the survivors of the S.V. Nikolai shipwreck and was instrumental in the rescue of John Jewett, an English sailor who had been captured on Nootka Sound in 1805.

Continuing through the 1800s, we encounter more conflicted individuals who shaped the future of the Olympic Peninsula. In 1853, President Millard Fillmore appointed Isaac Stevens as Washington’s territorial governor. Stevens saw the Native Americans as an impediment to statehood, pioneer settlement and the coming of the transcontinental railroad.

Some believe that Stevens’ harsh terms of the 1855 Point No Point Treaty may have been an attempt to start a war with the Indians. The fact that there was no Indian war on the Olympic Peninsula is largely due to the earlier European-introduced epidemics and the efforts of one man, Chetzemoka, who Stevens had designated Chief of the S’Klallam.

This meant he was to sign the treaty and be held personally responsible for the good behavior of his people. Chetzemoka was called the Duke of York by white men who had trouble pronouncing his name and was referred to as “the Paul Revere of Port Townsend.”

In 1857 a war party of western S’Klallam descended on Port Townsend. During a nine-day conference, Chetzemoka dissuaded them from exterminating the new town by telling them if the S’Klallam killed the whites, others would come and wipe them out. On the 10th day, Chetzemoka sent a message from Signal Rock, “Danger is passed.”

These peacemaking efforts did not stop attempts to remove the S’Klallam from their ancestral lands. On Aug. 31, 1871, Chetzemoka was ordered to move from Port Townsend to Skokomish. The S’Klallam moved all their possessions into canoes, which were to be towed by a side-wheeler to their new reservation on the Hood Canal. Their village was burned before the S’Klallam were out of sight.

Chetzemoka visited San Francisco in 1851, and he was greatly impressed by the large numbers of white people. This is where he met James Swan and invited him to Port Townsend. Swan journeyed north at this suggestion, settling in Shoalwater Bay in the 1850s and was a teacher at Neah Bay in 1862 before settling in Port Townsend.

Swan had a varied career as a teacher, newspaper man, ethnologist and railroad promoter. His writing describes harrowing canoe journeys with his Makah and S’Klallam friends where he reveals his secret for getting along with the, at times, hostile Native Americans — he ate their food and never carried a gun.

Swan was a true hero, as opposed to Victor Smith. He came to Port Angeles in 1861 as the customs agent and had it declared a “Second National City” so that if something happened to Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital could simply move 3,000 miles west to Port Angeles where, coincidentally, Smith and his cronies owned waterfront property.

Port Townsend was the official Port of Entry for all vessels entering Puget Sound until Smith parked the cutter Shubrick in front of the Customs House and threatened to open fire if the Customs Records were not surrendered in 15 minutes. The Port of Entry was moved to Port Angeles.

Meanwhile a Grand Jury in Olympia indicted Smith for embezzling $15,000 from the Port Townsend Custom House, fraud, resisting arrest and assault on the entire population of Port Townsend. For these and other outrages, the people of Port Townsend described Smith as a “Federal-fed parasite who has been foisted upon us.”

In Port Angeles, a town that to this day is still recognized as America’s “Second National City,” Smith was applauded as the “city father.”

Washington, D.C., was not destroyed. But since Port Angeles had been declared a Second National City and could not be homesteaded, there was little incentive to come here for the next quarter century.

Meanwhile, as a treasury agent, Smith was shipwrecked while transferring $3 million to the San Francisco treasury. The money was never found. Before Smith could be charged with stealing the money, he died in another shipwreck.

Port Angeles, being a Federal Reserve that could not be homesteaded, became a virtual ghost town until 1887, when another Smith came along. George Venable Smith was a Seattle city attorney involved with the anti-Chinese riots, during which mobs forcibly expelled the Chinese from Seattle and Tacoma over cheap labor and trade.

This new Smith had his own vision for a model city, a utopia with no Chinese which became the Puget Sound Cooperative colony. Their motto was: “Let the many combine in cooperation as the few have done in corporations.” They built a sawmill, shipyard, opera house, church and brought the first flush toilet to the Peninsula. Despite such progress, the colony went broke by 1889.

Meanwhile, Victor Smith’s 3,000-acre Federal Reserve was still closed to settlement. That was, until John Murphy came to town in 1890. Murphy organized “Reserve Jumpers,” who went into the Reserve to stake claims. Congress conceded ownership to the squatters three years later.

The year 1890 was when railroad fever hit Port Angeles. Norman Smith, Victor’s son, proved he was an apple that did not fall far from the tree when he built the world’s shortest railroad to “hold the pass” at Lake Crescent — in anticipation of about 14 different transcontinental railroads that were supposedly eager to build their terminus in Port Angeles, a town isolated on three sides by treacherous bodies of water. The Panic of 1893 cooled the railroad fever.

The only bright spot was the arrival of Admiral Beardslee and the U.S. Navy Pacific Squadron for summer maneuvers. Beardslee spent so much time fishing in Lake Crescent that they named the Beardslee trout after him. The seasonal influx of thousands of lonely, thirsty sailors into town provided an economic stimulus to the Peninsula moonshiners.

Meanwhile, Tom Aldwell had come to Port Angeles in 1890, determined to bring electricity with him. For that, he was considered a modern-day hero even though there was no fish ladder on his dam on the Elwha River.

Only the Native Americans seemed to care about the destruction of the Elwha fisheries, but they had no voice since they did not become U.S. citizens until 1924. With the building of the Elwha Dam, Michael Earles built the largest sawmill in Washington on the site of the S’Klallam village Tse-whit-sen. Charles Erickson brought the railroad to town, ending the last frontier.

Were these people heroes or villains? You decide.

Bird Watching with a Chainsaw.

It is daylight in the forest, my favorite time of day. It’s all downhill from here. Still, it is good to revel in the absolute silence of the wilderness, while you can. Until the first trilling of the Townsends thrush tells us another summer’s day has begun. Then the rest of the birds wake up and start making enough noise to raise the dead. Then you can forget about the peace and quiet. 

It would only give one pause to consider how I ended up in this god-forsaken brush hole with a couple of dull chainsaws. One of them is broken, the other won’t start. Now I remember, being chain whipped into a crooked publishing fiasco that made me swear off writing for good. Which leaves me with a word of advice on electronic publishing: “don’t.”

From now on I intend to devote my life to my one true passion, bird watching. This can be tough in the forest until we knock down a few trees to get a better view. Birds come around to feed on bugs disturbed by the falling timber. Bird watching with a chainsaw may appear unorthodox to the uninformed. But it practically guarantees even the most myopic bird watcher sightings of such rare and colorful species as the scarlet tanager, ruby crowned kinglet, and shafted flicker.

A low rumble disturbs the silence of the forest. It is the mating call of the hickory shirted cat-skinner. He’s an unpredictable bird given to rigging fits. These are bursts of kinetic energy accompanied by colorful language. It’s best to give him a wide berth even if it’s not the morning after the 4th of July, which along with Christmas is one of only two holidays in the logger’s calendar.

In the glory days of logging, the camps would shut down on the 4th so loggers could go to town for the “big blow.”  That’s where they blew all the money they earned since Christmas. Some of the 4th of July festivities were a real riot. Like when the Forks loggers threw the bikers’ choppers off the Calawah river bridge. Now days the 4th has become a fun-for-the-whole family artsy-craftsy snoozer where everybody shows up for work the next day.    

Which in no way explained the cat-skinner’s next move. He launched from the tracks of his machine to land jumping in circles, screaming while trying to rip his clothes off. An allergic reaction to bad moonshine I presumed, but no. Just a little deer mouse, disturbed from its nest beneath the seat of the cat, ran up the catskinner’s pant leg by mistake.

People worry about being attacked by cougars and bears when it’s the mice and bugs that will get you in the end.  Actually, the most terrifying encounter I’ve ever had with an enraged animal, was the time I was jumped by a mother grouse. Grouse are called “fool hens’ by people that don’t know any better.

Grouse are really a lot more vicious than most people give them credit for. Like the one that attacked me last week. Even now it’s hard to talk about.  I’d been walking along minding my own business, bird watching with my chainsaw, when out of nowhere I heard a menacing clucking sound. There she was, a big mama grouse with blood in her eye and all her feathers fluffed the wrong way. 

Even if I could have gotten my saw started there would have been no time to use it before she launched an attack. She flew by my head so close I almost had to duck. She landed in a heap with one wing hanging limp. It was the old broken wing act used by mother birds everywhere to decoy predators away from their brood. Which might work really well on some dumb animal but it takes more than that to fake me out.

Still I wanted to see how close I could get. I was after all bird watching and a grouse is a bird. But every time I tried to get closer, she would flutter way wounded just a little further. After a while I thought she might have really hurt herself. Before I knew it, I was so far back in the brush I couldn’t hear the cat working. It was quitting time when I finally found my way back to the landing. I was so happy to see the catskinner again I didn’t care that he ate my lunch. It was good to be alive.

The Fish Duck Blues.

There’s nothing like spending the night along one of our rivers where it is still possible to experience one of the rarest things on earth, silence. Some would describe this silence as the sound of a dead river. The life on our rivers used to be anything but quiet.

Private Harry Fisher, of Lt. Joseph P. O’Neil’s 1890 Olympic Expedition described a night along an Olympic Peninsula salmon stream as,

“Although warm and comfortable, I might have selected a camp in Barnum’s Menagerie so far as sleep was concerned. Great salmon thrashed in the water all night long. Wild animals which I could not see snapped the bushes all night long in search of fish. Every few yards were seen the remains of a fish where cougar, coon, otter or eagle had made a meal.”

Chances are Private Fisher could get his beauty sleep along our rivers these days. The animals, birds and varmints he described are only a small part of what you could call indicator species that illustrate the important role that salmon once played in our environment. That was back when everything from the tiniest insects to the tallest trees were fed or fertilized by this vast exchange of energy from the ocean to the land and back again that the salmon represented.

Looking at a baby salmon it’s hard to believe that something not much bigger than a mosquito-larvae could have such a tremendous impact on everything from fish ducks to Orca but they do. Right about now this year’s hatch of baby salmon is venturing out into the world. Their parents had laid them as eggs in a gravel nest sometime last autumn. The eggs developed into a larvae-like creature called an alewine that fed on its own yolk sack. Emerging from the gravel they are called parr or fry. With a little luck they will survive a period in fresh water and migrate downstream to the ocean as smolts. With even more luck a small percentage of these young salmon will return to their home rivers where people call them everything from blue-backs to sore-backs.

Along the way the salmon feed the world through every stage of their lives. Starting with the tiniest baby salmon who arrived on the scene coincidentally, the very day the baby fish ducks were hatched. Their mother hatched them in tall cottonwood so the first thing the baby fish ducks had to do was to jump out of it.

They hit the ground running for the river where everything wanted to eat them. While the numbers of baby mergansers hatched by their mothers in a given year may not be an indication of the health of a salmon population on a river it will have to do until a better method comes along. Twenty years ago, it was not uncommon to see a mother fish duck with a dozen chicks or more. This year they are averaging about four or five.

With the salmon gone the animals and birds that depended on them are going away too. The forest itself was diminished without the fertilization spawned out salmon carcasses represented. From my own perspective even worse than the fate of all the varmints, fish ducks and Orca put together was the effect on the humans who depended on the salmon.

Many of the campgrounds, stores, resorts and businesses that depended on salmon have simply disappeared. Meanwhile, precious little is being done to restore the salmon. Their extinction mirrors the disappearance of our traditions and the culture of salmon fishing In the Pacific Northwest. I hope someone studies the problem someday.

The Tourism Summit.

Recently a tourism summit was held by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Outdoor Recreation to discuss ways to stimulate the economy of the North Olympic Peninsula. A PDN 5-12-10 article said “In looking at the future the (summit) group decided to borrow from the past.”

We had better hope not. The rivalries between the various communities on the Peninsula go back to the days of the railroad, when every town dreamed of being the terminus of the transcontinental rails, from sea to shining sea. The fact that we were a rugged, uninhabited peninsula, surrounded by treacherous bodies of water, did not deter our visionary pioneer forefathers like, Victor Smith of Port Angeles.

He stole the customs house from Port Townsend at gunpoint and somehow convinced “Honest Abe” Lincoln to declare Port Angeles a Second National City.  This gave Port Angeles a sense of community pride. That, with an illegal election and a gang of vigilantes, allowed Port Angels to steal the county seat from Whiskey Flats, before the now extinct Port Crescent could beat them to it.

The coming of the Industrial Age allowed us to exploit our inexhaustible forests and fisheries. Now, after a century of plunder these resources are locked up, endangered or just plain gone. All we have left to exploit are tourists.

The summit concluded we need more year-round tourists. We are going to build them a bicycle trail on the old railroad from Port Townsend to LaPush which would confirm my theory of history as a process of decay. Getting cyclists off our narrow, crowded roads and onto a trail is a good idea that’s been around since the ‘70’s.

Let me give an example of how much it will stimulate the economy. Tourists are a hassle. That’s why we put a season on them, but they are human beings. They deserve our honesty, compassion and respect. If you can fake that, you have a future in the tourist industry.

When I saw a pair of soggy cyclists stranded down Oil City Road, I tried to rescue them. They were Canadians headed for Tierra del Fuego. Just lucky I speak Canadian, eh. I warned them about Oil City, it’s worse than Sodom and Gomorrah with a hangover. The Canucks threw their bikes in my truck. We went to the Hoh Store for supplies. They bought a gallon of water. We said goodbye, eh. John Speerin’s blog @ www.crazyguyonabike.com describes this epic journey. Continuing south, Speerin almost bought a tee shirt in Florence, Oregon but it was too heavy to pedal.

Then I met some “425’ers”. We ID tourists by area code in the industry. “425” means Bellevue. The “425’ers” stopped at the store to get supplies for a fishing trip. Several hundred dollars later they came out of the store and went out to dinner, the liquor store and the motel. The next morning they bought breakfast and a box lunch and stopped at another store for more beer, smokes, doughnuts, chew, bait, gas, ice, herring, personal products, and everything they forgot to buy the day before.

One of the “425’ers” got a call from the war department. Since he was fishing instead of visiting her mother, she was in Victoria grudge shopping for some retail therapy and wondering why her plastic didn’t work. Let’s review. The cyclist bought a gallon of water. The fisherman spent money like a drunken sailor, before his wife could. Someone really should do a study on the economic benefits of sport fishing but I think they already did. It’s probably filed with the other studies. Someone should study that or, have a summit. It’s the least we can do. 


It was daylight in the swamp. There was a faint buzzing sound as the insects of the forest awoke. The first to be noticed is the smallest, the No-see-um. You might not think a bug that tiny could be a bother but you would be wrong. These tiny, almost invisible insects can occur in swarms so thick they make breathing difficult.

They get in your eyes and ears while biting you, sucking your blood and leaving patches of itchy welts all over your hide. Once the sun warms the forest floor you don’t worry about no-see-ums any more. The larger insects awaken. Maybe it is our unusually wet summer but the mosquitoes seem to be larger than normal. It’s like they are evolving into a new species of bloodsucking bird. Some of this year’s mosquito crop are big enough to shoot with a shotgun but that is a desperate measure that could be risky in a crowded campground.

It would be a futile effort anyway. You’d run out of shells before you ran out of mosquitoes. In the heat of the afternoon sun, you’re liable to forget all about the mosquitoes once the blackflies hit. They are a little black bug about the size of a housefly with one big difference. Blackflies bite. Still none of our insect pests can match the Deer Fly for sheer evil genius.

Though a deerfly is larger than the biggest housefly they are able to fly silently, land lightly and start feeding immediately. Once a deerfly gets you in its sights your little outdoor outing just took a turn for the worse. That is because there is seldom just one of the little devils. They hunt in teams that wear down the victim.

So, when you take off your hat to swat a deerfly, chances are another one will bite you on your bare head. So, you try to hit yourself in the head with your hat but deerflies can take a punch and the first one you swatted is back in the air. The deerflies circle until they can approach you from behind. That’s when you need the buddy system, someone to watch your back.

I once saw some cranky campers who were swatting each other with tree branches to keep the deerflies off each other. The bugs were fierce. The tree branches kept getting bigger until the booze hit and the campers were beating each other with clubs.

Squashing one of these engorged bloodsuckers is a disgusting experience that is not for the feint hearted. Just remember, it’s you or the bug. Chances are you’ll do the right thing, even if it makes you look like a bio-hazard.

Still there are worse bugs. You’d know that if you ever kicked into a black hornet or a yellow jacket nest. They show up later this summer. The experts tell us not to panic when being attacked by hornets. These are the same experts who tell us not to panic when you get lost or drop your car keys in the outhouse. I’ve never seen anyone not panic while being attacked by hornets. There was a troop of Boy Scouts coming down the long dry switchbacks into what has to be the buggiest hole in the Olympics, Grand Valley.

There in the trail was a big underground nest of hornets that were tired of getting stomped on all summer. The first couple of scouts made it through fine. The rest suffered a brutal attack that sent them screaming down the steep trail. By the time the slower scouts came limping along the enraged cloud of hornets was ready for them. That had to be an unforgettable wilderness experience.

How Much Wood Does a Man Need? With Apologies to L. Tolstoy.

A man and his wife lived on a small farm in the backwoods of the Olympic Peninsula. If you were to ask what they raised on this farm the answer would be obvious, firewood. There were woodpiles stacked between the fence-posts, under trees and in sheds.

One night after a hard day of woodcutting the man was on the back porch sharpening his chain saw.

“How much wood does a man need?” The wife asked.

“We need as much as we can get.” The man said. “And besides, it ain’t like the stuff goes bad. You want to cure it for a couple of years to keep from getting a chimney fire.”  

The woman had heard this before.  She walked quietly back inside, leaving him to explain his love of cutting firewood. How the energy of the sun was transformed through the miracle of photosynthesis into plants that produced materials we could use for shelter and heat.

How he loved the feel of a sharp saw cutting into a windfall at daylight. They’re no good for lumber anyway. The bugs get into down logs about as soon as they hit the ground so you sure aren’t going to want to saw it into lumber for your own house and how the government’s trying to shut down the honest firewood cutters so they can push it all in a slash pile and cover it with plastic and burn it so they can keep their cushy jobs.

The next day the man drove his truck far into the forest following fresh tracks of a log truck. He knew the spoor would lead him to a logging show that might take pity on a firewood cutter with a cooler full of beer and smoked salmon jerky at quitting time.

Sure enough, past the fork and around the bend, the man found a high lead logging show in the middle of the road.

After beer and smoked salmon jerky the woodcutter made a deal with the loggers. He could have all the wood he could cut in one day for free. Any thing left would be torched by the government like a third world slash and burn forestry practice.  

The woodcutter barely slept that night. He had a nightmare of the loggers laughing around a bonfire made from the wood he cut. The next morning found him in the woods at first light with a “hot saw” he had borrowed from his brother in law. It was souped-up with oversized everything and a three-foot bar. He figured he’d need it for some of the pumpkin logs he rubber-necked the day before.

The big saw roared to life at the third pull. He started cutting through a big chunk of old growth fir like it was melted butter. The log was so big he would have to split the rounds into smaller pieces to move them to the road. None of that mattered as a stream of aromatic sawdust poured out of the saw, like water from a hose.

He ran the saw until the sun was high in the sky. Stopping only to refuel. Then, he started splitting the rounds of wood into chunks and throwing them into the road. Towards afternoon, the man saw he’d have to really hustle to get all the wood he had cut and split on to the road by dark.

As the sun dropped to the horizon, he kept finding more wood to cut. He felt feint and keeled over. The loggers found him the next morning. How much wood does a man need? It turned out it was just enough to make the box to bury him in.

The Sequim Lavender Festival.

It’s time once again for Sequim’s annual Lavender Festival. It is only now that the statute of limitations thing wore off that I am free to write about my own humiliating experiences as a lavender farmer in the latter years of the last century in an unpublished published memoir entitled,

“Lavender Tour of the Doomed.” 

This is a lavender scented nightmare of treachery, greed and deceit amidst a post-agricultural landscape of retirement homes, box stores and strip malls we like to call Sequim.

Where a small but determined group of lavender farmers tried to keep one small section of our farming heritage unpaved for future generations to enjoy while creating the biggest traffic jam to ever hit the North Olympic Peninsula. Where thousands of lost tourists circle endlessly in a lavender induced fog, competing for parking spaces with the locals who liked to drive around with little dogs in their laps and cause the rest of us to ask, won’t you please, let the dogs drive.

I guess I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out as a lavender farmer. For one thing I never should have said I was a lavender farmer. I only had one plant. It was a very old lavender plant but that did not give me an excuse to say I had the oldest lavender farm in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.

I was a journalist on assignment trying to do my duty to strip the dirty linen from the seamy underbelly of the lavender growing cabal. Lavender is a short little plant you have to bend over to plant, weed or pick. All those pictures of smiling lavender farmers are have one thing in common. They are not smiling. That is the unmistakable grimace of lower back pain from bending over to pick lavender.  

I’ll never forget the year I threw my back out picking the very first lavender blossom of the season. It was just my luck it happened right before the Lavender Festival. I had a lot of chores to finish on my lavender farm before the lavender tour began. I was going to go to the dump. I was going to turn my fleet of wrecked boats into attractively elegant yet inexpensive lavender planters. Then things started to go terribly wrong. When my Lavender Recipe Cookbook that included hundreds of trendy lavender dishes from Lavender Clam Dip to Lavender Cured Salmon Caviar came back from the publisher, printed in Esperanto.

Then, right at the last minute when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, tragedy struck. There was an accident. My lavender farm, the oldest lavender farm in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley was plowed into the swamp by a passing elk herd just before the lavender worshipping hordes were about to descend.

What could I do? What would you do? I went to the hardware store and bought every blue plastic tarp I could find before someone else did and beat it back to the farm. I ran around like a hyperactive Martha Stewart covering woodpiles, wrecked boats and weed-choked ground with perky blue plastic tarps hoping it might all look like a field of lavender from a distance to the farm visitors, after the refreshments hit.

I thought a couple of shots of lavender moonshine would grease the skids on any lavender farm tour. Little suspecting a nosey pack of revenuers would find my lavender scented distillery out in the woods and cut it up for scrap, sabotaging my celebration of all things lavender.  

Crab Season.

Nothing says summer like a boiling pot full of Dungeness crab. They are worth whatever they cost and that can be a lot if you consider the price of crab pots or ring nets and the boat you need to set them with. Wading the tide flats might be cheaper but you have to put in your time and wait for the right combination of an outgoing tide and calm weather to spot the crab scurrying through the eel grass.

Then you have to scoop up the crab before he heads for deep water and you go over your boots.

These days the crabbing rules (AKA the Game Warden Employment Security Act) are stricter than ever for good a reason. Every year there are thousands more people who want to go crabbing.  

The Seafood Watch program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium which monitors fish harvest worldwide said our crab harvest was sustainable. This abundance of crab may have been caused by a population cycle or the fact that we have exterminated the predators of the Dungeness crab like the true cod, leaving more crab for us to catch. By harvesting only the large male crab we eliminated another predator since crabs are cannibals that prey on their own species.

Releasing the female crab lets them lay more eggs. Releasing undersized crab lets them grow larger by molting, that is they shed their shell and grow a new one. Molting crabs look pale and feel soft and there is no meat in them. There is no point in trying to cook a soft crab no matter how big they are. All you’ll get is a pile of empty shells. The soft crabs will get bigger if you release them. These may seem like small details but the only way we are going to keep crab fishing is if we release the small, female and soft crab. 

A recent performance audit of the recreational, (non-commercial) crab fishery by Washington State said that the long-term population of the crab could be endangered by an estimated 45% of recreational crabbers who kill female, undersized and soft-shelled crab. These figures along with all other numbers in the crab fishery are disputed among the tribal, commercial and sport crabbers but they do show a trend.

Sport crabbers tend to be outlaws. In one enforcement study only half the sport crabbers recorded their catch on their punch card. Even if the catch is recorded only one third of summer crabbers and 10% of winter crabbers report their catch. This in spite of the fact that I had to pay an extra $10 for my next license for not reporting that I didn’t go crabbing.

One of the greatest threats to crab are the thousands of pots that are lost every year. There are many ways to lose your crab pot like setting it in 50 feet of water with 40 feet of rope. Or maybe you’ve got too much rope and it tangles with your prop and the buoy gets cut loose. Or you set your pot in water with a heavy tidal current that just washes your gear away. Lost pots generally just keep fishing unless you have a bio-degradable cord that lets the crab to escape.

Unfortunately, many of the sport fishing pots do not allow the crabs to escape. Thousands of crab die a cruel slow death only to rot and get counted as part of the catch quota. Don’t be stupid or cruel, follow the crab rules. The crab you save could be your own.

How to Build a Campfire.

The most important thing you will need to cook over a campfire is a campfire. Not just any fire will do. Your average campfire fire is too big to cook on. The urge to build large fires no doubt springs from some primal need of early man to banish the dark of night. Which would not explain the massive ring of stones people traditionally stack around their campfires. Perhaps that is a latent urge to build a stone altar for burnt offerings no one knows. 

Campfire rings are as old as campfires. It is still possible to find the remains of campfire rings made early in the last century. It is a strange feeling to be on a ridge top so far back in the hills you figure no one else has ever been there, then find a campfire ring buried in the moss. If campfire rings could talk, they would tell a story of the old days when great forest fires raged through the hills.

These “burns” made for some good hunting because animals were attracted to feed on the new growth. All you had to do was sit somewhere on a high place and look for game. Until the trees grew back and buried the hunter’s camp in moss and fallen needles. We do not disturb these antique campfire rings for whatever remains they may contain. It is enough to know we share a hunting ground with the men from the olden times. 

While the campfire ring is an important part of our camping heritage it is a grim irony that the poor construction of this edifice is the number one reason for campfire failure. We’ve all seen a group of sullen, crabby campers sitting around a pile of smoking wood that’s not producing enough flame to toast a marshmallow. Typically, the campers get desperate and start stuffing flammable bits of garbage into the mix which makes for a pleasant aroma for the rest of the campers. The garbage and the wet wood smolders until someone finds a dangerous special sauce, gasoline or transmission fluid to add to the smoldering mess until it bursts into flames.

That is not a cooking fire. For that you need a controlled heat that can only be attained with a properly designed campfire ring. The term campfire ring itself is a misnomer that deludes some campers into thinking they need one. This is a false idea that has given rise to generations of shabby campfire ring designs that have turned what have been a satisfying outdoor recreational experience into a nightmare of burnt on the outside raw on the inside cuisine that gave a black mark to camp cooks from here to the great divide.

The campfire ring may actually be the greatest obstacle to a happy camp-out ever invented. Picture the perfect campsite. Out where the bull trout rise. As twilight bends the evening light you light the campfire. If the campfire was allowed to burn naturally on open ground, it would. Resting as it does across the center of the campfire ring, the campfire sputters long enough to burn its center out, then dies. The wood got hung up in the campfire ring. The center burned out so there was nothing left to burn despite the huge pile of wood. There is only one thing to do in a case like this. Kick a hole in the campfire ring in the direction of the prevailing wind. This creates a Venturi effect by directing the draft between the rocks. The fire can settle as it burns instead of being suspended in the air between the rocks. Another campfire saved.    

The Cadboro Incident.

While researching the history of The Sandwich Islands, Russian America and New Albion, (that would be Hawaii, Alaska and Washington on today’s maps) a disturbing reference to the first Hawaiian visitors to the North Olympic Peninsula was revealed. That would have been on July 4, 1828. It was a day that would live in infamy, if anyone remembered. That’s when the Hudson Bay schooner Cadboro destroyed a S’Klallam village in Dungeness Bay with cannon fire.

It was part of what Chief Factor John McLoughlin called a “punitive expedition” against the S’Klallam for the killing of HBC trader Alexander McKenzie and four company employees on Hood Canal. It seems McKenzie, who had just walked from Fort Vancouver had hired two S’Klallam youths to paddle their canoe from Port Gamble to Port Angeles, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, then on to Langley and then return to Port Gamble. The fact this voyage would be completed in an open dugout canoe in the dead of winter with no more preparation than we might make on a simple business trip proves that the old-timers around here were of a different breed.

Trader McKenzie was a mean one. He beat and kicked the lads who were paddling the canoes and then refused to pay the boy’s father for their services. That was a not a good idea. The S’Klallam had a reputation for being warlike since July of 1788 when the Englishman Robert Duffin piloted a longboat down the Strait of Juan de Fuca where it was, “pierced by a thousand arrows.”

MacKenzie should have known better. He camped without placing a guard. He and his party of four were killed that night on a place called Deadman’s Spit ever since. A woman travelling with the party was taken captive.

When word got back to Ft. Vancouver, Chief Factor John McLoughlin, a man known for his violent outbursts of temper decided to send a military force to Puget Sound as a warning to all the tribes that HBC fur brigades and traders were not to be harassed.

On June 17th Trader Alexander Mcleod left Ft. Vancouver with a force of 63 men bound for Puget Sound where they were to meet the Cadboro which had sailed from the Columbia River to meet them. Included in the party were two Iroquois and two “Owhyees” or Hawaiians.

The Iroquois had worked for the HBC as voyagers and mercenaries. They had a reputation as fierce warriors, no less than the Hawaiians so they must have got along well. A clerk with the expeditions describes how the “Iroquois, Owyhees, and Chinooks, (a tribe from southwest Washington) painted themselves ready for battle.” It was not much of a battle. The S’Klallam had reportedly prepared for the assault by wetting their blankets to ward off cannon balls which would illustrate the level of cultural misunderstanding.

On the morning of July 4th while negotiations were still underway for the release of the captive, who the clerk referred to as “this Helen of ours who will cause as siege as long as that of Troy” the Cadboro opened fire with three cannons destroying the village and forty-six canoes. The captive woman and some of MacKenzie’s effects were recovered.

The expedition returned to Vancouver having killed 27 people including women and children and burning another village in Port Townsend on the way. Trader McLeod was said to be pleased but the destruction of property was judged to be injurious to business. Macleod was not promoted to Chief Factor by the HBC. Those who ignore history are doomed to watch television.