Discover Pass Disaster.

It was another tough week in the news.

Legislation to eliminate the hated Discover Pass has been introduced in the state Legislature. The $30 Discover Pass, which costs $35 with the dealer fee or a $99 ticket if you don’t have one, was adopted in 2011.

It was supposed to bail out the financially troubled state parks the way the state lottery was supposed to finance public schools.

Predictably, that’s not what happened.

Even after charging up to $50 a night for a campsite with full hookups, the state parks are still going broke.

The Discover Pass is only one of a dizzying array of passes and permits that American citizens are required to buy in order to be on their own public land.

These include the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Access Pass that comes with a fishing license, the $55 National Park Service Pass, the $30 Forest Service Pass, the $80 America the Beautiful Interagency Access Pass and various Tribal passes that may or may not be used depending on COVID quarantine restrictions.

Now, with the state government bragging about a huge budget surplus, some state legislators have suggested giving the poor people a break and not charging them to be on their own land.

Poor people can have issues scrounging the $20 for a blue tarp to camp under.

A lot of us can’t afford the gas to drive to a state park, nevermind the $50-a-night camping fee for a site with electricity and water or the $12 for the so-called primitive campsites.

Just take a look at who camps at our state parks.

There are massive gleaming motor homes and trailers pulled by huge trucks.

How about helping the blue-tarp campers who just want to go up a logging road, camp in a wide spot and maybe pick some berries and mushrooms?

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, has introduced Senate Bill 5608 to eliminate the Discover Pass.

Wilson said: “For more than a decade, the state has had a paywall between parks and the people they are intended to serve. It’s time to get rid of the regressive parking fees and free the parks so everyone can enjoy them, regardless of their income.”

More importantly, it’s time to stop charging low-income people who cannot afford to go to a state park to buy a permit to go up a logging road to pick berries and gather mushrooms as a way of subsidizing more affluent campers in their RVs.

Why should we, the blue-tarp campers, have to subsidize RV campers to camp in their state parks?

It’s a classic case of taxation without relaxation.

If the state parks are suffering financially, why not charge the people who camp in them enough money to operate the state parks?

It’s not like the poor people are asking the RV campers to buy us a new blue tarp and bungee cords for our camping trip.

We don’t have RVs, off-road vehicles, generators or satellite dishes.

We don’t need them.

We are the low-income, low-impact campers.

We just want to be free to camp.

Why do the low-income, blue-tarp campers have to subsidize the more affluent vacationers, the RVers, for their decision to drive these gas-guzzling, traffic-jamming monuments to consumer excess in the first place?

But don’t worry. We will.

This latest bill to get rid of the Discover Pass has no chance of passing.

Too bad. We would thank ourselves later if we did the right thing and got rid of the Discover Pass now.

A New Adventure Sport.

There is a new outdoor adventure sport making waves all across this green emerald recreational paradise we call the Olympic Peninsula.

While this new sport was pretty harmless last weekend, the potential for pain is always there. This recreational activity has the potential to combine the risk of Russian Roulette with the drama of a demolition derby.

No, I’m not talking about driving to Seattle. That’s crazy. This new pastime is even crazier. We call it tsunami watching.

To participate in this new adventure sport, all you need to do is keep tuned to your news or weather outlet. When they tell you to stay off the beach and head for high ground because a tsunami may hit, load up the family, pets and a picnic, and head for the beach to watch the tsunami come in.

I know what you’re thinking and you are right.

Tsunami watching is crazy, but if the crowds of people at the beach ignoring the tsunami warning last Saturday is any indication, this new sport of tsunami watching is taking the country by storm.

Throughout history and around the world, people have told stories of floods. Here on the Olympic Peninsula, every Native American tribe has a shared tradition of devastating floods that have been confirmed by geologic and archaeologic research.

One evening, the Quileute noticed a wave that stretched across the horizon coming toward shore.

The Quileute gathered their possessions in canoes and tied the canoes together. Some of the canoes broke loose when the wave hit. They floated east to the other side of the Olympics, where they became the now-extinct Chimacum tribe.

They spoke the same language as the Quileute, giving credence to this tribal legend as historical fact.

The Makah said the water rose until Cape Flattery became an island. Then receded, leaving whales stranded on dry land. The water rose again. The Makah got in their canoes and floated away. Many drifted north to Vancouver Island. As the water receded, canoe-loads of people crashed into tree tops. Many lives were lost.

Along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the S’Klallam were warned a flood was coming.

A man told them to build some strong canoes that would handle a storm. People said they would just walk up into the mountains if the flood came.

It began to rain. The rivers turned to salt water as the sea level rose. Flooding creeks and rivers kept people from walking to higher ground.

Some got away in their canoes with a supply of food and water. Only those who were able to tie themselves to the tops of the highest mountains were saved.

In fact, archaeologists determined that the Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen in Port Angeles was hit by up to five tsunamis in its 2,700-year history.

Those tsunamis were most likely caused by the Cascadia Subduction event, where the Juan de Fuca plate slips underneath the North American continent every 500 years or so, causing earthquakes and their associated tsunamis — the last of which occurred on Jan. 26, 1700.

There was no tsunami warning siren, Coast Guard air lifts or National Guard at the time. We can only speculate at the massive loss of life that must have occurred.

These days, we live in an age of information when we’d just as soon ignore the information.

We are not about to let some foreign global tidal wave ruin a three-day weekend.

So, when the nanny state tells us to stay off the beach because of the tsunami, we head for the beach to watch it.

It’s the newest adventure sport.

Thank you for reading this.

Thank you for reading this. Somebody must. I know this from all of the wonderful cards and letters you send.

In this country, we have a First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Which dovetails with a system of free enterprise that we call a newspaper. In which, I have demonstrated that virtually anyone, even a guy who rows a boat for a living, can write a freelance newspaper column.

The term “freelance” is newspaper talk for “unemployed.”

Meaning I don’t work for a newspaper, I just send stuff in. Writing a weekly wilderness gossip column is more than a job and more than an honor. It is a privilege. It is something that I would never attempt alone. It takes a village.

That is why I would like to take this opportunity to thank the myriad government agencies that work overtime providing the raw material for this column.

For example, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has us buy our new fishing licenses on April Fool’s Day, but they don’t reveal the fishing rules until June or July or whenever. They prefer to keep the fishing laws a secret for as long as possible so that as many people as possible will buy a license before they find out they can’t go fishing.

That’s funny. I have to write it down.

Then, in the event you actually do get your fishing license and punch cards, these documents are printed with ink that disappears when it gets wet, making it nearly impossible for you to record your catch.

You have to admit that’s funny. I couldn’t possibly make that up.

I never claimed to know everything, but I do know something. And that is you judge people and institutions by what they do.

Using this analysis, I have been critical of the so-called Salmon Restoration Industry or what I call the Extinction-for-Profit Industry, since it seems like the more tax money we give them, the more endangered our fish become.

Upon examination, it is revealed that this industry doesn’t claim it will restore salmon.

Instead, they will restore the habitat the salmon might one day return to. When asked why there are threatened or endangered fish inside pristine habitats like Olympic National Park, they say it is because of what happens when the fish leave the pristine habitat. I agree.

However, this logically would mean that habitat restoration alone will not restore our salmon.

While some environmentalists claim hatchery fish harm native populations, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals does not agree.

In its 2017 ruling, the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe prevailed in their argument to use hatchery fish to restore the Elwha River.

It is not true that I badmouth fish hatchery managers. It is true that I “bash fish and wildlife agencies.”

Just look at page 128 of our current Washington fishing regulations, where it says you must release all invasive green crabs. You know, the ones that are predicted to wipe out our Dungeness crab, oysters, clams and the eelgrass they live in.

Or check out page 21, where it says release all of the so-called threatened or endangered Dolly Varden/Bull Trout. These fish are neither threatened nor endangered — or a trout. They are a prolific predator of our salmon that endangers salmon restoration.

It’s all part of a pattern where we protect the predators of our fisheries, then wonder why our fisheries are endangered.

Exposing these and other obvious frauds is an easy job, but somebody has to do it.

Thank you for reading this.

A Hard Winter on the Peninsula.

It was daylight in the swamp. Last week’s snow was melting in the rain. It turned into a slushy mess with an icy base that made walking a challenge.

The wind seemed to be blowing from every direction at once. Although, there’s no time to complain about the weather when there are winter chores to be done. Unless the weather gets so nasty it’s dangerous to be outside with the falling trees and limbs crashing everywhere. It’s just not safe.

In that case, it is indeed fortunate that we can go steelhead fishing in weather that is far too nasty to go to work in.

Years of evolutionary genetic adaptations have allowed some people who fish for winter steelhead to grow a heavy coat of fur and a thick layer of blubber to deal with the extreme conditions.

Meanwhile, blizzards, landslides and downed powerlines can shut down our roads. This serves to keep our legendary steelhead streams from becoming overcrowded. Avoiding other people is our goal.

There was once a famous philosopher who said, “Hell is other fishermen.”

Or something like that.

Steelhead fishing is a search for solitude away from the crowds of other anglers seeking solitude. Fishing in abominable weather helps us do that.

This is nothing new.

The Earth is billions of years old. Man has only been recording the weather for centuries.

One thing seems clear: The further back in history we go, the nastier the weather seems to have been.

In 2019, when over 3 feet of snow shut down U.S. Highway 101, steelhead fishing was epic. It stopped when the snow melted.

Then there was the winter of 2007. Winds of 100 mph hit our coast, knocking down trees, flooding roads and knocking out power.

The winter of ’97 was a doozie. The Hood Canal Bridge was closed for three days. Buildings collapsed. The stores in Sequim ran out of bread.

The winter of ’85 was a bad winter that started on Thanksgiving. The knee-deep snow melted off the roof so fast it formed giant icicles overnight. One of them fell and took out a window.

The winter of ’77 was a bad one, but I don’t remember much of it because it was the ’70s.

In 1969, there was so much snow on the roof of the house, we thought it would collapse. So I went up to shovel it off. When I fell off the roof, the snow was so deep it didn’t hurt at all. I think the head injuries helped my writing.

Make no mistake, these winters were hard, but we had the modern conveniences of electricity, gasoline and telephones.

They were easy compared to what the pioneers suffered before the invention of these modern miracles.

In 1916, it was the winter of the “Big Snow.”

It started snowing in January, and kept on falling until there was up to 6 feet of snow in Port Angeles.

Twenty feet of snow was reported at the Olympic Hot Springs — which would have been a great place to ride out the storm.

There was no recorded depth at Hurricane Ridge, because there was nobody up there.

That was nothing compared to the hard winter of 1893. That’s what the old-timers called the winter of the “Blue Snow.”

Snow started falling in Port Angeles on Jan. 27 and fell every day through Feb. 7, until 75 inches were measured on the ground.

The temperature fell to 1 degree below zero.

That was the year the Queets River froze over. Which would have made steelhead fishing tough, even if there was a road back then.

Winter is not over.

We still have a chance for some good steelhead fishing.