A Very Berry Fourth.

This is the season wild creatures wait for all year. When we can walk in the woods and meadows stuffing our gullets with free food. It’s berry season.

It began with the salmonberry. That harbinger of the salmon named for its color, which reflects the varied colors of the salmon. The salmonberry is a taste of the woods, sweet, sour and mysterious.

Berry picking is a ritual practiced since the first people got here. It is a cycle that begins with the salmonberries in summer until the cranberries freeze in the fall.

Berries were one of the first items traded by the Native Americans to the invading Europeans.

In 1790, the Spanish Captain Manuel Quimper met some Elwha canoes off the mouth of the Elwha River, with whom he traded for berries and salmon.

Back then, mariners typically survived on a rationed diet chiefly composed of ship’s biscuits. This was a tooth-breaking bread made with flour and water that might be dissolved in brine or coffee in the morning so you could eat it. Soaking allowed insects infesting the biscuits to float to the top. That is, of course, if the bread wasn’t eaten by rats first.

A diet of biscuits, with wine or beer and some salted meat or fish ensured a rate of scurvy among seamen during the Age of Exploration that typically ran from 40 to 50 percent of the crew, ultimately killing an estimated 2 million sufferers.

Left untreated, which it usually was, scurvy left the sufferer with bleeding gums, madness and ultimately death by bleeding and infection. While cases of scurvy are unheard of these days, you can’t be too careful. Eat your berries.

While I would never use this valuable print space to spread fear, innuendo and conspiracy theories, it is my duty as a wilderness gossip columnist to warn of an impending berry crisis.

The salmonberries are small, few and far between. The thimbleberries and wild strawberries are only blossoms. The black caps are microscopic.

All of which adds up to a berry famine for the weeks to come. To the wild creatures, this is a devastating development that could affect the ability to hibernate.

For human berry pickers, this is a disaster.

The latest regional forecasts and windshield surveys have predicted that, due to climactic shifts, weather changes and other stuff, there will be no blackberry pie this Fourth of July.

The importance of blackberry pie in the celebration of the birth of this great nation cannot be overstated. It’s a message to the world that no matter how bad this great experiment we call democracy is failing, we can still sit down together at the end of the day and have a steaming hot piece of blackberry pie.

Picking a wild blackberry pie on the Fourth of July is a benchmark of what’s right with America.

This year, unfortunately, the berries are late.

By blackberries, we are not referring to the watery, seedy and invasive Evergreen and Himalayan berries ripening in late summer, no.

That’s not saying this journalist hasn’t, in the interest of journalism, sampled the various pies, crisps and tarts made from the tame wild blackberries just to be polite.

Sometimes, you have to go to the dark side to see how the other half lives and know, but for the grace of God, we’d bake a pie of bogus berries.

Not on my watch. You would have to pry the berry bucket from my cold dead fingers to get me to pick tame blackberries, but then I couldn’t because I’d be dead.

Happy Fourth anyway.

The Resiliency Plan

In last week’s episode, we followed the extinction of the salmon from Europe to the Eastern shore of the New World and across the Continent to the Pacific Northwest. It’s an extinction that represents a greater biomass than the estimated 60 million bison that roamed the Great Plains. Fortunes were made exterminating the bison. Fortunes are being made with the extinction of the salmon.

Witnessing this tragedy is like watching an old friend die from neglect while being assured they’re getting the best medical care. We’re watching our rivers die while being told questionable salmon restoration practices are the best available science.

A good example of this “greenwashing” of the environment is Jefferson County’s proposed “Upper Hoh River Resiliency Plan.” The county contends the Hoh River runs way too fast and wanders too far across the valley, and we can’t have that. Never mind that the Hoh Tribe’s name for the river is “Ohalet,” meaning “Fast Moving Water.” With the amount of your tax money they are spending, the county should be able to hire a consultant to come up with a new name in no time.

Apparently, the wrong trees are growing along the Hoh River, but the resiliency plan will fix that by cutting down the stream-side deciduous trees, the alder, willow and cottonwood, and replacing them with conifer trees that will grow large enough to stop the river. Just how large a tree must be to stop the Hoh is unknown since massive spruce 8 to 10 feet in diameter are toppled by the river every year. How long this will take is unknown because the resiliency plan does not answer questions.

The resiliency plan has also decided there are too many rocks in the Hoh River. They’re going to fix that by lining the river with log jams that will stop the river from “avulsing;” that is, changing its channel like it’s done for the last 15,000 years. Past log jam construction has been hard on the fish. The shock waves caused by pile-driving steel I-beams into the river burst the air bladders of fish and killed them. Now, they are dumping concrete in the river which crushes the fish and spawning beds instead.

Log jams are a threat to human life. The last two fatalities in the Hoh River were in log jams, including the hereditary chief of the Hoh Tribe, David Hudson Jr. Log jams can move the river in unexpected ways, causing property loss to landowners, but the resiliency plan assumes no liability so they don’t have to worry about it.

After cutting down the trees and plugging the river with log jams, the resiliency plan will give it a good dose of glyphosate to control invasive species. Glyphosate is a key ingredient in the herbicide Roundup™ made by Monsanto. The resiliency plan contends that glyphosate is harmless to people, fish and amphibians, but they had better hurry up and spray it quick.

Monsanto’s owner Bayer AG, a company that once paid Nazis to collaborate with Dr. Mengele on toxic chemical experiments in concentration camps, announced it would remove glyphosate-based herbicides from the U.S. by 2023 due to tens of thousands of lawsuits from people alleging they developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from glyphosate herbicides.

That is the goal and the dream of the resiliency plan. To transform the most beautiful river in America from a wilderness stream into an industrial experiment to see just how much money they can spend. Unfortunately, all the state money and all the consultants, nonprofits and their bureaucrat buddies will not bring our salmon back again.

A Short History of Extinction.

FOR SOME, THE new year begins in January. Out on our rivers, the new year begins now with the warming temperatures and the emergence of the baby salmon from the gravel, where they were buried by their parents last fall.

Most everyone is familiar with the water cycle — how water evaporates from the ocean, forming clouds that travel inland, dropping water and forming rivers that flow back into the ocean.

The salmon cycle operated in the same way, exchanging energy from the ocean to the mountains and back, sustaining all life along the river from the smallest bug to the largest tree with the spawned-out remains of their bodies.

The salmon also supported humans. On the Sella River in Spain, there is a 17,000-year-old cave painting of a salmon.

The first written reference to salmon came from the Roman invasion of England in 55 B.C. when Julius Caesar described the salmon fishermen’s boats, made of skins stretched over a wooden frame.

The Thames River was the salmon fishing capitol of the ancient world.

Shore nets filled with salmon until they burst. Shoals of juvenile salmon were used to feed hogs.

The Middle Ages saw the first fishing laws that made it illegal to feed the peasants salmon more than three times a week. The year 1030 saw the first closed season on a salmon river.

Richard the Lionheart made it illegal to block a salmon stream.

A description of fishing in 1590 gives a picture of a war on the fish with “fire, traps, weirs, handguns, cross bows, oils, pellets, poisons, powders and sundry nets,” being used.

This continued until the Industrial Revolution when pollution and over-harvesting eliminated most of the salmon in Europe. The Thames, a river the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser once called, “The silver-streaming Thames,” for its fat and noble salmon, was dead.

By then, Europeans were exploiting the New World.

The Norse saga of Eric the Red describes the great fishing at a Viking fishing camp in Newfoundland at around 995 A.D. The salmon were said to be larger than the ones found in Greenland.

Five hundred years after the Vikings disappeared, the Italians John and Sebastian Cabot described the rich fisheries of the eastern seaboard of North America.

Lake Ontario and its tributaries were once the salmon fishing capitol of the world. There were so many salmon they could be killed with canoe paddles. Farmers pitch-forked the salmon onto their fields for fertilizer.

By the 1890s, the salmon were endangered. By the 1930s, no one even remembered them.

By then, Washington state was the salmon fishing capitol of the world.

Salmon were caught with fish wheels, weirs and a flotilla of commercial fishing boats. Sport fishermen trolled spoons with hand lines out of row boats. Salmon was the poor man’s tuna fish.

With the post-World War II economic boom, both the salmon harvest and environmental degradation were affecting salmon populations.

In 1974, the Boldt Decision restored the Native Americans’ treaty rights to half the “harvestable” salmon. This set off a fish war where each side tried to catch the last one.

By the 1990s, many populations of salmon were declared endangered. In the new millennium, the government has spent billions trying to restore salmon.

Then, there is the human cost of the extinction of the salmon that has largely eliminated the culture of fishing among the people who depended on salmon for their food, livelihood and identity.

Next week, we’ll see how the best available science is profiting from the largest extinction since the slaughter of the bison of the Great Plains.

_________

 

Does It Always Rain Here?

With the blustery weather we have been experiencing lately, it seems like either the mildest January or the coldest June we’ve ever had.

Rainfall events are not a bad thing. We need periodic gully washers to hatch the slugs, sprout the mushrooms and make the skunk cabbage bloom. Where do you think the rivers and lakes come from?

I think it’s time we all developed a more positive attitude toward our wet weather.

While scientists and health care experts have warned us for years about the effects of the sun’s harmful rays, no one ever developed a malignant skin tumor while lying out in the rain, fog-bathing.

Prolonged exposure to excessive sunlight will make the woods tinder dry. One little spark could turn the Olympic Peninsula into a fiery holocaust.

Sunshine can bring another threat to our health, safety and emotional well-being — tourists. All we need is one day of sunshine for the tourist migration to hatch.

As with any natural disaster, it’s best to have a plan to cope with the tourists. Leave.

What if you’re too broke and ignorant to go anywhere? Maybe you can learn from my wealth of experience in dealing with the problem. Lie.

This last Memorial Day weekend was a good example. It was a perfect storm where a westerly Pacific frontal system met an easterly outflow of tourists in a soggy monsoon of misery. Once the tourists show up, it’s easy to remember why we put a season on them.

People come here from all over the country to complain about the weather and ask the craziest questions like, “Does it always rain here?”

As a general policy, it is a good idea to assure the tourists that a lot of the time it rains much harder. All of which could go a long way to keep the tourists from moving here.

The Olympic Peninsula has been a magnet for tourists since the Bering Land Bridge, when groups of stone-age hunters crossed from Siberia to Sequim, a paradise of big game ripe for the slaughter.

We’re talking Pleistocene mega-fauna, the mastodon and woolly mammoth. You could feed your clan for weeks on a mastodon and make a tent from the bones and hide, and heat it with the creatures’ fat — until the mastodon were gone.

A dozen millennia later, a vast armada of European tourists visited our fair shores seeking souls for their churches, treasure for their banks and the bogus Northwest Passage.

These tourists all had one thing in common: No one believed them when they got home.

Juan de Fuca said he found gold, silver and pearls in the straits that bear his name back in 1592, but he was flat broke by the time he got back home.

All he had left was a bogus map of his mythical strait that took another 200 years for others to discover.

When they did, the Spanish Captain Manuel Quimper blabbed about buying some 100-pound salmon. This set off an invasion of tourists that have been coming here looking for these mythical fish ever since.

It’s always been a proud pioneer tradition to bait tourists with tall tales about the great mineral wealth that was waiting to be discovered in the Olympics. Mountains, lakes and streams were named after the precious metals that were waiting to be found. Promotions like these put Oil City on the map.

Ever since then, it’s been a good idea to say whatever works to keep the tourists from moving here.

Just remember, the Peninsula you save could be your own.

Does it always rain here? Yes!

 

Does It Always Rain Here?

With the blustery weather we have been experiencing lately, it seems like either the mildest January or the coldest June we’ve ever had.

Rainfall events are not a bad thing. We need periodic gully washers to hatch the slugs, sprout the mushrooms and make the skunk cabbage bloom. Where do you think the rivers and lakes come from?

I think it’s time we all developed a more positive attitude toward our wet weather.

While scientists and health care experts have warned us for years about the effects of the sun’s harmful rays, no one ever developed a malignant skin tumor while lying out in the rain, fog-bathing.

Prolonged exposure to excessive sunlight will make the woods tinder dry. One little spark could turn the Olympic Peninsula into a fiery holocaust.

Sunshine can bring another threat to our health, safety and emotional well-being — tourists. All we need is one day of sunshine for the tourist migration to hatch.

As with any natural disaster, it’s best to have a plan to cope with the tourists. Leave.

What if you’re too broke and ignorant to go anywhere? Maybe you can learn from my wealth of experience in dealing with the problem. Lie.

This last Memorial Day weekend was a good example. It was a perfect storm where a westerly Pacific frontal system met an easterly outflow of tourists in a soggy monsoon of misery. Once the tourists show up, it’s easy to remember why we put a season on them.

People come here from all over the country to complain about the weather and ask the craziest questions like, “Does it always rain here?”

As a general policy, it is a good idea to assure the tourists that a lot of the time it rains much harder. All of which could go a long way to keep the tourists from moving here.

The Olympic Peninsula has been a magnet for tourists since the Bering Land Bridge, when groups of stone-age hunters crossed from Siberia to Sequim, a paradise of big game ripe for the slaughter.

We’re talking Pleistocene mega-fauna, the mastodon and woolly mammoth. You could feed your clan for weeks on a mastodon and make a tent from the bones and hide, and heat it with the creatures’ fat — until the mastodon were gone.

A dozen millennia later, a vast armada of European tourists visited our fair shores seeking souls for their churches, treasure for their banks and the bogus Northwest Passage.

These tourists all had one thing in common: No one believed them when they got home.

Juan de Fuca said he found gold, silver and pearls in the straits that bear his name back in 1592, but he was flat broke by the time he got back home.

All he had left was a bogus map of his mythical strait that took another 200 years for others to discover.

When they did, the Spanish Captain Manuel Quimper blabbed about buying some 100-pound salmon. This set off an invasion of tourists that have been coming here looking for these mythical fish ever since.

It’s always been a proud pioneer tradition to bait tourists with tall tales about the great mineral wealth that was waiting to be discovered in the Olympics. Mountains, lakes and streams were named after the precious metals that were waiting to be found. Promotions like these put Oil City on the map.

Ever since then, it’s been a good idea to say whatever works to keep the tourists from moving here.

Just remember, the Peninsula you save could be your own.

Does it always rain here? Yes!

 

Traffic Jam Blues.

It was another tough week in the news. When plans for the biggest traffic jam in the history of the Olympic Peninsula were made public. This new traffic jam will be bigger than Sequim’s Lavender Festival and Irrigation festival traffic jams combined. At least it will be for a good cause, fish passage beneath our roads. It is a worthy cause we all support, don’t we? We all want to save the starving Orca. Who could argue with that? Read on.

Beginning in 2023 and lasting anywhere from 12 to 24 months the fish passage projects on Lees, Ennis and Tumwater Creeks will be not unlike enduring, “dental pain” according to a Washington Department of Transportation spokesperson at a recent meeting in Port Angeles.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that unlike dental pain, where you might spend your way out of the problem, removing fish passage barriers doesn’t mean the fish will passage. The D.O.T. spokesperson did not want to sugar-coat the coming challenge and there was no danger of that. Instead, we are asked, “to keep a positive perspective of helping the fish.”
That is a challenge. We need only to look at streams on either side of these projects to observe the effectiveness of fish barrier removal. To the West we have the famous Elwha Dam removal, the largest habitat restoration project in the country that opened up over 70 miles of pristine spawning habitat for the 400,000 imaginary salmon that were predicted to return, someday.

Unfortunately, the salmon returning the Elwha are failing to utilize this habitat. This is a situation in common with other Peninsula rivers that have never been dammed. Our salmon are failing to use their available habitat because they are dead, extinct or just plain gone.
We have only to look to the east of Port Angeles at Morse Creek, a stream once famous for runs of Spring Chinook, Pink and Coho salmon and Steelhead. There was never a fish passage problem on Morse Creek. The formerly abundant Morse creek Spring Chinook were raised at the Dungeness Hatchery. When they stopped planting salmon in Morse Creek the salmon disappeared. Then along came the Elwha Dam Removal experiment. A multi-million-dollar king salmon hatchery was built at Morse Creek to act as a gene bank for the Elwha Chinook in case they didn’t return to the Elwha. They didn’t. Then it was decided not to use hatchery raised salmon to restore the upper Elwha and just let the salmon restore themselves on their own. They didn’t.

The Morse Creek king salmon hatchery was eliminated. Runs of hatchery raised salmon always fail once you shut down the fish hatcheries. Instead, the State did a “salmon restoration” project, building engineered log jams and buying streamside property for a homeless encampment with predictable results. Morse Creek is as dead as a ditch.

The Dungeness River has no fish passage barriers. It was once the best spring steelhead river in Washington. The Spring Chinook fishery in Dungeness Bay was legendary. With effective co-management and the best available science, the Dungeness Spring Chinook and steelhead have achieved threatened and/or endangered species status. This has opened the floodgates of federal funding for even more salmon restoration projects like building log jams and buying property. With predictable results. The Dungeness River is currently closed to fishing most of the year.

So, you see this new traffic jam really is a lot like dental pain with a dentist who says, “this is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts me.” But it’s all for a good cause.

Things Could be Worse.

Recently, we described the deterioration of our antique transportation infrastructure on the Olympic Peninsula. State Highway 112 was closed by landslides and there are no plans to permanently fix it. U.S. Highway 101 is down to one lane of traffic with no apparent plans to fix it.

Many of our bridges are approaching their centennial.

It’s ironic that these roads and bridges were built around the period of our history known as The Great Depression — also known as the greatest economic downturn in our nation’s history, with mass unemployment, monetary deflation and social upheaval that affected every country in the world.

Since then, our technology has evolved from the age of steam power to the time of diesel, hydraulics and computerized everything, where we reach for the stars with spaceships and satellites while we ignore our roads and bridges on Earth.

Now, as we approach one of the biggest travel holidays of the year, Memorial Day, we have only to look back a few years to consider that things could be worse. The recently republished classic, “Trails and Trials of the Pioneers of the Olympic Peninsula, State of Washington,” was originally compiled by the Humptulips Pioneer Association in 1959. It was reprinted in 2021 by Jane Castleberry and the Lake Quinault Historical Museum. The book describes the difficulties of traveling the Peninsula in the good old days.

Leaving Seattle on the Steamer “Garland” on a Sunday in August 1897, the Ben Northrup family arrived in Clallam Bay the following day.

Unloading their wagon and horses to pull it, they hit the muddy trail through the wilderness that would eventually take them to Forks.

There was trouble on the way. The wagon wheels kept falling apart and had to be pounded back together with rocks.

At some point on the trail over Burnt Mountain, now known as state Highway 113, the wagon and most of the family’s possessions had to be abandoned.

Packing their blankets and provisions on horses, they continued their journey on foot, reaching Forks after two days of hard traveling.

Their journey was far from over.

They continued south of Forks on what was known as “The Pacific Trail.”

This was a road that the local pioneers began working on in 1892. At the time, the homesteaders could pay their taxes by working on the trail, and there was plenty of work to go around.

The ground of the West End of the Peninsula was so wet, people and animals would sink in the mud if they had to walk on a regular trail. And there was very little rock or gravel to cover the mud and no way to haul it. The Pacific Trail was built entirely of split cedar boards.

At one time, the trail ran from Forks to Moclips, with spurs branching off to remote homesteads on Goodman Creek, the upper Hoh River and Oil City, then up the Queets and Clearwater rivers. A small stretch of the Pacific Trail survives to this day just off the Upper Hoh Road, where it represents the oldest surviving roadway in Washington State. Which, for whatever reason, is not included in the National Register of Historic Places. But I digress.

Crossing the Hoh River, the family continued south to the Clearwater, where a horse that was packing a small child strapped to its back began sliding off a cliff. The horse was caught and drug up to the trail. The child was saved!

Upon arriving at Clearwater, they feasted on potatoes, rutabagas and carrots.

I often think of this while complaining about our modern roads.

 

The Olympic Peninsula Driving Guide: continued

In last week’s episode, we were traveling west on U.S. Highway 101 and had just successfully crossed the Elwha River bridge.

This antique structure’s foundation is being threatened by the Elwha Dam removal project.

It was intended to restore the estimated historic run of 400,000 salmon to the Elwha within 40 years, but predictably, that is not happening.

A five-year fishing moratorium was initially imposed, then extended to seven and then 10 years. The moratorium has again been reset to run until 2023, because the Elwha salmon are failing to utilize the restored habitat.

This is a common problem on the rest of our Peninsula rivers that were never dammed. Apparently, once salmon are extirpated from a stream, they typically fail to return because they are dead. We can only hope someone is studying the problem.

Once across the Elwha, we encounter another salmon restoration project blocking Highway 101, a new $36 million bridge to improve fish passage on Indian Creek, a tributary of the Elwha that drains Lake Sutherland.

After the initial Elwha dam removal in 2011, it took until 2017 for six coho salmon to make their way to Lake Sutherland — which gives you some idea of just how long it could take the Elwha to reach its imaginary goal of 400,000 fish, no matter how many millions we spend.

Never mind, we’ll continue west around Lake Crescent. Recently rebuilt, the road is smooth as a baby’s backside.

Further west, we encounter our next driving challenge, the Sol Duc River bridges, of which there are several — giving tourists the feeling that they are driving in circles.

No matter how many Sol Duc bridges there are, each can provide all the thrills any driver could want when encountering monster trucks and RVs hurtling like hogs in a chute while dodging dishpan-sized chuckholes.

With luck, our visitor arrives in Forks, where a temporary billboard warns of a “rough road for the next 35 miles.”

They aren’t kidding.

Giant cracks appear in the roadway. The edge of the road slumps into the canyon. At one point, Highway 101 is down to one lane with stop signs at either end causing stand-offs between motorists edging their way through the obstacle with flashing lights and using a variety of hand signals. Courtesy is advised.

When in doubt, do the math: A loaded log truck weighs around 90,000 pounds. You don’t.

Additional signs warn motorcycles to use caution, but caution would also be advised while driving an M-1 tank. Driving south of Forks is not unlike riding a bucking bronco. Hang on.

With luck, you’ll be crossing the Bogachiel bridge, built after the old one fell in the river — which is about the only time we’ll replace a bridge in this country.

South of the Bogachiel, we are treated with stunning views of Mount Olympus, but keep your eyes on the road. You’ll be crossing the Hoh River Bridge. This was voted, by me, to be the scariest bridge on the Olympic Peninsula.

Built in 1931, during the Great Depression, the Hoh River Bridge was the final link in the Olympic Loop highway that we now call Highway 101.

Traffic has gotten heavier and faster since 1931, but we can’t seem to afford to fix the roads and bridges we built back then.

The Hoh River Bridge, like the glaciers on Mount Olympus, seems to be shrinking as the heavy equipment and RVs grow larger.

South of the Hoh, you are in for a rough ride with chuckholes and a mountain of clay oozing onto the roadway, until at last you leave the Peninsula and kiss the ground.

 

Olympic Peninsula Driving Guide

With the real and present danger of an imminent tourist invasion, it’s time once again for the Olympic Peninsula Driving guide.

Escaping Pugetopolis, you head west to endure a two or three hour wait to get on a ferry, because ferry crews are down 70 percent, due to reluctance to get vaccinated or pass a drug test, and the fact it is a tough, sea-faring job that entails a lot of responsibility. But let’s assume you make it across Puget Sound.

You cross the Hood Canal bridge without it unexpectedly closing. You dodge the Sequim elk and make it through Port Angeles without hitting a tweaker spinning in circles in a crosswalk.

Congratulations — but abandon hope as you head west. Your adventure begins as you cross the historic Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River.

Built in 1926, the Elwha bridge is a survivor. The life span of a bridge is between 50 and 75 years and the Elwha bridge is approaching its centennial celebration. But no celebration is planned.

The Elwha bridge is part of a laundry list of collateral damage from the $325 million Elwha Dam Removal Project that includes a fishing closure, a resort, a rafting company, two National Park Service campgrounds, one private campground, two boat launches and the Olympic Hot Springs Road. It also includes two beautiful lakes, but never mind — it was the largest salmon habitat restoration in the country that was predicted to bring back 400,000 salmon to the river, someday.

Meanwhile, last November, the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha was closed completely as a precaution due to concerns about the foundation, which had never reached bedrock. This happened before.

Tom Aldwell failed to reach bedrock when constructing his dam on the Elwha in 1910. In 1912, as the reservoir filled, the dam failed and flooded the river, taking out a bridge just downstream, all of which sounds vaguely familiar.

A 2016 Peninsula Daily News article described how removing the Glines Canyon Dam endangered the Highway 101 bridge on the Elwha by lowering the riverbed 14 feet, which caused erosion around the foundation of the bridge.

That was the year a crack was found in one of the bridge piers. A tilt monitor was installed to keep an eye on it. A Department of Transportation spokesperson issued a disquieting assurance that as long as the bridge is open to traffic, it’s safe. I have always assumed that as long as the bridge is safe, it is open to traffic. Silly me.

A 2017 PDN article said the Elwha bridge replacement was fully funded and was expected to go out for bid in 2019. That didn’t happen.

In March 2018, a Forks Forum article described DOT plans to rebuild the bridge in 2020, before something bad happened.

The failure of the Elwha bridge would have left the paved elk trail we know as Highway 112 as the only route to the West End of the Peninsula. Ironically, that was one plan for a detour around the imaginary new Elwha bridge construction until last winter’s mudslides destroyed Highway 112

A Feb. 10, 2022, PDN article headlined, “No lasting state fix coming for Highway 112” revealed the roadway presents “a consistent problem” because it crosses a slide zone that is falling into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The article further states “there will be no repair of 112 until there is an increase in the gas tax.” Which is not happening.

Instead, we will purchase new imaginary electric ferries that nobody wants to work on.

Next Week: Abandon hope, all who drive west.

No Selfies in the Outhouse.

From our majestic melting glaciers to the acidified ocean, and all the scenic splendor in between, this year’s tourist migration seems even heavier than last year’s mob scene. While tourists keep the lights on, people can go crazy when they escape the city and enter the woods or the water.

I blame the media.

City folks watch nature shows telling them animals are just like people and some people are just too pushy for their own good.

They get too close, harassing animals that don’t like people.

The animal shows are punctuated with commercials showing SUVs plunging through streams, beaches and mountaintops like the world is their race track. All of which fosters the crazy idea that if we spend enough money and do crazy things in the wilderness, someone will like us on social media.

Even if it kills us.

The smartphone is an amazing gadget that has become the most important component of any modern vacation. It is as if you have to constantly take pictures of yourself on vacation to prove to the world that you really actually went somewhere and are having a wonderful time.

This same smartphone gets people into a lot of trouble every year. It can be easy to get lost in the woods while relying on a phone for navigation. Many hikers take a smartphone along on their journey instead of a map and a compass. Then for whatever reason, the weather, lack of coverage or dead batteries, the phone is useless, leaving the hiker with no idea where they are or how to signal for help.

Taking selfies can be self-destructive behavior. Such as the guy who fell off the edge of the 75-foot-high Sol Duc Falls taking a selfie a few years ago. At least someone got a video of it.

The Sol Duc Falls is much more than just an iconic National Park destination. Over the years, it’s been a tourist magnet, luring them like lemmings to the edge of the cliff, past the warning signs and over the safety railing where it does not go well.

On April 15, a guy, (why is it generally a guy?) climbed over the railing at the edge of the falls and wound up falling to the bottom, where he was trapped and suffering from hypothermia.

Other hikers called 9-1-1 and lowered supplies down to him with their shoe strings.

An amazing YouTube video shows him climbing out of the falls by sticking a pocket knife in a log and pulling himself up and out of the canyon five minutes before Search and Rescue teams arrived.

We don’t know if he got a selfie.

A week later, the Olympic Peninsula made the national news with a big story about a woman who got into a pile of trouble losing her phone in the outhouse on Walker Mountain.

While it is unknown at this time if she was taking a selfie, the Walker Mountain outhouse is among the most scenic sanitary facilities on the Olympic Peninsula.

Somehow, the phone was dropped into the outhouse.

The owner fell in after it trying to lower herself down with a dog leash to retrieve the phone. She obviously had not purchased the phone’s insurance but, points for style. Search and Rescue came to the rescue. They rescued the woman and recommended she seek medical attention.

Let’s review a couple of safety dos and don’ts for tourist season.

  • Do tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll get back.
  • Do take the 10 survival gear essentials on your wilderness trip.
  • Don’t take selfies in the outhouse.