Hunting with Bo.

 

WAY BACK WHEN, the Olympic elk were market hunted for their meat, antlers, hides and ivory teeth or just shot and left by thrill-seeking lowlifes who liked to watch them fall.

In 1905, the Washington State Legislature stopped all elk hunting. In 1909, President Teddy Roosevelt preserved what is now Olympic National Park to save the elk. By 1937, the elk had expanded beyond the carrying capacity of many parts of their range. Elk were starving in the Hoh Valley. Washington opened an eight-day season in October and November in Clallam and Jefferson counties for any and all elk.

William D. Welch of the Port Angeles Evening News, the precursor of today’s Peninsula Daily News, journeyed to the upper Hoh River that October to cover what he called “The Elk War.”

Welch described the “red helmeted army of 5,280 hunters waging war against the Roosevelt elk in the West End of the Olympic Peninsula.”

As with any war, there were casualties. It was a common practice for hunters to surround the unsuspecting elk herd and open fire. This meant the hunters were often firing at each other while blazing away at the elk.

One man died in a fusillade of bullets. A packhorse was shot while carrying an elk. In his book,”The Last Wilderness,” Murray Morgan told of a dairy cow that was shot so many times the farmer melted it down to salvage the lead after elk season was over. An estimated 700 elk were killed. The figure might have been much higher except for a sudden storm that dumped so much rain, hunting was out of the question.

Welch describes the sorry spectacle when thousands of soaking wet elk hunters descended upon nearby Forks, which had run out of whiskey before the elk season had even started. All Forks had left was some gin, which was never very popular on the frontier.

Things have changed in the 85 years since that first elk season. There is plenty of whiskey in Forks, but good luck finding ammunition!

Meanwhile, there are so many bears, cougars and human hunters in the woods that many elk have moved into the town of Forks for their health.

Elk hunting has always been tough, even when there were a lot more elk. These days, getting an elk is like winning the lottery. You need an edge.

Instead of 700 elk killed in the Hoh Valley, I’d estimate less than 20 were harvested in the entire watershed. This is my story.

I got my first elk back in the ’70s, hunting with my cousin Bo. We were hunting in one of the stupidest places you could ever want to pack an elk out of, the Dry Creek Basin west of Lake Cushman.

Not many of you reading this have ever quartered an elk in a blizzard, but if you did, Bo was the right man for the job. It took three days to pack the elk out. It should have taught us a lesson. Instead, we went on many more hunting trips. Bo was one of the toughest humans I ever met — wearing cowboy boots to pack in to Goat Lake.

Then I got the call. Bo had died of some obscure disease right during elk season. Talk about your bad timing.

The next day, through a bizarre series of coincidences, we ran into a herd of elk. I told my hunting partner that Bo had sent them. We had an edge. We got a year’s worth of meat.

If I said it once, I said it a million times: Thanks Bo, I needed that.

The Day After The Disaster.

“THE WHOLE COUNTRY is going to hell in a bucket now that we’ve elected those idiots,” my fancy friend shrieked the morning after the election.

“Which idiots?” I asked, pretending to care.

There’s nothing like talking politics to ruin a perfectly beautiful autumn day spent floating down the river catching salmon.

When the sun rises from behind a timbered ridge lighting up the red, yellow and orange leaves of the vine maples above the blue water where a big chrome salmon is jumping across the surface of the river, I generally don’t care about politics.

Maybe it’s because it’s common knowledge that in this great country of ours, there is not one politician at any state, federal or local level that is going to do one thing to preserve our salmon and the ecosystem and the fishing culture of the people who depend on them.

Of course, almost every Washington state politician will claim they are, “going to do something about the fishing,” but this claim is quickly forgotten once they realize the perks of political office.

That’s when the politicians claim they are “for the environment.” Whatever that means.

It generally means directing government agencies to funnel millions of dollars down the bottomless pit of the salmon restoration industry for consultants, non-profit corporations and construction companies that are unable to demonstrate any cost-benefit ratio or accountability for the millions being spent without restoring our salmon.

Politics has always been a nasty business. Aristophanes said it best when he summed up what constitutes a popular politician, “a horrible voice, bad breeding and a vulgar manner.”

The abuse of politicians has become the great American pastime, where we conveniently forget we voted them into office against our own self-interest in the first place and keep them enthroned until they are old and rich.

But if you think we badmouth politicians now, it’s nothing compared to the good old days. George Washington was the father of our country, but he had an enemy list as long as your arm. Fortunately, Washington’s administration occurred in a period of our history when journalists had a command of the English language.

James Thomson Callender, a reporter for The Richmond Recorder, called President Washington, “the grand lama of the federal adoration, in immaculate divinity of Mount Vernon.”

Callender described our second president John Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force nor firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” He accused Adams of wanting to crown himself king and said “it would have been best to have President Jefferson beheaded five minutes before his inaugural address.”

Destitute and drunk, Callender was found drowned in three feet of water in the James River in Virginia. Journalism has always been a risky business.

Journalists still use eye-catching headlines to increase sales. And if we have to exaggerate and speculate to educate, so much the better. In this age of misinformation, all news is suspect. However, a big change came to our elections since President Washington.

For way too long, our nation’s corporations were denied the basic rights that were guaranteed to any other citizen under the Constitution. Corporations have feelings, too. They are just like us only bigger and richer.

Fortunately, in 2010, the United States Supreme Court ended discrimination against corporations when they declared that corporations are citizens. So, it only made sense when the same court decided that corporations bribing politicians with buckets of cash is free speech.

At the end of the day, Americans can be proud that we elected the best politicians money can buy.

 

The Great Migration.

IT WAS A dark and stormy night. Then, it was daylight in the swamp.

Something was very wrong. All of my friends were gone.

It was lonely on the river after that.

I missed their curious antics, athletic performance and bizarre mating rituals.

I like to watch. No, these are not people. We’re talking birds.

People are boring to watch. Their predictable migrations from the watering holes to the feeding grounds and back to their burrows is generally a dismal parade of traffic jams, ill humor and bad breeding.

Birds, however, offer an endless display of grace, speed and athletic abilities humans can never match — no matter how smart they think they are.

Consider the Swift — a small bird about the size of a swallow that swoops down at high speed like the name implies, scooping insects as they hatch from the surface of the river. That’s after migrating from here to Eastern Bolivia and back in what might be one of the longest migrations of any creature on Earth, but is not. That distinction was recently claimed by a Bar-Tailed Godwit. This slender member of the Sandpiper clan was tagged with a GPS transmitter which recorded a non-stop migration record flying 8,435 miles from Alaska to Tasmania in nine days!

The Swallows are gone, too. They left when the nights got cool. Same with the beautiful Band-tailed pigeon who spent the summer feeding on elderberries and cooing in the alders, providing a relaxing theme to summertime. Gone, too, are the nighthawks. That weird member of the Goatsucker family swoops down hundreds of feet to pull out of a steep dive, making a roaring sound that some superstitious humans have mistaken for the growl of an angry beast.

Even our fair-weather friends, the buzzards, are gone. Just recently we saw a mass migration of Turkey Vultures that was … creepy. You want to be careful when you’re watching buzzards.

If you are fortunate enough to see a buzzard, be sure to keep moving. Don’t fall asleep on a gravel bar while watching buzzards.

Remember, buzzards find most of their rotten offal through their incredible sense of smell, so you may want to consider bathing once in a while before watching these fascinating birds. If buzzards are circling your home, you may want to consider going to the dump more often.

Meanwhile, one of the greatest migrations on Earth is happening right now, down what us sensitive, bird-watchingtypes call the Pacific Flyway. It’s like a highway for birds migrating from their summer homes to their winter refuge.

I once saw a flock of birds fly past La Push in a wavering line about a mile offshore, for three days. An old-timer said they were “whale birds.” This was sort of a catch-all term for a diverse group of pelagic species of phalaropes, petrels and shearwaters that fly by our coast in their millions.

As you read this, endless flocks of ducks, geese, cranes, swans and shorebirds are flying south along our western shore while being pursued by falcons, hawks and eagles.

I like to watch. The most dramatic scenes involve the team-hunting approach bald eagles use to hunt geese. While one eagle flushes the geese off their roosting ground, another dives on them as they are taking off. After an explosion of feathers, the eagle can fly off with a 10-pound goose, land on a tree limb to begin the messy process of plucking its dinner.

This can look like a blizzard of feathers. I was hoping the eagle would drop the goose for my dinner, but that did not happen.

________

 

Mushroom Fever

THERE ARE FEW things more comforting than the sound of a heavy rain on the roof.

It’s a message that tells us the forest fires are being put out without risking the lives of the people who fight them.

The sound of the rain tells us the rivers are rising so the salmon don’t scrape the scales off their bellies trying to swim to their spawning grounds.

The sound of the rain also heralds the opening day of mushroom season.

A scrawny hatch of mushrooms has been sprouting for a month or more, but the heavy rains of autumn are what really sprouts the fungi.

I’ve heard there are more than 500 different kinds of mushrooms on the Olympic Peninsula. It might even be true.

Back in the last century, a pioneer friend told me he had eaten 50 different edible wild mushrooms. That may have been true, too, but he was a fisherman and you know how to tell if they are lying. It’s easy — their lips are moving.

There are many edible wild mushrooms that grow on the Olympic Peninsula.

You’ll want to avoid mushrooms with names like “Panther Amanita,” which can cause hallucinations, or the “Destroying Angel,” which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, trouble breathing, focusing, concentrating or even death by liver and or kidney failure.

Instead, we focus our search for edible fungi like the Shaggy Mane mushroom. It’s excellent if cared for promptly. The porcini and lobster mushrooms are magnificent if you can beat the bugs to them, but the Chantrelles are my favorite.

The Chantrelle is easy to find, easy to pick and with their golden color, meaty caps and fluted stems, they are easy to identify. Rich in flavor with an earthy aroma that is difficult to describe, the Chantrelle was once famous as a delicacy for the nobility of Europe.

These days, the Chantrelle has taken its place beside the truffle and morel as the go-to foodie fungus for gourmet cooks everywhere. The Chantrelle is not only delicious, it’s high in vitamin C and one of the richest sources of vitamin D.

Chantrelles can be sautéed and frozen without losing their flavor.

The pioneer method of preserving the Chantrelle by drying them seems to intensify their flavor.

The dried Chantrelle can be ground into a sort-of flour for making soups and sauces but, of course, you have to pick them first.

Mushroom picking can be hazardous.

There are only two types of mushroom pickers. Those who have gotten lost in the woods while picking mushrooms and those who haven’t — yet.

It’s like the world’s biggest Easter egg hunt, where participants scurry about with their eyes to the ground, shuffling from one prize to another, filling their baskets as fast as they can. The main difference being that no one gets lost on an Easter egg hunt.

Getting lost is an American tradition.

Daniel Boone said that he had never been lost in the wilderness but he did admit that, “I was bewildered once for three days.”

Back then, it was much easier to get lost in the wilderness, since there was so much more wilderness to get lost in.

However, it is still possible to get lost.

To reduce your chances of getting lost, it’s best to pick mushrooms on a hillside. Search for mushrooms above the road so you only have to go back down to find it again.

Don’t know up from down? Then picking mushrooms might not be for you.

There is really only one sure way to avoid getting lost while picking mushrooms — don’t go mushroom picking.

 

The Great ShakeOut.

IMAGINE A PERFECT morning — whatever that means. Perhaps it means having a cup of coffee with a mountain view.

Above, there are flocks of geese honking their way south through a scarlet sunrise until they slowly fade away.

Mixed with sounds of migration, there is the whistling bugle of the elk piercing through the still air, causing questions to be asked. Is it a bull elk in the rut, a hunter trying to impersonate one or just the ringtone on my phone?

It doesn’t matter. You’re on your way to another full day where no matter what, things could be worse.

What if they were? What if you woke up with no way to make coffee? You had no water or electricity to heat it, because your home was destroyed by the impending subduction event.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600-mile fault that runs from northern California up to British Columbia that’s about 70 to 100 miles off the Pacific coast shoreline.

Native American legends recount the effects of periodic subduction events with stories of a tsunami at LaPush that stretched across the horizon.

The Makah tell of Cape Flattery being isolated by a rising sea.

The S’Klallam say they escaped by tying their canoes to tree tops then floating into the mountains. Archaeologists have confirmed these legends. Tse-whit-sen, a S’Klallam village in what is now Port Angeles, was struck by tsunamis every 300 years.

Geologists say there have been 41 subduction events on our coast in the last 10,000 years, occurring between 190 and 1200 years apart. The last one was in 1700.

The pressure of the Juan de Fuca Plate subsiding beneath the North American Plate has been building ever since then. Scientists are predicting about a 37 percent chance that a megathrust will occur in the next 50 years. This could result in an earthquake of over 7.1, with an estimated 2 to 4 minutes of shaking or rolling, along with an associated 100-foot tsunami hitting our coast in as little as 15 minutes later.

It is not a question of if, but when, the subduction event will happen again.

When it does, you want to be ready for it. That is the point of tomorrow’s Great Washington ShakeOut.

This is an annual event that happens every year on the third Thursday in October at 10:20 a.m. local time, when millions of people across Washington, and around the world, will participate in earthquake drills. The goal is to get people prepared for major earthquakes before, during and after they happen.

I know what you’re thinking. This has never happened in my lifetime and chances are I’ll be dead before it happens again. And you are probably right. But what if you’re wrong?

The Subduction Event will rock your world with sudden back and forth motions of several feet per second, causing the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you. Every object around you that isn’t nailed down could fall on top of you. What would you do?

That is the point of the Great ShakeOut. This year’s theme is “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”

If you feel the ground shaking, get down on your hands and knees before you are knocked down. Cover yourself with something like a table to protect against falling objects that are bound to go flying during the event and hold on until the shaking stops.

After the subduction event, it could be weeks before help arrives. You’ll want to be prepared with at least two weeks of supplies and an attitude that we’ve survived this before, we can survive it again.

 

How’s the Fishing?

“HOW’S THE FISHING?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I wouldn’t be slinging mud in the journalistic trenches as our nation’s only wilderness gossip columnist.

No, I would be jet-setting my way to where they actually had some fishing, South America. Thirty-some years ago, Chile took the eggs of our Washington state king salmon and turned them loose in two virgin rivers with no salmon.

The salmon thrived and spread to other rivers along 1,500 kilometers of coastline because, despite the fairy tale we are told here by the salmon mismanagers in Washington that salmon always return to the river where they were spawned, they actually stray to other rivers. That is how they repopulate rivers after natural disasters such as volcanoes. It happened in the Toutle River after the eruption of Mount St. Helens and to the rest of the Pacific Northwest after the last ice age.

Chile now has what is arguably the best king salmon fishing in the world.

Which begs the question: Why can’t we do that here and use our own native salmon brood stock to rebuild the runs of salmon in our rivers?

Follow the money.

Our salmon are worth more as an endangered species to the government agencies and their fellow travelers in environmental crime, the so-called “non-profit corporations” who make their fortunes off the massive slush fund known as the Salmon Restoration Industry.

They peddle a propaganda that the fish in each creek and river are a genetically-unique, threatened and/or endangered sub-species that cannot be compromised or enhanced through the introduction of spawning pairs of salmon or fertilized salmon eggs from other rivers into the barren spawning beds of our dead rivers.

Maintaining the myth that the fish in each river is genetically unique prevents responsible stewardship of the resource and endangers our salmon.

That’s because the more endangered our salmon become, the more money flows from the Endangered Species Act to the Salmon Restoration Industry. It is an industry with no cost-benefit analysis or oversight that would determine what, if any, benefit it has in restoring our salmon.

I can think of no finer example of this timeless observation than our own Dungeness River — where 30 years and millions of dollars of salmon restoration projects have only produced more threatened and/or endangered fish. But I digress.

How’s the fishing?

Right now, on our West End of the Olympic Peninsula rivers, the fishing is as good as it was in the good old days.

The salmon are running up out of tidewater in waves. And there’s absolutely no one out there fishing for them! It’s like a dream come true or an example of time travel except for one thing — the fishing season has been closed due to low water.

That came as a shock to almost no one after our river levels dropped lower than the lowest volume seen in the last 60 years of river monitoring. All of which begs the question I hear all of the time …

“When will the rivers come up?”

“When we get some rain.”

“When will that be?”

If I knew the answer to that question, a question that no one, not NOAA, NASA or the National Weather Service can answer with any reliability more than a couple of days in advance, would I be a humble fishing guide? Probably.

But seriously, the one thing we know for certain is that, eventually, it will rain. And when it does, chances are it will not stop until we are entirely sick of it.

Until then, enjoy the nice weather.

 

A Bee-utiful Autumn.

IF THE FEEDBACK from last week’s episode is any indication, we are having a “bee-utiful” autumn on the Olympic Peninsula. People are getting stung by bees all over the place.

By bees, we don’t mean our endangered honey bees or friendly bumble bees.

No, we are talking about wasps. Namely the black hornets and yellow jackets that are terrorizing the area about now.

The stories are remarkably similar in one regard. People are engaging in normal outdoor activities with a lack of caution and without the slightest notion that they could, at any time when they least expect it, be subjected to a highly organized system of extreme revenge — carried out by creatures whose intelligence, social order and weapons systems are able to make people run away screaming while trying to rip off their clothes to dislodge the stinging insects that have burrowed in to strike where the hide is the thinnest.

You may be picking berries, having a picnic or opening the hood of an automobile you haven’t started for a year or two.

Or you could be like me, up on a ladder painting the house when a yellow jacket nest I previously pumped five cans of bug death into comes alive and tells you they don’t like the color in a way you will never forget.

One of my more dramatic bee attacks occurred while throwing a stick in the river for the dog to fetch. She came back being chased by a swarm of hornets.

Naturally, she ran straight to her human for comfort since one of the hornets had crawled into her eye socket.

The various details of bee attacks and the related human and brute sufferings are legion.

They are as varied as the treatments people have suggested for dealing with the painful stings which include, but are not limited to, mud, meat tenderizer, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, ice and not getting stung in the first place.

Not being a doctor, I cannot give out medical advice.

That’s really too bad because I was almost a doctor except for one small detail, the fourth grade. That’s when they came out with the new math.

They said pie are square but any idiot knows pie is round.

It’s all part of the brainwash education our nation’s youth was subjected to in the dark past of our nation’s school system. But I digress.

I use a topical Benadryl solution on bee stings. It seems to work reducing pain, swelling and the infernal itch.

Fortunately, we only have a few more weeks of bee season until the demons die or hibernate, but this is the most likely time to get stung.

My favorite bee attack was far away and long ago, 50 years or more — before the recent plate tectonics uplifted the Olympic Mountains, making them so much steeper than they were in my youth.

Nowadays, even the flat sections of the wilderness trails seem longer than they used to be.

We were camping in a cave in a blizzard in the high country. You would think the hornets would hunker down in a blizzard, but you would be wrong.

We were snapping off branches to make a bough bed, something you’d never do in these days of the leave-no-trace ethic, but this was the last century.

The boughs were full of hibernating bees.

Once asleep, our body heat woke the bees up, so they crawled in our bags for a midnight surprise.

It was a bad time to lose the flashlight.

That was a painful sunrise.

I hate bees.

Bees!

Thank you for reading this. Sometimes, I think if you didn’t read this, no one would. But you do.

A sharp-eyed reader suggested that, in last week’s column about cutting firewood, I neglected to mention one of the most notorious dangers in the woods — bees!

We’re not talking about honeybees. There is no honey in hornet nests. Just more hornets!

We call them bees because that’s what we scream when black hornets and yellow jackets attack.

The Olympic Peninsula is fortunate not to have a lot of the other annoying pests that plague some parts of our country. We have no rattlesnakes. We have no grizzlies. Nationwide, however, bald-faced hornets and yellow jackets are more dangerous, in terms of human fatalities from anaphylactic shock, than all the rattlers and grizzlies put together.

It all started last spring, when the solitary queen wasp emerged from hibernation and started building her paper nest out of chewed up wood and saliva.

She was a shy and lonely vegetarian pollinator, subsisting on a diet of nectar from the huckleberry blossoms. Her nest started out about the size of a golf ball.

These small nests are easy prey for the blue jays that peck the middle out of the nest to get the tasty larvae growing inside. Bears also feed on wasp nests, but generally in the fall of the year when there are enough grubs to make a meal.

There could be a tougher way to make a living than eating hornet nests, but I am not sure what that would be. If you hate hornets and yellow jackets as much as I do, blue jays and bears are your friends.

As the wasps hatch, a new generation of workers emerges from the nest. Some chew up wood to enlarge the nest. Others kill bugs or gather carrion to feed the hatching larvae that are metamorphosing into pupae and flying adults.

All the while, the queen lays eggs to enlarge the swarm.

At this point, a word of sympathy might be in order for the wasps. Hornets and yellow jackets do a good job getting rid of garden pests, but we generally don’t care once we get a bee sting.

Along about midsummer, the nest was the size of a baseball. The hornets became more aggressive.

Hitting the nest with a lawnmower, or some other noisy power toy, causes the hornets to release an attack pheromone that activates the swarm like a 9-1-1 call. It puts them into an attack mode that is unforgettable to those unfortunate enough to experience it.

As autumn approaches, the nest can be the size of a watermelon, with hundreds of bees coming and going.

As the worker bees feed the larvae, the larvae feed the bees a sugary excrement in exchange.

As the days shorten and autumn approaches, the larvae pupate, depriving the worker bees of their food.

Right about now, the hornets and yellow jackets are hungry and looking for sweets. That’s why they attack honey bee nests, picnics and anything else with sugar content.

Not only are the bees hungry, the male wasps know they are destined to mate and die. That’s seems to make them meaner, attacking without warning after even the slightest provocation — like rolling a chunk of firewood on top of their nest.

Experts advise to remain calm during a hornet or yellow jacket attack.

I have never seen that done.

The best you can do is to avoid wearing brightly colored clothing in the woods and watch your step.

It’s all part of the fun of cutting firewood or doing anything else outdoors this time of year.

 

Fall Sports

AUTUMN MUST BE my favorite time of year. It’s all about the sports. Baseball is building tension as we head toward the World Series. The football season kicked off the long, hard road to the Super Bowl.

In addition, we are into the middle of the most rugged of all contact sports, cutting firewood.

The Olympic Peninsula offers some world-class firewood cutting opportunities where the roar of the saw, the aroma of fresh pitch and the ache in the lower back takes us back to an earlier, simpler time when loggers ruled the earth.

Whoever said cutting firewood warms you twice, once in the cutting and once in the burning, was a real greenhorn. Cutting firewood warms you in more ways than you can shake a stick at.

First, you must start your chain saw, if you have one.

There’s nothing like jerking a pull cord on a chainsaw to warm you up.

After five or 10 minutes, you may want to check for fuel.

Got gas? Then you may have to get creative.

Take out the spark plug and give it a few pulls. Put the spark plug back in. Continue pulling. Drag the saw back to the road. Tangle in a mess of blackberry vines. Step into a mountain beaver hole and go down in a pile of limbs. Land where a hidden stump catches you in the swimsuit area.

You should be plenty warm by now.

This is before you have cut even a single stick of firewood. It’s once you get your chainsaw started that the real fun starts.

It is important to read all safety instructions when operating a chainsaw — especially the ones that mention injury, dismemberment and death.

There are generally three types of firewood on the Peninsula to choose from. It’s either in the road, above the road or below the road.

Firewood in the road would be our first choice, but you may have to look above the road where gravity is your friend.

Rolling rounds of firewood down a hill is one of the more traditional outdoor sports.

Watching with childlike wonder as the wooden wheel bounces down the hill, gathering speed until it slams into the side of your truck is one of the greatest thrills of nature.

Often a few raps with some common firewood cutting tools, such as a splitting maul or an ax, can easily repair minor damage and restore the truck’s showroom finish. Then again, if you were worried about how your truck looked, you wouldn’t be using it haul firewood in the first place.

More extensive damage to your vehicle, such as a fender bashed against a wheel that prevents it from turning, can often be fixed with the aid of a peavy. This is a logger’s torture device that can serve as an all-around automotive repair tool, combining a medieval pike with a wicked hook near the end that can be used to pry most anything apart, once you get a hold of it.

Splitting, loading, unloading and stacking the wood to dry allows you to become intimately familiar with each piece until you could almost name them all.

These are often bad names — given after you bark your shin, smash your foot or pull a splinter the size of a shingle bolt out of your hand.

Toughen up. Cutting firewood is a contact sport.

It is all worthwhile at the end of the day, when you have your first chimney fire.

This is yet another one of the many ways that firewood can warm you up.

 

Disaster Preparedness Month

SEPTEMBER IS NATIONAL Disaster Preparedness Month. It’s time to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies.

As you read this, the forests of the Olympic Peninsula have been dehydrated by an east wind that could spawn a conflagration of epic proportions. It’s happened before. Chances are it will happen again.

As you read this, massive tectonic plates deep beneath the ocean are grinding against each other just offshore in the Cascadia Subduction zone.

It’s just waiting for a chance to slip and cause an earthquake that could be of magnitude 8 or 9, like those off Indonesia in 2004 and Japan in 2011, producing a tsunami of unknown height and speed that could slam into our coastline as little as 15 minutes later.

The destructive effects of a subduction event could destroy nearly every structure and road on the Peninsula. It’s happened before. It will happen again.

Scientists have estimated more than 40 earthquakes greater than magnitude 8 have occurred here in the last 10,000 years. The last one was Jan. 27, 1700. Our population and infrastructure have increased since then.

The carnage and destruction of another Cascadia event would be an unimaginable disaster that could leave the area without transportation, utilities, food supplies or medical care for months.

As you read this, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters are predicting a three-peat of La Nina, which is a cooling of the Pacific Ocean which can bring the Pacific Northwest below-average temperatures and above-average precipitation this coming winter. In other words, get out your long johns.

Besides finding your underwear, there are many other disaster preparedness plans.

  1. Panic. Experts are always telling us not to panic. It’s bad advice. I say panic early and often. It’s never too early to panic. Panic is your friend. Practice panicking now before the disaster hits. Maybe you’ll panic enough to check your smoke detector, get a fire extinguisher and a Disaster Preparedness Kit. It’s a good excuse to hoard extra food, water and batteries for all your electronic junk.
  2. Migrate. Millions of birds are beginning their migration down our Pacific coast from the Arctic tundra to the tropics. Get a clue. One of the best ways to avoid a disaster here is to leave home and head south. Problem solved.
  3. Bulk up.Here is another tip we can take from our animal friends, many of whom are incapable of migrating south. Bears, for example, spend the summer and autumn putting on fat to adapt to the colder winter weather. In addition to the survival benefits of having an increased blubber index, the larger you are, the more likely you will be seen by would-be rescuers when disaster strikes.
  4. Grow your hair longer. In addition to blubber, many creatures grow a thicker coat of fur in the winter. Longer hair will not only keep you warmer, it will save you money on haircuts.
  5. Hibernate. I’m not saying that everyone can attain a state of true hibernation, like our iconic Olympic marmots or members of Congress, but you don’t know until you try. Hibernation is an inexpensive expedient to disaster preparedness that will not increase your carbon footprint.
  6. Contact your neighbors.A good neighbor will loan you stuff. Find out what to borrow from your neighbors now, before disaster strikes. By then, it will probably be too late.

These are just a few of the many things you can do for Disaster Preparedness Month, besides finding your underwear. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.