October Fishing Madness.

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news.

An invasion of desperate anglers spread quickly across the Olympic Peninsula from the Dungeness River, west to the Quileute, then south to the Humptulips and every river in-between.

Tourists have been coming here for salmon ever since July 1790, when the old Spanish Sea Captain Manuel Quimper purchased some 100-pound salmon from the Klallam somewhere off the mouth of the Elwha River.

These 100-pound salmon have probably been extinct for about 100 years or more, but the tourists don’t care. They still come here trying to catch one.

No one in recent history has witnessed such crowded conditions on our waters.

The rivers and the roads leading to them were in a state of gridlock.

Boat launches were plugged with people who obviously did not back up with a boat trailer more than once a year, resulting in a round of pungent witticisms from the crowd as the rush of visitors attempted to fish in the solitude that they, and flocks of their fellow anglers, came here to discover and enjoy.

In the old days, we used to say that, when the rivers got crowded with people, you would have to bring your own rock to stand on if you wanted a place to fish, but no more. Putting a rock in or along the river is probably illegal these days. You may want to check what the current fishing regulations say about moving rocks before possibly incurring a criminal record. You may require an attorney to understand the Washington fishing laws. If you cannot afford an attorney, you probably can’t afford fishing.

Although, financial considerations often go out the window when it comes to fishing these days.

This is not a cane pole, safety pin for a hook and a worm for bait kind of fishing.

Fishing poles are now called rods that can cost many hundreds of dollars.

Fishing lures come in a dizzying variety of types and sizes that cost at least $5 or more.

At some of the more popular fishing holes, the tree limbs are festooned with a festive display of lures that make you wonder if some people are fishing for squirrels.

Fish don’t usually get up in the tree limbs until the water is higher.

People who fish for salmon don’t care how much it costs.

It’s like we say on the river, “One man’s hoarding disorder is another’s tackle collection.”

We figure whoever dies with the biggest tackle box wins.

River boats can cost many thousands of dollars, even though internal-combustion motors are illegal on our rivers.

It doesn’t matter.

Even without a motor, it is possible to pump a small fortune into the hole in the water also known as a boat. A heated pole-holder alone can cost many thousands of dollars.

Still, there are times in the murk of morning fog, beneath the dim shape of the overhanging rain forest, that the magic happens.

The rod goes down. The line peels out.

There is something big on the other end.

It’s moving downstream like it’s going to swim back out to the ocean. We pull the anchor to chase it down and try to pull it in.

Is it a hundred-pound salmon brought back from the brink of extinction? No.

It turns out to be a black plastic garbage sack full of water.

They can put up quite a fight if you snag them just right.

Maybe we didn’t catch a salmon, but we did our small part to clean up the river.

Fish on!

A Star is Born.

IT WAS GOING to be one of those days when anything could happen.

I was embarking on a new reality television career.

My agent said it was a part that would give me more exposure and expand my career into limitless horizons.

There was almost no doubt the money, fame and tax shelters would soon follow. Not to mention the fine-tuned sense of revenge on the Cretans who said I would never make it in show business.

Still, it was humbling just to be offered a chance to be part of a new television series that would revolutionize our modern entertainment experience.

For far too long, watching television has been a harrowing experience of shock and horror.

Our senses have been overwhelmed with screen images filled with violent, senseless examples of a divided culture in a final state of decline, disruption and decadence that reminds one of the fall of the Roman Empire with smartphones — and that’s just the evening news.

The rest of the TV lineup is worse than that.

And here I was being offered a chance to change television as we know it.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to introduce to American audiences an educational, inspirational and uplifting viewing experience that would provide a shining beacon to humanity.

Well, forget the fame and fortune. It was enough to help others with a strong story line and a happy ending.

Excited beyond words, I began prepping for the audition.

It was a harrowing experience not unlike what we professional actors call method acting. That’s where the actor attempts to perform a sincere and emotionally expressive performance by fully inhabiting the role of the character.

Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman are all method actors, and I figured anything they could do, I could do better.

Truly inhabiting the character in this new reality show seemed to take forever, but it was necessary to get into the flow of the story.

I began prepping the day before the audition by drinking a gallon or so of a certain beverage.

In the interest of full-disclosure let me just say, I did require drugs to fully get into character, but these were not recreational pharmaceuticals, no.

Just a certain tonic to get my body to perform.

Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to meet the director’s bizarre demands, and if that’s what it takes, we method actors do what we have to do to practice our craft and get the part.

I had a lot riding on my new career.

Failure was not an option because if I blew it, I would have to endure a second audition.

After I was sufficiently prepared, I checked into the luxury suites at the Olympic Medical Center.

This was the secret location for the new reality show, “Colonoscopy with the Stars,” where each week some of the biggest colons in show business will drop by for a video tour of their colons.

Then, a panel of judges, audience members and all the folks at home will match the mystery colons to the stars for cash and prizes.

“Colonoscopy with the Stars” is diagnostic and therapeutic.

It could help you avoid the fate of 50,000 Americans who die from colorectal cancer every year.

I knew I had to get my colonoscopy first before all the other show business weasels horned in on my idea.

At one point, things got very sleepy.

I went away to a happy place and came back again with a pristine colon. And that is how a star is born.

Dogs I Have Known.

OFTEN ALONG ABOUT this time of year I get to thinking about my old hunting dogs.

There was Finn the Irish Wolfhound who liked to chase coyotes.

There was Boone the Basset Hound who liked to chase anything. He even got picked up by the Game Warden for chasing deer. He brought Boone back home because a Basset Hound just isn’t going to chase a deer very far. In fact, Boone wasn’t all that great of an all-around hunting dog anyway. He hated water or even getting his feet wet, and he never retrieved anything he didn’t eat first.

So, if you were planning on a Sunday chicken dinner using a grouse you just shot, you had better get to the bird before Boone did.

Then there was George, a five-dollar terrier-spaniel mutt that was like the Tasmanian Devil on steroids. By the time George retrieved a bird it was tenderized.

So, once again, if you planned on sharing the coveted game bird in a sumptuous repast with family and friends, you had best get to it before George did.

Then there was Bert the Airedale. Bert wasn’t much of a hunting dog, but it didn’t matter.

Whoever thought up the term “heart wrapped in fur” might well have been referring to the Airedale.

Being with Bert in the woods was like having a seeing-eye dog or, more precisely, a smelling-nose dog.

This country is so brushy it’s hard to see anything. And since a human’s nose isn’t near as sharp as a dog’s, they can tell you what they are smelling long before you can get a whiff. Bert could anyway.

You could tell what Bert was smelling by the way he growled.

He had a different growl for cougar or bear. Another growl for deer and elk, and yet another quiet growl if there were other humans about.

With Bert by your side, you could tell what was in the vicinity long before you saw it.

Maybe I don’t have a dog now because it’s just too hard to lose them.

You can sugarcoat it any way you want and figure that humans generally live longer than dogs, so we can have a lot of them in our lives, but that does us no darned good when we lose another one like Maisy.

She was just another chocolate lab in a fish camp when I met her.

I knew something was terribly wrong with her.

Labrador retrievers usually bark at you just as a sort of introduction and as a way to get you to throw them a stick or a ball — not Maisy.

She was curled up on her bed looking at the floor.

Was she sick? Did she eat a spawned-out salmon? That can make some dogs very sick, but no, Maisy had just spoken to her humans, the girls back home, on the telephone.

After the call she collapsed on her pet pillow in a fit of despair.

And why not? Here she was stranded hundreds of miles from home in a fish camp full of humans smelling like fish instead of ducks and geese.

Maisy hated fish and fishing. She wanted to go hunting.

I’ll never forget the look she gave us one afternoon as we were reeling in fish after fish.

Maisy sulked in the back of the boat. A huge flock of geese flew over.

She looked at the geese and looked at us with an expression of pure disgust.

Now she is gone to that great flyway in the sky, and we will all miss her.

A Modest Fish Proposal.

THANK YOU FOR reading this.

Sometimes it seems if you didn’t read this, no one would. But you do. You ask questions like, what can be done to restore the Olympic Peninsula’s legendary salmon runs?

As previously mentioned, in the last 20 years we have spent over a billion dollars on salmon restoration in Washington state.

Restoration efforts typically include but are not limited to buying property from willing sellers, spraying herbicides on invasive weeds and building log jams, with no corresponding increase in fish populations.

Meanwhile, the orca are starving for a lack of salmon and our watersheds are starving for the most important element in the temperate rainforest ecosystem, the carcasses of spawned-out salmon. Our salmon have been managed like a garden that is continually harvested but seldom planted.

Maybe if we look back in history, we could learn a thing or two about how the old-timers helped the salmon.

It was known that Native Americans planted salmon eggs in the gravel of streams with no salmon.

This method is currently being used in Maine by the Penobscot Indian Nation to restore Atlantic Salmon.

Sounds pretty simple.

Why can’t we plant salmon eggs in dead creeks here on the Olympic Peninsula? Someone already did.

Missy Barlow, grand-daughter of John Huelsdonk, the Iron Man of the Hoh, was a natural historian with a lifetime of knowledge gained from homesteading at Oil City, at the mouth of the Hoh River.

She was an artist whose work reflected her love of children, cats and the Hoh River country.

Missy had her own method of salmon restoration that might sound familiar to some.

While raising her children on the banks of the Hoh River, she started a 4-H project with some local students.

They hatched salmon and steelhead eggs in Fossil Creek, a small tributary of the lower Hoh River.

“We wanted good fisheries science,” Barlow said in an interview before she passed.

Science is something Missy Barlow would know something about, having a degree in botany from the University of Washington. But she had more than science to guide her restoration efforts.

It was a something that would be considered a rare commodity in our modern world, common sense.

It was this home-grown instinct of responsible stewardship of the land that told her that if there weren’t any salmon in the creek, you put salmon in the creek.

It was as simple as that.

Barlow bought salmon from the Hoh Tribal fishermen.

The 4-H’ers mixed the eggs and milt from the fish in a bucket, let it stand for an hour, then set the eggs into baskets with a slow stream of water running through them.

In a couple of months, the eggs were “eyed out,” that is, almost starting to look like fish.

When their egg sacks were absorbed, the 4-H’ers took the baby fish out to local streams and released them.

The baby 4-H fish acted just like the wild fish. They were wild fish, spawned from fish that swam up the Hoh River.

The baby fish were imprinted to survive a life in the wild.

Shoals of salmon and steelhead returned to the creeks where they had been hatched.

I told Missy that would never work these days.

With no helicopters, excavators or consultants to hire or herbicides to spray, planting fish eggs in creeks wouldn’t cost enough money for the government to even bother with.

Remote-site incubators are a low-budget, low-tech solution that could bring our salmon back — but the fish are worth more as an endangered species, so we won’t even try it.

An Old Fish Story.

IT CAN BE educational to look back at the history of the Olympic Peninsula and realize how much things have changed.

One of the most vivid accounts of what was once known as “The Last Frontier” comes from Pvt. Harry Fisher, a member of the 1890 O’Neil Expedition which set out to explore and map Terra Incognita, the rugged mountains between Hood Canal and Quinault.

O’Neil sent four men from the expedition to map Mount Olympus, which three of the men climbed, on Sept. 22.

A fourth, Pvt. Harry Fisher, got lost and separated from the group.

He decided to head west alone down what would later be determined to be the Queets River.

His supplies consisted of flour, bacon, bear fat and some salt. He also had a knife and 36 rounds for his revolver.

Fisher cooked grouse in bear fat, finding it surprisingly good and after spearing a salmon, he declared it better than bear or dog meat.

Fisher reported that sleeping along the Queets was like “a camp in Barnum’s Menagerie as far as sleep was concerned.”

Between the thrashing of the salmon in the river and the breaking of brush by the large animals hunting the salmon, he had a hard time sleeping.

On Sept 26, Pvt. Fisher was hailed by an Indian who was also named Fisher.

He offered the private a canoe ride downriver.

Fisher described the Native American method of taking salmon — how his friend could nail a salmon 20 or 30 feet away with a forked spear. When his host had speared six large salmon, he quit fishing. Fisher describes his “staunch friend” watching the many splashing salmon with “pride, as a farmer would his cattle.”

A recent float down the Queets River revealed a far different world than the one described by Fisher.

There are no homesteads or fish-drying racks.

There are no V-shaped ripples in water 4-feet deep, made by giant king salmon swimming upriver in uncounted hordes.

You have to wonder how, in a few short years, our rivers could be fished to extinction.

It might have something to do with a Native American legend about where the salmon came from in the first place.

It was believed the salmon came from a big house at the bottom of the ocean where they lived in human form.

When it was time for the run, they put on salmon robes.

The salmon runs were a voluntary sacrifice for mankind, the animals and the forest.

As long as the salmon were treated with honor, their bones washed and returned to the river, the fish would run forever.

To say we do not treat our salmon with honor these days is an understatement.

Instead of treating our salmon with honor, we treat them like a crop picked from a garden that we don’t plant.

Predictably, the harvest has gotten smaller.

We have not allowed enough spawners up the rivers to fulfill their role as the most important part of the ecosystem by feeding the watershed with their bodies.

Our rivers used to stink with dead salmon during the fall run.

In the last few years, our rivers have become sterile and silent.

The fish have become threatened or endangered.

In the last 20 years, the Salmon Restoration Industry has spent somewhere over a billion dollars attempting to rescue 15 endangered steelhead and salmon populations in the Puget Sound Region, with no corresponding increase in fish populations.

Still, we continue these same vain efforts.

Einstein said repeating the same failed experiment was the definition of insanity.

Today, we call it salmon management.

An Old Fish Story.

IT CAN BE educational to look back at the history of the Olympic Peninsula and realize how much things have changed.

One of the most vivid accounts of what was once known as “The Last Frontier” comes from Pvt. Harry Fisher, a member of the 1890 O’Neil Expedition which set out to explore and map Terra Incognita, the rugged mountains between Hood Canal and Quinault.

O’Neil sent four men from the expedition to map Mount Olympus, which three of the men climbed, on Sept. 22.

A fourth, Pvt. Harry Fisher, got lost and separated from the group.

He decided to head west alone down what would later be determined to be the Queets River.

His supplies consisted of flour, bacon, bear fat and some salt. He also had a knife and 36 rounds for his revolver.

Fisher cooked grouse in bear fat, finding it surprisingly good and after spearing a salmon, he declared it better than bear or dog meat.

Fisher reported that sleeping along the Queets was like “a camp in Barnum’s Menagerie as far as sleep was concerned.”

Between the thrashing of the salmon in the river and the breaking of brush by the large animals hunting the salmon, he had a hard time sleeping.

On Sept 26, Pvt. Fisher was hailed by an Indian who was also named Fisher.

He offered the private a canoe ride downriver.

Fisher described the Native American method of taking salmon — how his friend could nail a salmon 20 or 30 feet away with a forked spear. When his host had speared six large salmon, he quit fishing. Fisher describes his “staunch friend” watching the many splashing salmon with “pride, as a farmer would his cattle.”

A recent float down the Queets River revealed a far different world than the one described by Fisher.

There are no homesteads or fish-drying racks.

There are no V-shaped ripples in water 4-feet deep, made by giant king salmon swimming upriver in uncounted hordes.

You have to wonder how, in a few short years, our rivers could be fished to extinction.

It might have something to do with a Native American legend about where the salmon came from in the first place.

It was believed the salmon came from a big house at the bottom of the ocean where they lived in human form.

When it was time for the run, they put on salmon robes.

The salmon runs were a voluntary sacrifice for mankind, the animals and the forest.

As long as the salmon were treated with honor, their bones washed and returned to the river, the fish would run forever.

To say we do not treat our salmon with honor these days is an understatement.

Instead of treating our salmon with honor, we treat them like a crop picked from a garden that we don’t plant.

Predictably, the harvest has gotten smaller.

We have not allowed enough spawners up the rivers to fulfill their role as the most important part of the ecosystem by feeding the watershed with their bodies.

Our rivers used to stink with dead salmon during the fall run.

In the last few years, our rivers have become sterile and silent.

The fish have become threatened or endangered.

In the last 20 years, the Salmon Restoration Industry has spent somewhere over a billion dollars attempting to rescue 15 endangered steelhead and salmon populations in the Puget Sound Region, with no corresponding increase in fish populations.

Still, we continue these same vain efforts.

Einstein said repeating the same failed experiment was the definition of insanity.

Today, we call it salmon management.

Living in a Smokehouse.

This week has been like living in a smokehouse with swirling masses of smoke blowing in from every direction. We are reminded of the value of what we take for granted, clean air. People wonder if things have ever been this bad. A short look back into history will tell us things have been this bad and a lot worse.

All you have to do is look at a map and notice names like Burnt Hill, Burnt Mountain, Mt. Baldy and Baldy Ridge or look at some of the old photographs of the mountains above Sequim and Port Angeles with the bare hills in the background to know that almost all of the Olympic Peninsula has been burned at one time or another.

Native Americans traditions confirm this theory with legends of fires sweeping across the entire region. These fires may be connected to the Medieval Warm Period between 900 and 1300 AD when global temperatures were warmer than the present.

The arrival of the Europeans caused still more fires. In 1868 smoke from forest fires was so thick that sailing ships in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound had to navigate by compass. One captain gave up and anchored in the smoke reporting that dead birds fell by the hundreds around the ship.

The early homesteaders looked upon the forests as weeds that got in the way of agriculture. They used fires to clear their stump ranches and fires got away.

The book, “Dungeness, the Lure of the River,” describes a Happy Valley feud in the 1870’s where one neighbor tried to burn out another by starting a forest fire. The wind shifted and the fire burned south. That’s how Burnt Hill got its name. The fire traveled west across Blue Mountain to Mount Angeles.   

September 12, 1902 saw the smokiest day on record when homesteaders on the Queets and Hoh Rivers noticed that the sky got so dark the chickens went back to the roost shortly after sunrise. This was caused by a cloud of smoke and ash coming from the Yacolt burn on the Lewis River in Clark county. The smoke from the Yacolt Burn was so thick in Seattle the streetlights came on at noon. One theory claimed the fire was started by some boys trying to burn up a hornet’s nest down in Oregon. The fire jumped the Columbia River travelling 30 miles in 36 hours. 38 people died in the fire.

In 1907 a rotten log that had been smoldering just west of Lake Crescent burst into flames with a strong east wind burning 12,000 acres. The burn was replanted by 1910 only to be burned again in 1926 when a passing motorist tossed a cigarette out the window and started another fire.

That’s nothing compared to the Forks Fire of September 1951 when another east wind fanned another smoldering log into another fire that burned 30,000 acres and almost incinerated Forks.

After the fire, roads were built through the Forks burn for timber salvage and fire protection. Unfortunately, instead of maintaining our forest access roads for fire protection and recreation many have been removed as an excuse for salmon restoration. Building the forest roads caused erosion but taking them out causes still more erosion. Erosion from roads is bad but erosion and collateral damage from forest fires is worse.

When and not if we have another fire, these roads would have been a valuable asset to fire fighters. With forest access roads eliminated we have one less tool to fight forest fires. Which could prove things can always be worse.

The Love Boat


And so, another tourist season passes astern. This year’s tourist season has been a record setting invasion that’s caused miles-long traffic jams to get on the ferries. Olympic National Park was packed with people. They closed Lake Cushman. There were hour-long waits to go to Hurricane Ridge and get into the Hoh Rain Forest.

The tourists were rarin’ to get out and go anywhere after being cooped up in quarantine for months. Anywhere that is within the confines of our borders. Americans are not welcome in other countries. We cannot even escape to Canada. The tourists panicked with their new found freedom. They got lost, fell off rocks and someone started a forest fire keeping our wild land’s emergency responders hopping all summer.

This summer, it was tougher than ever to get away from it all. We weren’t going to raft at all this year but then the Covid 19 restrictions lessened to phase two and every other raft company in the country was doing it so we did it to.

That meant there could be no mixing of groups of rafters in the raft or shuttle van with sanitizing all equipment between each use and using gloves and masks where appropriate. There’s been a lot of controversy about wearing masks. Some folks would rather pack a pistol than wear a mask and that is their Constitutional right as Americans and another reason why, with only 4% of the world’s population we have 25% of the world’s Covid 19 deaths.

Internet rumors hint that masks can endanger the wearer with sickness or even death which would be news to doctors, nurses, dentists and other health care workers who spend their entire careers wearing masks.

Sure, masks are a hassle but so is intubation. They say you can’t exercise with a mask on and that may be true. I can only row 18 miles a day down the river while wearing a mask but that’s far enough for me. I tend to look on the bright side. They say you can tell if a guide is lying if his lips are moving. When you’re wearing a mask it almost isn’t fair. Wearing a mask, it’s possible to spawn any half-baked fable you can dream up and the tourists will suck it up like the Gospel truth.

The crowds and the traffic did not improve anyone’s temper. The tourists were tired, hot and cranky. Then they got in the raft. Most enjoyed the scenic tour through a rainforest canyon while watching elk, bear, otters and eagles beneath a canopy of giant trees. Unless they were American teenagers.

The American teenager and children in general have little inclination to enjoy a nature experience that does not involve a video game. Faced with the prospect of a two hour raft trip, they invariably claim to suffer from a variety of physical maladies and chronic pain issues with bad backs, arms, necks and legs. The symptoms of which they freely share throughout the trip to which I respond,

“Wait till you’re my age.”

These pampered, (American) children sit in the raft like they are going to the dentist while mommy and daddy ask them if they are ok every thirty seconds, offering drinks and snacks or to put on or take off their hat or coat or sunglasses or sunscreen.

The parents only want the child to smile for a picture for a memory of a family vacation where they spent thousands on plane tickets, rental cars, RV’s, hotels, motels, meals, souvenirs and yes, raft trips but no, the kid refuses to smile for a picture.

Then there are other days. The ones we will remember all winter. We watch the mood of the river change with the passing of the seasons. Every day brings a new hint of fall with random patches of red and orange vine maples splashed across hillsides that echo the bugling elk. A quiet young couple sat in the front of the raft. While we were watching an eagle circling far above another eagle caught a fish in the river just downstream and landed on a log on the shore to eat it. I said we’re just going to sit and watch the eagle eat the fish if they didn’t have anything better to do. They didn’t.

They put down their paddles and sat together in the center of the raft. He gave her something and she started crying. Then she said yes and he started crying. Things were getting weird so I asked them what the heck was going on up there.

He said he asked her to marry him and she said yes so, I started crying. I told them that by the powers vested in me as captain of the ship I could get them hitched right then and there but they were going to plan a big family wedding back home.

So, I started singing the theme from the Love Boat and rowed them down the river. It was the best raft trip this summer.

Migrants.

There are few birds more annoying to watch than the common nighthawk. This nocturnal member of the goatsucker family seems incapable of flying in a straight line for more than a few feet before spiraling up and diving down in a short looping flight pattern that can make a even a casual observer dizzy if you watch them long enough.

Of course, the nighthawk has a good excuse for flying like someone who has no motor control. They are hunting insects which seldom fly in a straight line either. The only thing worse than watching a single nighthawk is to watch a large flock of these nocturnal insectivores competing for the same air space. You wait for the inevitable high-speed collision of these feathered boomerangs but it never happens. Often while watching nighthawks you’ll hear a buzzing sound, not unlike a car hitting the rumble strip on a distant highway. It is in fact a sound produced by the wing feathers as the bird pulls out of a vertical suicide dive and heads up for another go round. Thankfully, the nighthawks are only here for a few short summer months before flying to South America for the winter.

The only thing worse than watching nighthawks is to observe the swift in flight. The swift is like a stealth version of the swallow with a forked tail and swept back wings that make it one of the fastest flying birds we have. Clocked at over one hundred miles per hour it must be a very short flight from here to their wintering grounds in the Amazon Basin of South America.

You’ll discover what an annoying pest the swift can be when they take up residence in your chimney where the roar of their wings will make you think you’re having a chimney fire when there is no fire in the stove. Fortunately these foreign visitors seem to have abandoned our skies somewhat earlier than normal this year.

Unfortunately, the absence of these annoying birds heralds the arrival of other migrants from the north whose appearance is not a good thing. Sandpipers are a small, drab, nervous shore bird that include a motley collection of twenty some species which often appear so similar that only a so-called bird-watching expert will bother to tell them apart.

All members of the sandpiper family share a similar pointed beak which they use to probe the shoreline for a disgusting array of gooey invertebrates on which they feed. Sandpipers are among our earliest migrating birds, moving along the coast and gathering in vast flocks that can have the disturbing appearance of an amoeba in the sky.

The arrival of the sandpiper is soon followed by that most beautiful of ducks, the Northern Pintail. Slender, elegant and colorful, the pintail is has been called the “greyhound of the skies” because of the speed at which it flies. Then again the pintail could be compared to a greyhound because it tastes like dog meat when cooked. That is just a theory. All we know for sure is the pintail is one of the earliest migrants to the Peninsula. Flying from the Arctic Ocean to as far south as Central America the sight of the first pintail is a good sign something bad is about to happen.

The fog which normally blankets the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the fall has hung around for half the summer. The spiders are numerous and moving indoors. The corn husks are extra thick. This is all evidence to the fact that an early winter will be dark, wet and cold.

The Bucket List.

Bucket list. It’s hard to think of a more frightening concept for our senior citizens. The phrase comes from a 2007 movie where the rich Jack Nicholson and the economically challenged Morgan Freeman meet each other in a hospital where they are both being treated for terminal cancer.

The movie soon deteriorates into an ego-fueled fantasy where the two decide to embark on a whirlwind around the world journey to do everything they ever wanted to do before they “kick the bucket.” This was a very popular movie. The bucket list is a concept that fostered the idea that people can live their entire lives putting off the things they want to do then make up for it all later if they have the money and the time.

Sadly, people with money seldom have time. Conversely, people with time seldom have money. People with no time or money, a group which most of us fall into, have little chance of gratifying whatever illusory whims we think will make our life worthwhile in the end.  

More often than not, this is simply not possible. For example, I used to enjoy backpacking into the Olympic Mountains. Backpacking could be considered a form of torture outlawed by the Geneva Convention if not for the fact that it is self-inflicted. We enjoyed this outdoor activity anyway. Lately however we’ve noticed that with the effects of plate tectonics and continental drift these mountains have been rising higher. In fact, the Olympics are much higher and steeper than when we used to climb them as kids. Even the flat spots seem to have gotten further apart for some reason. So, I don’t go backpacking anymore.

Instead I help others fulfill their life goals with an empathetic sensibility to their physical limitations. If you can fake that you may have a future in the tourist industry.

As a fishing and rafting guide, I have taken many people fishing and rafting that have no business getting into a fishing boat or a raft with sometimes disastrous results. There was the guy who burst his colostomy bag on a fishing trip on a hot summer day. That was an epic day on the water.

Then there was the lady who had a broken arm in a cast. She wanted to paddle a raft down the river. And you know what? She did. It’s called dealing with the public. If we only took people who were physically and mentally fit, who had a good attitude and an appreciation of the effort it takes to provide recreational activities, we would seldom be employed.

Then there was the lady who was recovering from back surgery who wanted to go white water rafting. I congratulated the lady for her successful operation and observed that she must have endured intense suffering for years.

She said yes, that the pain was unimaginable but, I know back pain and what it’s like to lay on the floor for three days unable to get up and we agreed. I said the operation must have been very expensive and she said yes it was over a hundred thousand dollars and her insurance wouldn’t pay for all of it.

I wondered why, after enduring all of the physical and financial pain and suffering, she would risk it all to go rafting. It was the bucket list thing, an unrealistic expectation. When it comes to bucket lists, the sooner you realize your expectations are unrealistic the better. Don’t wait till the end to do what you want. Make your life your bucket list. I talked her out of rafting.