Who Owns the River: An Apology.

It was wrong to say in a recent column that bureaucrats, biologists and the bull trout owned the Hoh River.

In my own defense, there’s no way you can be an unbiased witness to a crime scene when you are too emotionally involved with the victim of the crime.

Make no mistake, the Hoh River is a victim of the gross mismanagement that can only be described as a crime against nature.

With the elimination of the salmon runs, we have stopped the massive exchange of energy from the ocean to the mountains and back that the salmon represent.

Salmon die after they spawn.

Their carcasses once littered the forest floor, nurturing everything from the tiniest bug to the largest trees in a cycle of renewal that operated since the ice age. We killed it.

The simple fact is, I am too emotionally involved with the Hoh River. Having fished this river since the 1960s and watched it be killed with a torturous death of a thousand cuts, it’s enough to make an old man cry.

Seeing the destruction of the things we love can make us unable to place the events in their historical perspective.

People who were outraged by the slaughter of the estimated 60 million bison that once roamed our great plains simply could not understand how our nation’s industrial revolution required bison hides for conveyor belts lubricated with whale oil.

They could not possibly accept that then, as now, extinction is good for business.

For example, recently Seattle celebrated the arrival of the first Copper River salmon of the season. Flown down from Alaska, they sold for $75 dollars a pound!

Even more amazing is the fact that people lined up to buy these rare salmon.

Would that Alaskan salmon be so expensive if the Puget Sound salmon hadn’t been managed into threatened/endangered species status? No.

When salmon were plentiful here, they were called the poor man’s tuna.

It took this rush to extinction to make salmon worth what it is today.

The fact is, our salmon have become much too valuable to be used as food for the common people.

Our threatened/endangered salmon are now used to fuel a vast salmon restoration industry that has spent an estimated $2 billion on salmon restoration projects with no corresponding increase in the salmon populations.

Instead, we see increasing numbers of threatened/endangered salmon and a decrease in opportunities for people to catch salmon for their own food.

It’s not just the bureaucrats, biologists and the bull trout that own the Hoh River, I forgot to include the so-called “environmental” attorneys and the myriad profit-driven “nonprofit” corporations.

They are the ones constantly blocking proven fish restoration methods that have restored salmon, even in places where they did not previously exist like Chile, New Zealand and Michigan.

For example, we cannot place remote hatch boxes full of fertilized salmon eggs in barren streams with no salmon.

This was previously done by Missy Barlow, a Hoh River resident who built these egg hatch boxes with a 4-H group to restore salmon and steelhead populations on streams all along the lower Hoh River.

We cannot use the native fish of our streams as brood stock to rebuild the runs of salmon and steelhead before they disappear completely.

The fact is, salmon are worth too much to be used to feed humans any more.

Salmon, or the idea of salmon, is now used to feed a vast salmon restoration industry whose gratuitous research, make-work projects and bloated budgets profit from the engineered extinction of salmon.

It’s the end of the last frontier.


Who Owns the River, Biologists, Bureaucrats and Bull Trout.

In our history of the Hoh River, we’ve watched the transfer of ownership from the Native Americans, to warring European nations and eventually to the United States, whose state and federal bureaucracies, biologists and bull trout have managed the legendary fisheries of this last best river in America into a threatened and/or endangered species status.

In the beginning, the Hoh River was famous for legendary runs of salmon and steelhead.

There were three distinct runs of Chinook salmon in the spring, summer and fall.

Of these, only the fall run has survived in any significant numbers.

There were summer and fall coho, summer and winter steelhead and sea-run cutthroat and Dolly Varden/bull trout.

Of all of these species, only the threatened and/or endangered bull trout continues to thrive.

On any given day, the bull trout is the most prolific fish in the Hoh River, causing fishers to ask, “If the bull trout is endangered or threatened, how come that’s all we catch?”

The threatened/endangered bull trout is neither threatened nor endangered nor a trout.

It is a char, a voracious predator that feeds on the spawn and juvenile salmon and steelhead.

Despite the fact that the abundance of bull trout endangers the remaining fish populations, it is a tool used by the so-called salmon restoration industry to open the floodgates of endangered-species funding to the tune of millions of dollars.

For example, when Canyon Creek, a tributary of the Hoh River, was found to contain bull trout, the Federal Highway Administration decided to build a new bridge on the Upper Hoh Road to make it easier for the bull trout to swim under it.

An associated multi-million-dollar project will build 25 log jams to protect the Upper Hoh Road. Another 29 log jams will be built to mitigate the damage to fish from these log jams and to channel the river, with a goal of slowing it down and stopping it from wandering across the valley as it has for the last 14,000 years.

This will require 2,500 logs from 30 acres of clear-cut.

Not to mention the tons of concrete to make the newfangled log jams.

The Hoh River has so many log jams in it now, we can barely make it down the river. In fact, the last two fatalities on the Hoh were in log jams.

They are going to build more. All in a vain attempt to domesticate a wild river.

Then there is the proposed “conifer release.”

Because the alder, willow, maple and cottonwood growing along the river are the wrong species, they intend to replace them with fir, cedar and pine trees because the biologists think these species will grow large enough to stop the river.

Although in the history of this land of big trees, there has never been one big enough to withstand the Hoh River.

The Hoh River now belongs to the salmon restoration industry. This is an alternative universe filled with confusing acronyms and weaponized semantics designed to defuse, deflect and deny any criticism of the master plan.

Throughout history, the Hoh River has been a source of high-quality protein for people to feed their families.

The Hoh’s been transformed through the best-available science into a dying thing where bureaucrats, biologists, consultants and nonprofits circle overhead like vultures over a dying ecosystem, padding their resumes to inflate their budgets with a modern version of the medieval divine right of kings.

Salmon restoration can never be questioned or held accountable for their destructive practices that are destroying the resource they are paid to protect.

They own the Hoh River.

Who Owns the River, Continued: I’m From a Non-Profit and I’m Here to Help.

In previous episodes, we traced the transfer of ownership of the Hoh River from the Native Americans, who were the original inhabitants, to various warring European countries and ultimately to the United States.

Once the U.S. gained title to the land through a series of genocidal treaties with the Native Americans, ownership of the land was transferred to individual European homesteaders.

The ensuing corruption of the Homestead Act, where timber companies had their employees sell their land to their employers, who then logged the land and let it go back to the counties for back taxes, ended homesteading and gave the remaining unsettled land to the Olympic Forest Reserve.

With the construction of the Olympic Loop Highway, a road that would become known as Highway 101, a new owner of the Hoh River appeared, the Department of Transportation. The highway was built along the river to keep construction costs down, which made the road vulnerable to flooding.

Large rocks were placed along the road to armor the banks to keep the road from being washed out. As time passed, another new owner of the Hoh River appeared, the biologist. Despite the fact that the Hoh and all our Olympic Peninsula rivers are lined with rocks from their source to their mouth, the biologists determined rocks in the river were bad for the fish.

If this were true, there would be no fish in our rivers.

The biologists somehow theorized that building engineered log jams in the river to protect the road would somehow restore the dwindling runs of salmon and steelhead in the Hoh River.

In 2007, $8 million was spent building engineered logjams using steel I-beams pounded into the bottom of the river in a failed attempt to change the course of the Hoh.

Hoh River log jams are deadly. The last two fatalities in the Hoh River have occurred in log jams. Numerous boats, canoes and kayaks are constantly being wrecked in log jams. Putting log jams in our rivers endangers human lives.

Meanwhile, another owner of the Hoh River appeared, the non-profit corporation.

The Hoh River Trust was formed in 2001 to restore the rainforest ecosystem and maintain public access to the Hoh River. It did this by getting government grants to buy land along the river.

At the time, the Hoh River was considered the last best salmon and steelhead river in the continental United States with the most rainfall, the biggest trees and a natural heritage that goes back to the time when the Thunderbird was said to live in the glaciers of Mt. Olympus.

When the Hoh River Trust showed up, nobody trusted them. The Hoh River Trust worked hard to develop trust with the locals and I, like an idiot, helped them. I supported the Hoh River Trust because they said they’d preserve public access.

Eventually, the mismanagement of the Hoh River Trust lands made them decide to get rid of the 7,000 acres they had acquired. Suggestions that the HRT return the land to the original owners, the Hoh Tribe, were ignored. Instead, the land was given to the Nature Conservancy.

Then, the Federal Highway Administration showed up on the Upper Hoh River, intent on building more log jams. This time, instead of pounding steel I-beams into the river, a practice which kills fish by rupturing their air bladders, it was decided to crush them with log jams made of 16,000-pound chunks of concrete instead.

All in a vain attempt to slow or “buffer” the Hoh River and contain it into one single, permanent, channel.

Who Owns the River continued: The Logging Capitol of the World.

The Native Americans were the first to log the Olympic Peninsula. They cut the Western Red Cedar. Every part of the cedar tree, from its roots to the branches, was used by Native Americans before the days of European contact.

The aromatic wood was split into boards for cedar plank houses. Cedar logs were carved into canoes. Cedar bark was used for clothing. Cedar roots were weaved into baskets. Cedar limbs were dried and twisted into rope. Cedar buds, bark and roots were used as medicines and in ceremonial rituals.

When the first European homesteaders settled here, they used split cedar to build their houses and barns. If cedar was not available, the Sitka spruce could be used.

With the outbreak of WWI, spruce was in demand for use in airplane construction. The Hoh River pioneers split cants from spruce logs and floated them down to the mouth of the river, where the courageous Captain Hanks sailed them through the surf to a mill in Aberdeen — until he mentioned patching his ship with linoleum and was never heard from again.

By the 1920s, a process was discovered to make pulp out of hemlock, previously considered a weed tree. At about the same time, a glue was invented that perfected the manufacture of plywood. With the coming of WWII, logging increased to meet the higher demand for timber. Diesel replaced steam power. The chainsaw replaced the crosscut saw or “misery whip.”

In the 1950s, the state Department of Natural Resources began selling 40-acre timber sales on the Peninsula. The Columbus Day storm of 1962 created a huge supply of downed timber that overwhelmed domestic sawmills.

Coincidentally, the Japanese post-war economy had rebounded to the point where they were buying and exporting raw logs from the West Coast of the United States.

The 1960s were a time of the biggest timber sales of up to 25 million board feet. Japanese log buyers were competing with one another for some of the most beautiful, tight grained, knot-free wood in the world.

By the 1970s, Forks became the self-proclaimed, “Logging Capital of the World.”

As the old-growth rainforest of hemlock, cedar and spruce was cut, it was replaced by the Douglas fir. These fir trees grew fast, up to four feet taller, adding inches in diameter every year.

Unfortunately, many of these fir trees could not adapt to their new home in the rainforest. They grew crooked trunks with three or four tops, spike knots and other defects that made inferior lumber.

At the time, the red alder was considered a weed. In an effort to eliminate the alder and anything else that would compete with the Douglas fir, the herbicide 2-4-D was sprayed from helicopters all across the Olympic Peninsula.

These days, alder is used for furniture, making it more valuable than fir.

Ironically, a June 10, 2021, PDN article reported that state Commissioner of Lands Hilary Franz was hiring a director to find alder logs to keep hardwood mills operating.

By the 1980s, the Japanese recession had cooled the log market.

Environmental restrictions designed to protect the spotted owl, marbled murrelet and bull trout stopped the harvest of old-growth timber.

Logging communities all across the Pacific Northwest were devastated. Loggers had to either move away or reinvent themselves as prison guards or anything else that would pay the bills.

Multi-national timber companies began looking for ways to divest themselves from environmentally sensitive areas they couldn’t log — paving the way for yet another change in the ownership of the Hoh River.

Next week, “I’m from a non-profit corporation. I’m here to help.”

Who Owns the River? Continued.

In previous episodes, we traced the history of land ownership of the Olympic Peninsula in general and the Hoh River in particular.

It began with the Native Americans and passed to various, warring European colonial powers and, ultimately, to the rugged American homesteaders.

The valley of the Hoh was one of the last places in the United States where you could settle on unclaimed land. This tradition came to a crashing halt in 1897 when President Grover Cleveland established the 2-million-acre Olympic Forest Reserve that encompassed almost two-thirds of the Olympic Peninsula.

By then, the elk on the Olympic Peninsula were well on their way to becoming an endangered species.

In his 1885 expedition, Lt. Joseph P. O’Neil found large herds of elk up in the Hurricane Ridge country that were so tame they wouldn’t spook when he shot at them.

With the increasing human population, elk were market-hunted for their meat and killed for their ivory teeth, then the fashion on the watch fobs of members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

Elk Mountain, off the Obstruction Point Road, was named for a famous elk massacre where the elk were shot and left to rot. Elk left the area and never came back.

In 1905, elk hunting was outlawed in Washington.

Meanwhile, under pressure from logging, mining and railroad interests, President William McKinley and Congress reduced the size of the Forest Reserve by 750,000 acres in 1900. The Forest Lieu Act allowed railroads to exchange useless acres of sagebrush, deserts and mountains given to them as a government subsidy for some of the most valuable stands of spruce, cedar and Douglas fir in the Pacific Northwest.

By this time, the conservation movement was starting in the United States.

When Theodore Roosevelt was elected President in 1901, he selected Gifford Pinchot, a Connecticut millionaire with a passion for saving forests, to lead the newly created Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture. Pinchot’s goal was to regulate logging so that the harvest did not exceed the new growth of timber.

This balance between harvest and growth was threatened by the increasing wildfires that raged across the west from slash burning in logging and farming operations. The Forest Service began building a system of trails connecting to fire lookouts located throughout the Olympic Mountains to spot the fires before they had a chance to spread.

Two days before leaving office in 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt was convinced by conservationists to sign an executive order creating the 620,000-acre Olympus National Monument to protect what was left of the elk.

In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson cut the monument back to 328,000 acres in an effort to mine manganese for armaments in WWI.

By the 1930s, the United States was plunged into the depths of The Great Depression.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corp. The CCC was a voluntary public work relief program for young men that built trails and shelters throughout the Olympics.

In 1938, President Roosevelt signed a bill creating Olympic National Park. In 1953, President Harry Truman added the coastal strip, which put the mouth of the Hoh River within the Olympic National Park.

The constantly changing nature of federal land management made the large timber companies reluctant to build railroads into the Hoh River country.

Meanwhile, the 355-mile-long Olympic Loop Highway, today’s U.S. Highway 101, was completed in 1931.

This made it possible to truck logs from the Hoh River to previously unreachable markets.

Next: The Logging Capitol of the World.


Continued: Who Owns the River?

In last week’s episode, we were attempting to answer the question, “Who owns the Hoh River?”

Ownership began with the Native Americans shortly after the last ice age. In the 1700s, this ownership was challenged by various European nations which came to our shores claiming land for their empires, looking for treasure and searching for the fabled Northwest Passage, a water route across the continent that would serve as a convenient shortcut to China from Europe. No one found it.

Capt. George Vancouver proved there was no water route across the continent in his exhaustive exploration of Puget Sound in 1792. Alexander Mackenzie confirmed there was no Northwest Passage in his overland journey across the continent in 1793.

By the 1800s, the Hoh River country was a part of what was known as the Oregon Territory — a huge expanse of the Pacific Northwest that was jointly occupied by Britain and the United States until the Treaty of 1846, in which Britain agreed to move north of the 49th parallel.

Coincidently, in 1846, an estimated 400,000 European settlers, including the Neal family, began the 2,000-mile journey from Missouri to Oregon.

Fueled by Manifest Destiny, a belief that Americans had a preordained right and duty to civilize and subdue the North American continent, we shot the buffalo, fouled the water holes and outraged the Indians.

We were looking for free land.

The land was not free. It was still owned by the Native Americans. Their title to the land had to be extinguished before it could be opened for homesteading by the invading Europeans. This was a legal technicality easily dismissed by Isaac Stevens, who was Washington’s territorial governor, Indian agent and railroad surveyor long before the term “conflict of interest” had been invented.

In drawing up the treaties, Stevens thought an Indian war would be good for the economy, and the genocidal terms of the treaties reflected this belief. Once the Native American title to their lands was extinguished, the land was open for settlement.

The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed individuals to claim 160 acres for a fee of $10, if they established a residence and cultivation of a crop for five years.

It was not until 1892 that the first homesteaders reached the Hoh River.

John Huelsdonk, the legendary “Iron Man of the Hoh,” and his brothers filed claims in this remote valley where the only access was by poling a canoe up the river or walking The Pacific Trail. This was a trail made entirely of split cedar boards that ran from Forks to Moclips.

At the time, homesteaders could pay their taxes by working on the trail.

Times were hard. Markets for produce and livestock were far away. There were few meager alternatives to make a living in the wilderness. The Huelsdonks captured calf elk that were traded to Alaska for mountain goats. Bounties on wolves, cougar and bears helped many of the early settlers eke out a living.

By the late 1890s, land speculators had abused the Homestead Act to such an extent that it was a common practice for timber company employees to establish fraudulent homesteads that were sold to timber companies that logged the land and let it go back to the county for back taxes.

This practice, described by one lawmaker as the “looting of the public purse,” ended the Homestead Act.

Congress granted Washington millions of acres of unclaimed land to support schools and other public institutions.

These School Trust Lands are managed today by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Next: The Olympic Forest Reserve.

Who Owns the River?

 Tourists ask many questions about this land of ours. Is the weather always like this? How deep is the river? As a professional know-it-all, if I don’t have an answer, I’ll make something up. One day a tourist asked a question that was really tough to answer:

“Who owns the Hoh River?”

It began with the melting of the great continental ice sheet about 15,000 years ago. The water filled the river. The river shaped the land. The land has been forever the history of man. That began here more than 13,800 years ago if Sequim’s Manis mastodon site is any indication. That’s where a spear point made from another mastodon bone was found in a rib bone of a partially butchered mastodon. Making it the oldest documented barbecue in the Pacific Northwest. Analysis determined the mastodon was old and arthritic, which somehow paved the way for Sequim to become a retirement community.

We can assume this land has been continually inhabited by Native people ever since. Why would they leave? It was a paradise of seafood and big game that amounted to the ultimate surf and turf buffet with herbs, root crops and berry side dishes, all there for the taking.

The people moved west and south along our coast, which would have been 20 miles west of the present coastline in those days. They began fishing for salmon about 9,000 years ago while hunting the myriad Pleistocene mega-fauna into extinction because then, as now, that’s the way man has always done it.

To be fair, the climate was cooling and the landscape was changing. Those big animals needed grasslands, and our forests were beginning to appear. By 8,000 years ago, people began shifting from land mammal hunting to fishing and clam digging. Our forests dominated the region about 5,000 years ago in response to a shift to a colder, wetter climate. The people began making canoes about 3,000 years ago. The first cedar plank houses were built more than 1,000 years ago.

By then, a Northwest Coast culture had developed that largely depended on salmon, seals, whales and tidal resources for food and the cedar tree for a material culture that blossomed until the appearance of the Europeans.

The invasion of the West Coast began in 1513 when Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama, waded into the Pacific and claimed possession of the sea and all the lands it touched for Spain. He was followed by English and American explorers and traders who came from the south while the Russians came from the north. All of them looking for treasure, plunder and territory to claim.

When they discovered there was no gold, the Spanish interest in the Northwest cooled. The Russians went broke. The Americans bluffed the British, leaving the United States owners of the Hoh River. At the time, there were seven villages of the Hoh people along the river from tidewater to the subalpine zone. The entire watershed was used for hunting, fishing, foraging, spiritual rituals and burial sites. The Russians shipwrecked on the Hoh River in 1809 mentioned 13 canoes full of people passing downriver in one day, indicating the Hoh was a very busy place.

In 1863, the Hoh Tribe was forced to sign a treaty that moved them to Quinault, but they refused to abandon their homeland. President Grover Cleveland established the current 443-acre Hoh Reservation in 1893. By then, Europeans were claiming land along the Hoh River under the Homestead Act. The Hoh People could not homestead what had been their land because they were not U.S. citizens at the time.

To be continued …

The News From N.O.A.A.

It was another tough week in the news. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration threatened further restrictions on salmon fishing from California north to the Canadian border. These new proposals are the result of NOAA conducting a risk assessment under the Endangered Species Act.

They evaluated the impact of fisheries on West Coast chinook salmon abundance and its effect on the designated critical habitat of the endangered southern resident orca of Puget Sound.

Recent research has revealed where and when the orca forage and their preferred prey.

Studies have shown their summer diet in inland waters consists primarily of chinook salmon.

Despite the increasing rarity of this species, chinook compose 50 percent of the orca diet in the fall, increasing to 70-80 percent in winter and increasing still more to 100 percent of their diet in the spring. Insufficient prey has been identified as a limiting factor in orca recovery.

To ensure the orca have enough chinook salmon, NOAA has proposed limiting commercial and recreational fishing when chinook numbers fall below a certain level of abundance that would provide prey for the orca.

While removing the Snake River dams to increase chinook salmon for the orca is not entirely off the negotiating table, it might as well be.

We need look no further than the Elwha for perspective. Our local $350 million Elwha Dam removal experiment has stalled in the attempt to produce the projected 400,000 salmon this environmentalist pipe dream foretold.

The estimated $1 billion spent on salmon restoration in Washington in the last 20 years has been largely squandered on grant-sucking, make-work projects, gratuitous research and public education that attempts to spin this failure into a plea for more money.

Attempts to increase hatchery production of chinook salmon for the orca have been hamstrung by environmentalist attorneys who sue the state to shut down fish hatcheries under the misguided assumption that, after 100 years of fish hatcheries, hatchery fish and their feral progeny that make up our so-called wild fish populations are somehow different species.

Meanwhile, the western United States is experiencing the worst drought in the last 1,200 years.

For the first time in 114 years, the canal that sends Klamath River water to irrigate 150,000 acres of farms in Oregon and California will stay completely dry this summer — which has ignited protests from armed, right-wing activists who are threatening to take control of the irrigation canals.

So, it is no wonder NOAA wants to stop us from fishing for chinook salmon. It is a simple solution to a complex problem. For example, an April 18 Peninsula Daily News article revealed that the recreational fisheries chinook quota “along the entire Washington coast” was 26,360 fish last year.

Meanwhile, in the same year the Alaska trawler fleet had an eerily familiar bycatch of 26,000 chinook salmon.

These fish, which are celebrated every spring in Seattle for $75 a pound, cannot be sold.

They are donated or thrown overboard. Trawlers drag huge nets through the water indiscriminately killing everything in their path in a process known as strip mining the ocean.

The trawlers are targeting pollock used in making fake crab meat and the McDonalds Filet-O-Fish sandwich, a favorite inexpensive meal of humans.

McDonald’s is able to keep its price on the fish sandwich low by keeping the wages of their workers so low that they qualify for government-sponsored benefits, such as Medicaid and Food Stamps.

While NOAA turns a blind eye to the trawler bycatch to bolster the federal policy of subsidizing the fast-food industry, it will stop us from catching salmon to eat.

Have a nice day.

Fun on the Farm

E ery year along about this time, I think about the good old days.

That was back when the Olympic Peninsula lowlands were filled with farms.

Children were considered farm machinery.

There were many fine farm careers to choose from.

I couldn’t wait get started.

You could buck hay bales. There was a career that would put some meat on your bones.

You’d spend the day trotting alongside a flatbed truck, bucking bales up to the stacker, who piled the bales up to impossible heights that would sometimes fall right back in the field when the driver popped the clutch, scattering the bales back all over the ground where we had to load them back on the truck all over again.

Then you’d rest up on the trip to the barn, where you stacked the bales once more until you knew each one of them by name.

Or you could move irrigation pipe, where you packed lengths of aluminum pipe across endless fields of boot-sucking muck from one end to another, spending the rest of the day trying to get the water pump started.

Or you could pick strawberries.

That seemed like easy money at the time — to start out early on a summer morning, gorging down endless rows of perfectly ripe berries.

That was strawberry heaven.

Until your guts started gurgling like a living thing, which started the endless trips to the outhouse, where you spotted a sucker-punching buddy from school who nailed you in the head with a rotten berry.

You could get fired for berry fights. Which meant no dough for the things you needed for a happy childhood — fireworks.

You didn’t want to get caught throwing berries.

Revenge could wait.

There would be many trips to the outhouse those first couple of days of berry picking, until you were so sick of berries you’d just as soon chew on a dirt clod.

As luck would have it, the boss kept all the boys picking together where he could keep a close eye on them.

For some reason, the other guy’s row of berries always seemed to be a little riper, with more of the really big strawberries that could fill up your boxes faster.

You only got paid for the berries you picked.

There were 12 boxes to a flat, which was a wooden box you pushed along the rows of berries.

You got paid a dollar a flat, as I remember.

Big money in those days.

One day just for fun, I made up a special strawberry box, half full of rocks covered with a thin layer of berries that I exchanged with my friend while he was visiting the facilities.

It was a dirty trick, but Franz had it coming.

As the day in the berry field wore on, your back began to ache from the constant strain of bending.

Your knees were raw from crawling down the endless rows.

Sometimes the gastric distress kept you dashing for the outhouse.

That was the bad news.

The good news was it was the only shade in the field.

After what seemed like all day, it was quitting time.

That’s when everyone got paid — except for me and Franz.

The boss gave us a stern talking to instead.

It seems we both played the same rock trick on each other —proving crime does not pay.

I went on to pick many other crops after that, berries, beans and peas.

I made a small fortune, which was immediately invested in fireworks.

Now the farms, the farmers and Franz are gone, and I miss the heck out of them.

Searching for Solitude.


Now that the tourists are here, it’s easy to see why we put a season on them in the first place.

From the acidified ocean to the melting glaciers and the majestic rain forests in between, the Olympic Peninsula has seen an unprecedented invasion of tourists searching for solitude in a pristine wilderness — while waiting in line for ferries, burgers, ice cream and National Park entrances.

Here in Washington, it’s illegal to bait waterfowl and bears, but baiting the tourists with tall tales has been a proud Peninsula tradition since the first European arrived on our shores.

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

The Strait of Juan de Fuca was named after a tourist who may or may not have actually been here.

The Greek navigator Apostolos Valerianus, who went by the name of Juan de Fuca, claimed that in 1592 he found an inlet on the Pacific coast in which he sailed for 20 days in a land rich in gold, silver and pearls.

The Spanish, English, Russian and American tourists spent the next 200 years looking for this mythical Northwest Passage, an imaginary shortcut across the continent to the treasures of the Orient.

It wasn’t until July 1787 that the first documented European tourists, Captain Charles Barkley and his wife, Francis, visited the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The results were catastrophic for the Native Americans, who regaled the subsequent invasion of European explorers and settlers with stories about how they never went into the Olympic Mountains because they were haunted by a tribe of hairy giant cannibals and a Thunderbird that was big enough to pluck whales out of the ocean and drop them on the glaciers to save them for later. Recent archaeological discoveries and tribal testimonies have shown that the Olympics were inhabited for thousands of years with camps and trails to villages all through the mountains.

Obviously, the Native Americans wanted to keep the Olympics for themselves.

Our pioneer forefathers had their own ideas about baiting tourists.

They said all you had to do was push a boat up the Elwha River far enough, and you’d find a lake and a prairie and maybe even some Indians that still hunted buffalo.

Hearing this tall tale, the Press Expedition of 1898 wasted no time in buying some green lumber from one of the pioneer forefathers to build a boat to find the lake.

The expedition wasted weeks building and pushing the leaky boat up the Elwha through the snow, ice and log jams.

Abandoning the boat, they discovered a camp of S’Klallam elk hunters with a big fire and elk quarters hanging.

The S’Klallam claimed they knew nothing about the upper Elwha country, confirming the usual story that no Indian would ever venture up there.

However, there is no doubt that, by then, the news had traveled through the moccasin telegraph about the white man wiping out the buffalo, and the locals didn’t want the same thing to happen to the elk. That would come later.

Throughout the early 1900s, the locals told the tourists of the great mineral wealth that was waiting to be discovered in the Olympics.

Mountains, streams and lakes were named after the gold, silver, iron copper and coal you were sure to find if you had enough venture capital. Promotions like these put Tull City on the map.

These days tourists are lured to the Peninsula searching for solitude on a crowded planet — with thousands of their closest friends.

It’s the end of the last frontier.