Things Could be Worse.

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

Many of our bridges are approaching their centennial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their journey was far from over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Olympic Peninsula Driving Guide: continued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They aren’t kidding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Olympic Peninsula Driving Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week: Abandon hope, all who drive west.

No Selfies in the Outhouse.

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

I blame the media.

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

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

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

Even if it kills us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We don’t know if he got a selfie.

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

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

Somehow, the phone was dropped into the outhouse.

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

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

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

 

The Voyage of the Lydia.

In last week’s episode, we discovered the unhappy coincidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition spending a hard winter at Fort Clatsop, surviving on lean elk meat and whale oil while just across the Columbia River, and the brig Lydia was anchored up trading furs with the Indians.

This causes questions to be asked, such as, with over 100 American ships trading on the Northwest coast between 1788 and 1803, why didn’t President Jefferson send a ship to rescue or resupply the Corps of Discovery after their harrowing journey across the continent?

It could be because Jefferson had no way of knowing when or where on the coast the Corps of Discovery would emerge or if the expedition had even survived.

Why didn’t the Indians tell Lewis and Clark about the Lydia?

This had a lot to do with the antagonistic relationship the explorers had with the Chinook, a tribe with years of experience in dealing with the fur traders who ventured over the bar and into the Columbia River.

For Lewis and Clark, trade was a matter of survival. For the Chinook, it was part business, part entertainment and all profit. Lewis and Clark had little to trade with the Chinook.

Misunderstandings arose. Despite spending the winter in peaceful proximity, Lewis branded the Chinook as treacherous “close dealers,” for their trading skills.

The Chinook thought the explorers were poverty-stricken vagabonds. Visiting Chinook chiefs were not allowed to stay overnight at Fort Clatsop. They were evicted at nightfall. This did not make friends among the Chinook, who neglected to mention the Lydia sitting with plenty of provisions just across the river.

Curiously, John Jewitt was aboard the Lydia. He had been rescued by the Lydia after being held captive for two years by Maquinna, Chief of the Nootka on Vancouver Island.

Maquinna had a long history of dealing with Europeans. Beginning in 1785, when John Hanna opened the sea otter trade by inviting Maquinna aboard his ship, The Sea Otter.

Maquinna was given a chair above a pile of gun powder and told this was an honor the English gave chiefs. Thinking it was dark sand, Maquinna sat in the chair while a sailor lit the charge, blowing the chief up into the air and burning his back side.

When someone stole a chisel from the Sea Otter, Hanna opened fire with a cannon on canoes full of Indians, killing 20 — including several chiefs.

Another trader entered Maquinna’s house, scared his nine wives and stole 40 sea otter skins. The Spanish Commander Martinez killed Maquinna’s friend, and fellow Nootka chief, Callicum. All of which convinced Maquinna to get his revenge on the next European ship he encountered.

That was in 1804, when a Captain Salter of the trading ship Boston insulted Maquinna over a broken shotgun. Maquinna took the ship, killing everyone aboard but a sail maker and the blacksmith Jewitt, who eventually got a written message to Yutramaki, a Makah Chief who gave it to Captain Hill of the Lydia, who took Maquinna hostage to gain Jewitt’s release.

The story of the Lydia and Yutramaki does not end there.

They rescued the survivors of the Russian ship, Sv. Nikolai. It had shipwrecked just North of LaPush in November 1806. The 22 survivors fled south in a running battle with the Quileute.

While crossing the Hoh River, Anna Petrovna, wife of the Captain of the Nikolai, was captured. The other survivors spent the winter on the upper Hoh until their eventual capture.

Once again, Yutramaki negotiated the ransom and release of 13 survivors to the Lydia.

We must own our history to evolve.

_________

 

The Voyage of the Lydia: Part One.

Spring is a time of spiritual renewal along with Easter, Ramadan and Passover. There is, however, another seasonal ritual that’s older than all these traditions put together, the First Salmon Ceremony.

It’s a ritual celebrated by Native Americans throughout the range and history of the salmon, which goes back to the end of the last ice age, 15,000 before present.

The First Salmon Ceremony is one of the oldest expressions of human faith where the salmon are thanked for returning to the river.

The salmon were said to have come from a big house at the bottom of the ocean where they lived in human form.

When the time came to run up the rivers, they put on salmon robes. The salmon volunteered to sacrifice their bodies for food for mankind, the animals, the birds and the forest.

It was believed that as long as the first salmon was treated with honor, its bones washed and returned to the river and not one scrap of its flesh fed to the dogs, the salmon would run forever.

All of which would go a long way to explain the decline of salmon lately.

It seems that only yesterday Lewis and Clark observed a First Salmon Ceremony on April 19, 1806, at The Dalles on the Columbia River.

Captain Clark observed, “The whole village was rejoicing today over having caught a single salmon, which was considered as the harbinger of vast quantities in four or five days. In order to hasten their arrival, the Indians, according to custom, dressed the fish and cut it into small pieces, one of which was given to every child in the village.”

The Corps of Discovery was in trouble at the time.

After a soggy winter at Fort Clatsop, they headed back up the flood-staged Columbia in late March, with nothing more than a handful of trade goods that could be carried in “two handkerchiefs.”

Fortunately, during the winter they had made 300 or 400 pairs of elk-hide moccasins. Captain Clark had sealed their remaining 140 pounds of gunpowder inside waterproof lead canisters so they had plenty of ammunition.

However, Captain Lewis lamented the fact that President Jefferson hadn’t sent a ship to rescue or supply the expedition at the mouth of the Columbia. It would have been nice.

All winter they subsisted on lean elk meat while trying to trade for food with the hard-bargaining Columbia River tribes, who already had experience in the sea otter trade that began in 1778, when Captain Cook sailed past our coast or what was known as “New Albion.”

Cook missed the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the fog, naming Cape Flattery as an historic insult to the navigator for whom the then-imaginary Strait was named.

Captain Cook proceeded to Vancouver Island, where by chance they traded with the Nootka People for 20 sea otter skins that were worth $800 in China.

In 1785, James, (AKA John) Hanna opened the sea otter trade, killing an estimated 70 Nootka men, women and children, to trade 500 skins worth $20,000 in China. The rush was on.

Hanna was soon followed by the American Captain Robert Gray, who first entered the mouth of the Columbia on May 11, 1792, slaughtering a canoe load of 20 Indians with cannon fire on the way.

Gray was followed in 1806 by the brig Lydia. Unknown to Lewis and Clark, the Lydia was anchored just across the river from them.

Next week: The story of the Lydia and her place in the history of the Olympic Peninsula.

A Short History of Fishing Laws.

In last week’s episode, we were exploring a bizarre bit of bureaucratic bungling where the state of Washington demands that we purchase our new fishing license on April 1, but does not come out with the fishing laws until the end of June or maybe sometime in July — depending on factors not available at this time.

Given the fact that fishing violations can involve fines of up to $5,000, forfeiture of fishing gear, fishing boat and the truck that you towed all that stuff around with, many people have simply quit fishing in Washington altogether because it’s too complicated, expensive and downright dangerous.

Who could blame them?

The fishing laws in Washington are so complicated that almost no one can understand them.

This was not always the case.

The kings of England and Scotland started making fishing laws back in the Middle Ages.

Generally speaking, the fishing was much better in the Middle Ages than it is today. The fishing laws were much simpler, although violations could involve a more severe punishment.

For example, in 1318, Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, declared that a person convicted of poaching salmon on a royal estate for the second time could be put to death.

King Edward III of England made it illegal to use salmon for pig feed.

In the 1100s, Richard the Lionheart may have come up with our oldest fishing law.

During Richard’s reign, described by some historians as an “orgy of medieval savagery,” it became illegal to block a salmon stream.

Flash forward to our modern world of the future, where we have spent the last century building dams with no fish passage in our state.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates there are more than 19,000 barriers stopping fish passage.

Of these, there are approximately 2,000 culverts that impede fish.

In 2001, the Treaty Tribes of Washington sued the state of Washington over the culverts that were blocking 1,000 miles of streams — ultimately winning a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2018, giving Washington until 2030 to fix its culverts.

That is happening now with the passage of the Infrastructure, Investments and Jobs Act of 2021 that provides up to $5 billion for a nationwide effort to eliminate fish passage barriers.

These are defined as anything that hinders fish from moving upstream or down. That could include a dam, culvert or smolt trap.

Every spring our streams are blocked by smolt traps that catch young salmon and steelhead migrating downstream out to sea. Smolt traps can be a valid method of gathering data, but not if they block the entire stream.

In the spring, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat migrate up our creeks to spawn, but they can’t if the stream is blocked by a smolt trap.

When fish are stuck below a smolt trap, they are vulnerable to a wide variety of predators — including people who know that fishing in front of a smolt trap can be awesome.

Steelhead that migrated upstream before the smolt trap was installed can’t get back downstream once the smolt trap blocks the creek.

Steelhead do not die like salmon after they spawn.

Steelhead go back downstream to the ocean so they can come back and spawn again — unless there’s a smolt trap. Fishing above a smolt trap can be awesome.

Meanwhile, the young salmon, steelhead and cutthroat caught in the traps are in danger of floods, predators and rough handling during the most vulnerable time in their lives, when they miraculously transition from fresh to salt water.

Where’s Richard the Lionheart when you need him?

 

April Fools’ Fun

And so, my favorite holiday, April Fools’ Day, passes astern. Here’s hoping yours was the best ever!

Over the years, who could forget the dreadful series of unfortunate April Fools’ jokes played on the hapless inmates of a remote fish camp located somewhere in a remote corner of the rainforest, back before the government outlawed fishing? Where the childish antics of a few ruined the pristine nature experience for many.

It was a mistake to choke down the borax-flavored pancakes smothered in pickled herring syrup. I tried washing them down with some hot coffee, surreptitiously seasoned with enough cayenne pepper to melt a railroad spike. It was at about that time I noticed that my boots were on fire.

What was an April Fools’ joke had just been upgraded to an act of environmental terrorism. I thought of my carbon footprint, and the effect of soapy pancakes on my delicate constitution, as I headed for the outhouse, where someone tossed in a seal bomb while I was desperately employing the facilities.

Like our other holidays, April Fools’ Day requires extensive preparations. To get ready for Christmas, we chop down a tree. To get ready for Easter, we boil and color eggs. April Fools’ Day can require more preparation and hassle than all those other holidays put together — if you fish.

That’s because a large part of the mirth, frivolity and mad-cap sense of the absurd is not performed by anonymous drunken fisherman, but by a government bureaucracy that we have no possibility of getting even with. This is due to the happy coincidence where April 1 is the day chosen by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to require a new fishing license.

You probably thought the state of Washington was run by a power-mad cabal of self-serving, pencil-pushing, pocket-lining functionaries whose only purpose is to make our lives miserable. You didn’t know that they also have a keen sense of humor, irony and revenge — but they do. Why else would they insist that we get our new fishing license and punch cards on April Fools’ Day?

It’s hoped that money from fishing license and punch card sales will provide vital funding for the latest scientific research that might someday allow the state to design a punch card the average angler can figure out.

Punch cards are little pieces of shiny paper that are to be filled out to record your catch of salmon, steelhead, crab and halibut. The punch card must be filled out in ink. Part of the difficulty of filling out the punch card in ink is that they are printed on paper that ink will not adhere to.

Just getting a frozen or wet pen to work often results in an ink blot on your punch card that resembles a Rorschach test. If you get your punch card wet, the ink washes off, leaving a blank piece of paper so you have no idea where to record your catch.

We are assured that someone in the government actually reads the punch cards, but how could they? It’s all part of the April Fools’ Day fun.

Getting a fishing license on April Fools’ Day is a really great prank, because the state does not come out with the fishing laws until July.

Last year, the fishing laws did not come out until August — on Friday the 13th.

Was that just a coincidence? I think not.

If you buy your fishing license on April 1, you won’t know if you can even use it until months later.

It’s the best April Fools’ Day joke ever.

_________

They Clearcut the Tunnel of Love.

SOME NIGHTS, I dream of rivers. Ones I have floated and others that exist only in dreams of a distant past. Last winter was a hard one. In places, the river has changed and waits to be discovered, while parts remain the same as they have been for decades.

We’ll never forget one stretch of the Hoh River that flowed deep beneath an overhanging forest of alder trees. When it was hot and sunny, the alder forest was a cool and shady refuge. When it was raining, the trees were like a giant umbrella shielding us from the deluge.

Birds of all sorts lived in the alders and, later in the summer, it was not unusual to see a nest of what could be the most dangerous critters on the Olympic Peninsula, the bald-faced hornets. They allowed us to pass unmolested as long as we didn’t bother them. We didn’t.

One day, we were floating under the alders with a quiet young couple in the front of the raft. We were watching a pair of eagles circling far above. Just then, another eagle swooped out of the alders right above us and caught a fish in the river.

The eagle landed on a log on the shore to eat the fish while a pair of crows dive-bombed just for fun. I said we’re going to sit and watch the eagle eat the fish if they didn’t have anything better to do. They didn’t.

Then the young couple 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. We called that patch of alder trees hanging over the river the “Tunnel of Love” ever since. It was a landmark that survived a half-century of floods filled with logs hurtling down the river leaving skid marks in the tunnel of love ten feet over our heads. until last week.

That was when contractors for the Federal Highway Administration clearcut the tunnel of love.

They yarded the logs through the beds of the spawning steelhead that had been shaded by the trees — all in an effort to put concrete log jams in the river.

I went down to the river to give these riparian setback violators a piece of my mind but they had a permit issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, you know, the agency that just shut down the Hoh River to even catch and release fishing for steelhead. So I figured if you can’t beat them ask them for a job. I figured if you can’t beat them ask them for a job.

So, I did — a “greenwashing” job.

Greenwashing is a branding makeover where a product or service is presented as environment-friendly when it is in fact, bad for the environment.

Examples abound.

Globally, Volkswagen bragged about their eco-friendly vehicles, while their engines emitted 40 times the allowable pollutants.

Locally, logging companies spray herbicides in clearcuts and call it, “conifer release.”

Currently, the Federal Highway Administration insists concrete is a more environmentally friendly choice than rocks along the Hoh River.

It all makes perfect sense.

If salmon and steelhead are crushed in their nests by concrete, even more money can be spent mitigating the effects with a greenwashing rebranding program of monetized extinction.

With the miracle of greenwashing, our rivers are worth more dead than alive. I made my pitch, but I didn’t get the job.

 

My Life Sucks.

My life sucks. Ever since they shut down the fishing season. Without fishing, my life has had no meaning. Each day became a long dreary exercise that stretched to a limitless bleak horizon with absolutely no possibility of catching a fish. Part of the trauma was the fact that they shut down even catch-and-release fishing before they counted the fish. Civilized countries like Alaska have sonar devices in their rivers that tell the fisheries managers how many fish are going up the river. Here in Washington, we’ll use any excuse to shut down the fishing.

For example, there’s a hot bite for blackmouth salmon in Sekiu right now. So, they’ll probably shut it down early because fishing is too good. Otherwise, they would shut it down because fishing is bad. Either way, our fishing season is subject to political pressures far beyond the scope of the best available science. People who fish are expendable enemies of the state. We’re all supposed to take up bird watching. This is unfortunate for those of us who believe that every day spent fishing is a day not counted against the span of our lives.

It’s even worse for those who make a living on the water. There is no better way. Guides have the best stories. But when it’s over, there’s no point in waiting around. It’s time to move on to bleaker pastures. It’s hard because of the way the other guides looked up to me and worshipped me like a god in their own simple way. I was a role model. Now, I am a failure forced by circumstances beyond my control to get a real job.

So, I did. I hired on as a food server at a ritzy place with an exclusive clientele. Things went OK at first, and I have to say, the ladies seemed to like me. It was nice to be appreciated. The cuisine was exquisite, and the setting sublime. However, servers do not set the menu. There were changes amid rumors of a budget cut to the food bill. I was blamed. The response was immediate.

A customer took one bite of her meal, gave me a dirty look and immediately turned and walked out an open gate. This had never happened before! It was unheard of. Imagine how it made me feel. I was doing my darndest to make the best out of a difficult situation, but no, everyone’s a food critic. Some of these ladies could have stood to lose a few pounds, but they attacked their meals like animals and fought over biscuits even though there was plenty to go around. Then the menu changed, and things got a lot ugly.

Scientists have theorized that many personality disorders could be the result of a too-rich diet, and I became convinced that’s what I was seeing. After binging on eastern Washington alfalfa all winter, the ladies went cold-turkey onto a domestic grass hay. It was beautiful. Each bale smelled like a summer morning in a meadow. Redolent of timothy with hints of native red top grasses, the bales were gourmet but not alfalfa, aka, the crack cocaine of fodder.

I tried mixing the alfalfa with the grass hay like I needed another chore. That made them mad. I almost got stomped. They wouldn’t have noticed until the following breakfast service when they’d wonder where the ape with the hay was.

I had to outsmart the cows. I’m still working on it. Fortunately, springtime is on the way. Grass is growing, and with luck, I’ll be unemployed just in time for salmon season.