The Cold Vanish.

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news. A woman fell off the Hurricane Ridge Road and had to be pulled 100 feet up a cliff with ropes. Another woman broke her leg at Lake Angel9es and had to be flown out with a Coast Guard helicopter. A hiker was stranded by an incoming tide at Rialto Beach and had to be pulled off a rock. A young man was missing up the Quinault River but walked out at the Skokomish River after a needle-in-a-haystack search was initiated. Someone started a forest fire at Lake Crescent.

People go insane when they escape the city to enter the woods. I blame the media. We watch nature shows telling us animals are like people with commercials showing SUVs plunging through streams, along deserted beaches and mountaintops like the world is our race track. If we spend enough money and do crazy things, someone will like us on social media.

I used to wonder why park rangers were so cranky. Then I took a couple of them fishing where they talked about dealing with the suicidal tourist invasion bent on causing harm to themselves or others. Like the guy who took off up the trail, ate some poisonous mushrooms and came back three days later with no clothes on until the rangers could talk him out of a tree.

There is a theory that, the more advanced our electronic devices become, the dumber people get. People like to take pictures of themselves with their phones. Selfies can be self-destructive behavior — like the guy who fell off our own Sol Duc Falls. At least someone got a video of it.

This is not an isolated incident. People have plunged to their deaths taking selfies at the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. There’s been an uptick in rattlesnake bites at the Grand Canyon National Park due to people taking selfies with rattlers. Others try to take selfies with bison at Yellowstone and grizzlies at Glacier National Park, and they get stomped and mauled in the process. Here on the Olympic Peninsula, we have no rattlers or grizzlies, but people injure themselves anyway.

Others disappear without a trace for no apparent reason — like the case of Jacob Gray. He disappeared April 4, 2017. Leaving his bicycle dumped along the side of the Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, Gray vanished, causing a massive search effort that covered hundreds of square miles.

His father called me a week later to float the Sol Duc to look for his son. He believed Jacob was alive. I didn’t. Jacob Gray left most of his gear with his bike. It had been storming. He would have been lucky to survive overnight. The Sol Duc was too high to float, but Jacob’s father swam 12 miles of the river looking for his son.

The recent book, “The Cold Vanish” by Jon Billman describes the heart-breaking search for Jacob Gray.He’s just one of several people who have vanished in our wilderness without a trace. This is not a uniquely Olympic experience. There are an estimated 1,600 people currently missing in our country’s wilderness areas, including a park ranger who disappeared in Chiricahua National Monument.

They found Gray’s remains Aug. 10, 2018 — 15 miles away at Hoh Lake. How he crossed the Sol Duc, Bogachiel and the many rain-swollen tributaries to get 5,000 feet up into avalanche country remains a mystery, and a lesson to us all. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll get back.  Take the 10 survival gear essentials. Don’t make the rangers come looking for you.

Root Hog or Die.

“Root hog or die.” If I had a dollar for every-time I heard my Aunt Stella say that I would never have picked berries for money. It’s a phrase from the first colonists in America who turned the hogs loose to forage for themselves.

Which lead to conflicts with the Native American gardens that were not fenced. Indigenous gardens grew what they called the three sisters. Corn supported the beans over a ground cover of pumpkins that kept the weeds down. It was a smorgasbord the hogs made short work of. The practice of introducing feral hogs to the environment leap-frogged its way across the country to the Oregon Territory where the Neal’s settled in the 1840’s.

There the hogs made short work of the camas, a staple crop that was the main source of carbohydrates since time immemorial in this vast territory where, “root hog or die,” was a way of life. My aunt Stella employed this phrase to motivate her crew of kids to get through breakfast and pile into the station wagon for a trip to the berry fields.

These days it is considered cruel and unusual punishment to make children work but back in the last century kids were considered farm machinery. Stella would have been up for hours by the time the kids were ready to eat. She had cooked breakfast and made lunch for her husband Len, who was off to the woods cutting timber. Then she had her quiet time until she woke up the kids. Stella baked countless loaves of perfect bread, canned everything that grew in her tremendous garden and made everything else from butter to beer the old-fashioned way with food grown, raised, caught or shot right there on the farm.

“Root hog or die,” she’d say putting out of spread of eggs, venison sausage, toast, jam, and fruit she’d canned herself before we piled into the station wagon for a dusty ride to the fields where there was money to be made picking berries and beans.

In those days there was no minimum wage for kids. Your pay was determined by how much you picked. You could make as little or as much as you wanted. As kids we wanted to make as much money as we possibly could for vital supplies of fireworks and fishing gear. There was only one way to do that.

“Root hog or die.”

After about an hour of picking anything a kid’s knees get sore, it gets awful hot and lunchtime seems about a million hours away. When it does finally come you are about hungry enough to eat a dirt clod so you wolf down a sandwich made with the most heavenly bread that Aunt Stella might have baked that morning, filled with some kind of lunch meat shot or raised in the back field.

Eventually, after what seemed like a million years it was time to go home. That meant a long ride down a dirt road with the windows closed to try to keep the dust out. The heat, the dust and the exhaustion of the day was instantly relieved with a trip to the swimming hole.

Stella didn’t swim. She did not have time. If she wasn’t cooking, canning or cleaning she was volunteering at the church, the school or the community. She lived a life of self reliance and service to others. We miss her now that she’s gone but it’s enough to know that somewhere in heaven there’s a root cellar with gleaming rows of her canned preserves where you don’t have to root hog or die anymore.

Let Them Eat Tuna.

Imagine a small camp fire burning along a bend of the river beneath a grove of big trees, out where the bull trout rise. I only mention the bull trout because that is about all I’ve been catching lately. How many times have I had to endure the slings and arrows of unkind remarks which all boil down to the same thing,

“If Bull trout are so threatened and or endangered, how come that’s all we catch?” There could be many reasons for this. Having been protected for years in our Olympic Peninsula waters where they were never really endangered in the first place, the Bull trout has multiplied to the point where at any given time in can be the most prolific fish in the river. All of which serves to beg the question, at what point would a threatened and or endangered species or subspecies such as the Dolly Varden/Bull trout, (we aren’t even sure what to call it) be considered “recovered?”

Unfortunately, even what is considered “the best available science” is not able to answer this question. It has become one of the greatest mysteries of the natural world. Would the Dolly Varden/Bull Trout be declared “unthreatened and or un-endangered” if this predatory fish was threatening other endangered species like the steelhead and the chinook salmon?

To answer this question. we need look no further than our beloved Dungeness River. Once home to legendary runs of salmon and steelhead the Dungeness, a river that is home to three fish rearing facilities is closed to fishing for most of the year.

At first, we were told the closure would only be temporary. We were assured the river would reopen as soon as the fish were restored by building log jams, buying property from willing sellers and planting native vegetation. Millions of dollars were spent. Millions more are about to be spent on a new innovative experiment in the salmon restoration industry, taking out the flood control dike along the Dungeness River.

It seems that the Bull Trout is a free spirit. The best available science tells us that the Dungeness in its’ present condition is too constricted by the dike. In fact, building the dike was a bad idea in the first place. All it did was protect some farm land from flooding. Now thanks to the miracle of world trade we can purchase our produce from developing third world nations leaving our surplus farmland for its highest and best use, Bull Trout habitat. 

It is hoped that removing the dikes will allow the Bull trout to roam free and swim where the meandering current will take it. There is a fervent consensus of belief that spending millions more on what has so far been a failed experiment will save the Bull Trout but this is not a perfect world. It is a cooperative effort that will need many more studies and consultants.

All of which serves to remind us the more endangered a species becomes the more it is worth in salmon restoration funds. In fact, endangered species have become one of our most valuable natural resources. Meanwhile our angling heritage, a tradition of generations of kids who grew up fishing the Dungeness in the summer, has been exchanged for the only angling opportunity left in the Sequim Dungeness Valley, the sewer water reclamation pond at Carrie Blake Park. They’ll get over it. There are millions of dollars at stake. Endangered fish are worth more than healthy runs of fish. A dead river is worth more money than a live one. Let them eat tuna.

Raccoons.

I’ll have to admit when I first saw the baby raccoons curled up in the middle of the road my first impulse was to run over them. Because if there is one creature on Earth that I can’t stand it is the raccoon. If you ever went out to check your chicken house and found what was left of your pet laying hens after the raccoons ate them alive, or seen an orchard or a corn patch that’s been clear cut by a ‘coon party, you’d understand.

Things could be worse. You’d know that if raccoons ever came down your chimney. Then there were the loggers who lured the raccoons into their cabin after they’d been drinking beer, the raccoons that is. Raccoons were made for wide open spaces and tend to run amuck when trapped indoors for any length of time.    

So, I wanted no part of any raccoons, baby or not. I drove right on by and left them. Still, I thought I should check on them later and sure enough. The poor baby raccoons hadn’t moved. They were getting cooked in the middle of the gravel road. They might have been dehydrated. A raven flew over and gave a lone croak, probably just waiting for someone to run the coons over and tenderize them for a noon day meal. What could I do? What would you do? 

Then there were two ravens circling. I moved the baby raccoons out of the middle of the road to a hollow cedar stump.  The three of them stayed rolled up in a little ball. I drove away thinking I’d done the best thing you can do for baby wild animals, ignore them, they’ll go away. It’s illegal, bad and wrong to mess with baby wild animals.  I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Still I couldn’t just let the little fellows curl up and starve after their mother hadn’t come back to get them the next day. I poured some milk in a (sterile) rigging glove and breakfast was served. They ate like starving wolverines.  This was very messy but they groomed each other clean in no time. 

After a few days in the cedar stump it was clear the mother raccoon was not coming back.  I thought it was up to me to find the baby raccoons a new home. I took them into town in a box marked “Kittens $5.” They didn’t find a new home but it’s a great way to clear out a Laundromat.

It was too late. By then I had built an emotional bond. They had adjusted to solids, chicken flavored cat food. We spent a lot of time together grooming, feeding and bonding. I tried to train the raccoons by enrolling them in a dog obedience class. I thought with those little hands they could be a lot of help. They could make good seeing- eye coons.

One day at the feed store in town I was talking to a flatlander from down in the valley. Somehow the subject of raccoons came up. The old guy went off. When he began talking about raccoons his fists were clenched his face went red. He became so angry he started spitting so we had a lot in common when it came to raccoons. It turned out he was a retiree who lived on a golf course. The raccoons had made a stinking mess of the golf course.

So, he live trapped a bunch of them using chicken for bait and dumped them up in the woods as it turned out, near my chicken house. It all made sense now. But it was too late. By the time I figured every thing out all my hens had been eaten. It was time for a little payback. I began teaching the baby raccoons how to retrieve golf balls. I started live trapping moles. That’s when things got ugly but like I said by now I was out for revenge. I began collecting slugs from the endless supply in my garden.

By the end of summer the raccoons were shagging golf balls like Labrador retrievers. I had a six pack of live moles ready to dig in and a five-gallon bucket of slugs. I drove into the flatlands with blood in my eye. I dropped the raccoons off in the lobby of the clubhouse to create a diversion while I sprinkled the moles and slugs out on the fairway.

It was good to be alive

Olympic Peninsula Heroes.

ON JULY 3, President Donald Trump proposed a “National Garden of American Heroes.” The proposed national monument would feature the greatest Americans to ever live. This, despite the fact that Americans can no longer decide who is a hero and who is a villain, since — in the divisive times in which we live — one person’s hero is another’s villain.

Our national historic heroes are a reflection of ourselves, and we are not a perfect people in a perfect union. America has been a mess of competing heroes and villains since the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791.George Washington was seen as a despot by the Pennsylvania moonshiners, but he put down the revolt and is still revered as the father of our country.

Similarly, significant figures in the history of the Olympic Peninsula were seldom perfect people when viewed through the modern lens of historical hindsight. That does not diminish their accomplishments.

In fact, monuments to awful people who did terrible things keeps our history relevant when contrasted to noble individuals who influenced our history in a positive way. So here goes, a list of individuals who would belong in any proposed monument to Olympic Peninsula heroes:

Kwati, or Q’waati, also known as “The Great Changer,” was a heroic figure to many tribes of the Northwest who believed he brought balance to the world by using his power to transform people, animals and landscapes into what we see today. His accomplishments were many and varied.

Kwati turned wolves into the Quileute people, caused the trees to spring up out of the ground and killed the Thunderbird. He also had an eye for the ladies. This was back before the #MeToo movement, when Kwati was known to turn women who had rejected him into rocks on the bottom of the Hoh River.

While some may claim these Native stories are only legend, they are no less plausible than the tall tales told by Apostolus Valerionos. He was an Italian working for Spain under the name Juan de Fuca when he claimed in 1592 that he found gold, silver and pearls in the Straits that bear his name to this day. All we know for sure was that Apostolus, or Juan, was flat broke by the time he got back to Venice.

Explorers spent the next two centuries looking for the Strait of Juan de Fuca at a tremendous human cost in shipwrecks and human lives. Anna Petrovna, the first European woman to visit the Olympic Peninsula, was shipwrecked north of La Push in the winter of 1809, then kidnapped during the course of a running battle south while crossing the Hoh River.

Petrovna’s husband, Navigator Nikolai Isaakovich Bulygin, went mad with grief. At a parley, Petrovna advised her husband to surrender, saying she had been treated well with kindness, and that Chief Yutramaki would send them to the two European ships then sailing the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Hearing this, Bulygin tried to shoot his wife. His expedition was eventually captured. Thirteen of the 22 shipwreck survivors were ransomed to an American ship. Petrovna was not among them.

If you found yourself shipwrecked on the Northwest coast during the years of the fur trade, you would be indeed fortunate to meet Yutramaki.

Also known as Machee or Ulatilla, he was a Makah Chief noted for his kindness to foreigners. He tried to rescue the survivors of the S.V. Nikolai shipwreck and was instrumental in the rescue of John Jewett, an English sailor who had been captured on Nootka Sound in 1805.

Continuing through the 1800s, we encounter more conflicted individuals who shaped the future of the Olympic Peninsula. In 1853, President Millard Fillmore appointed Isaac Stevens as Washington’s territorial governor. Stevens saw the Native Americans as an impediment to statehood, pioneer settlement and the coming of the transcontinental railroad.

Some believe that Stevens’ harsh terms of the 1855 Point No Point Treaty may have been an attempt to start a war with the Indians. The fact that there was no Indian war on the Olympic Peninsula is largely due to the earlier European-introduced epidemics and the efforts of one man, Chetzemoka, who Stevens had designated Chief of the S’Klallam.

This meant he was to sign the treaty and be held personally responsible for the good behavior of his people. Chetzemoka was called the Duke of York by white men who had trouble pronouncing his name and was referred to as “the Paul Revere of Port Townsend.”

In 1857 a war party of western S’Klallam descended on Port Townsend. During a nine-day conference, Chetzemoka dissuaded them from exterminating the new town by telling them if the S’Klallam killed the whites, others would come and wipe them out. On the 10th day, Chetzemoka sent a message from Signal Rock, “Danger is passed.”

These peacemaking efforts did not stop attempts to remove the S’Klallam from their ancestral lands. On Aug. 31, 1871, Chetzemoka was ordered to move from Port Townsend to Skokomish. The S’Klallam moved all their possessions into canoes, which were to be towed by a side-wheeler to their new reservation on the Hood Canal. Their village was burned before the S’Klallam were out of sight.

Chetzemoka visited San Francisco in 1851, and he was greatly impressed by the large numbers of white people. This is where he met James Swan and invited him to Port Townsend. Swan journeyed north at this suggestion, settling in Shoalwater Bay in the 1850s and was a teacher at Neah Bay in 1862 before settling in Port Townsend.

Swan had a varied career as a teacher, newspaper man, ethnologist and railroad promoter. His writing describes harrowing canoe journeys with his Makah and S’Klallam friends where he reveals his secret for getting along with the, at times, hostile Native Americans — he ate their food and never carried a gun.

Swan was a true hero, as opposed to Victor Smith. He came to Port Angeles in 1861 as the customs agent and had it declared a “Second National City” so that if something happened to Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital could simply move 3,000 miles west to Port Angeles where, coincidentally, Smith and his cronies owned waterfront property.

Port Townsend was the official Port of Entry for all vessels entering Puget Sound until Smith parked the cutter Shubrick in front of the Customs House and threatened to open fire if the Customs Records were not surrendered in 15 minutes. The Port of Entry was moved to Port Angeles.

Meanwhile a Grand Jury in Olympia indicted Smith for embezzling $15,000 from the Port Townsend Custom House, fraud, resisting arrest and assault on the entire population of Port Townsend. For these and other outrages, the people of Port Townsend described Smith as a “Federal-fed parasite who has been foisted upon us.”

In Port Angeles, a town that to this day is still recognized as America’s “Second National City,” Smith was applauded as the “city father.”

Washington, D.C., was not destroyed. But since Port Angeles had been declared a Second National City and could not be homesteaded, there was little incentive to come here for the next quarter century.

Meanwhile, as a treasury agent, Smith was shipwrecked while transferring $3 million to the San Francisco treasury. The money was never found. Before Smith could be charged with stealing the money, he died in another shipwreck.

Port Angeles, being a Federal Reserve that could not be homesteaded, became a virtual ghost town until 1887, when another Smith came along. George Venable Smith was a Seattle city attorney involved with the anti-Chinese riots, during which mobs forcibly expelled the Chinese from Seattle and Tacoma over cheap labor and trade.

This new Smith had his own vision for a model city, a utopia with no Chinese which became the Puget Sound Cooperative colony. Their motto was: “Let the many combine in cooperation as the few have done in corporations.” They built a sawmill, shipyard, opera house, church and brought the first flush toilet to the Peninsula. Despite such progress, the colony went broke by 1889.

Meanwhile, Victor Smith’s 3,000-acre Federal Reserve was still closed to settlement. That was, until John Murphy came to town in 1890. Murphy organized “Reserve Jumpers,” who went into the Reserve to stake claims. Congress conceded ownership to the squatters three years later.

The year 1890 was when railroad fever hit Port Angeles. Norman Smith, Victor’s son, proved he was an apple that did not fall far from the tree when he built the world’s shortest railroad to “hold the pass” at Lake Crescent — in anticipation of about 14 different transcontinental railroads that were supposedly eager to build their terminus in Port Angeles, a town isolated on three sides by treacherous bodies of water. The Panic of 1893 cooled the railroad fever.

The only bright spot was the arrival of Admiral Beardslee and the U.S. Navy Pacific Squadron for summer maneuvers. Beardslee spent so much time fishing in Lake Crescent that they named the Beardslee trout after him. The seasonal influx of thousands of lonely, thirsty sailors into town provided an economic stimulus to the Peninsula moonshiners.

Meanwhile, Tom Aldwell had come to Port Angeles in 1890, determined to bring electricity with him. For that, he was considered a modern-day hero even though there was no fish ladder on his dam on the Elwha River.

Only the Native Americans seemed to care about the destruction of the Elwha fisheries, but they had no voice since they did not become U.S. citizens until 1924. With the building of the Elwha Dam, Michael Earles built the largest sawmill in Washington on the site of the S’Klallam village Tse-whit-sen. Charles Erickson brought the railroad to town, ending the last frontier.

Were these people heroes or villains? You decide.

Bird Watching with a Chainsaw.

It is daylight in the forest, my favorite time of day. It’s all downhill from here. Still, it is good to revel in the absolute silence of the wilderness, while you can. Until the first trilling of the Townsends thrush tells us another summer’s day has begun. Then the rest of the birds wake up and start making enough noise to raise the dead. Then you can forget about the peace and quiet. 

It would only give one pause to consider how I ended up in this god-forsaken brush hole with a couple of dull chainsaws. One of them is broken, the other won’t start. Now I remember, being chain whipped into a crooked publishing fiasco that made me swear off writing for good. Which leaves me with a word of advice on electronic publishing: “don’t.”

From now on I intend to devote my life to my one true passion, bird watching. This can be tough in the forest until we knock down a few trees to get a better view. Birds come around to feed on bugs disturbed by the falling timber. Bird watching with a chainsaw may appear unorthodox to the uninformed. But it practically guarantees even the most myopic bird watcher sightings of such rare and colorful species as the scarlet tanager, ruby crowned kinglet, and shafted flicker.

A low rumble disturbs the silence of the forest. It is the mating call of the hickory shirted cat-skinner. He’s an unpredictable bird given to rigging fits. These are bursts of kinetic energy accompanied by colorful language. It’s best to give him a wide berth even if it’s not the morning after the 4th of July, which along with Christmas is one of only two holidays in the logger’s calendar.

In the glory days of logging, the camps would shut down on the 4th so loggers could go to town for the “big blow.”  That’s where they blew all the money they earned since Christmas. Some of the 4th of July festivities were a real riot. Like when the Forks loggers threw the bikers’ choppers off the Calawah river bridge. Now days the 4th has become a fun-for-the-whole family artsy-craftsy snoozer where everybody shows up for work the next day.    

Which in no way explained the cat-skinner’s next move. He launched from the tracks of his machine to land jumping in circles, screaming while trying to rip his clothes off. An allergic reaction to bad moonshine I presumed, but no. Just a little deer mouse, disturbed from its nest beneath the seat of the cat, ran up the catskinner’s pant leg by mistake.

People worry about being attacked by cougars and bears when it’s the mice and bugs that will get you in the end.  Actually, the most terrifying encounter I’ve ever had with an enraged animal, was the time I was jumped by a mother grouse. Grouse are called “fool hens’ by people that don’t know any better.

Grouse are really a lot more vicious than most people give them credit for. Like the one that attacked me last week. Even now it’s hard to talk about.  I’d been walking along minding my own business, bird watching with my chainsaw, when out of nowhere I heard a menacing clucking sound. There she was, a big mama grouse with blood in her eye and all her feathers fluffed the wrong way. 

Even if I could have gotten my saw started there would have been no time to use it before she launched an attack. She flew by my head so close I almost had to duck. She landed in a heap with one wing hanging limp. It was the old broken wing act used by mother birds everywhere to decoy predators away from their brood. Which might work really well on some dumb animal but it takes more than that to fake me out.

Still I wanted to see how close I could get. I was after all bird watching and a grouse is a bird. But every time I tried to get closer, she would flutter way wounded just a little further. After a while I thought she might have really hurt herself. Before I knew it, I was so far back in the brush I couldn’t hear the cat working. It was quitting time when I finally found my way back to the landing. I was so happy to see the catskinner again I didn’t care that he ate my lunch. It was good to be alive.

The Fish Duck Blues.

There’s nothing like spending the night along one of our rivers where it is still possible to experience one of the rarest things on earth, silence. Some would describe this silence as the sound of a dead river. The life on our rivers used to be anything but quiet.

Private Harry Fisher, of Lt. Joseph P. O’Neil’s 1890 Olympic Expedition described a night along an Olympic Peninsula salmon stream as,

“Although warm and comfortable, I might have selected a camp in Barnum’s Menagerie so far as sleep was concerned. Great salmon thrashed in the water all night long. Wild animals which I could not see snapped the bushes all night long in search of fish. Every few yards were seen the remains of a fish where cougar, coon, otter or eagle had made a meal.”

Chances are Private Fisher could get his beauty sleep along our rivers these days. The animals, birds and varmints he described are only a small part of what you could call indicator species that illustrate the important role that salmon once played in our environment. That was back when everything from the tiniest insects to the tallest trees were fed or fertilized by this vast exchange of energy from the ocean to the land and back again that the salmon represented.

Looking at a baby salmon it’s hard to believe that something not much bigger than a mosquito-larvae could have such a tremendous impact on everything from fish ducks to Orca but they do. Right about now this year’s hatch of baby salmon is venturing out into the world. Their parents had laid them as eggs in a gravel nest sometime last autumn. The eggs developed into a larvae-like creature called an alewine that fed on its own yolk sack. Emerging from the gravel they are called parr or fry. With a little luck they will survive a period in fresh water and migrate downstream to the ocean as smolts. With even more luck a small percentage of these young salmon will return to their home rivers where people call them everything from blue-backs to sore-backs.

Along the way the salmon feed the world through every stage of their lives. Starting with the tiniest baby salmon who arrived on the scene coincidentally, the very day the baby fish ducks were hatched. Their mother hatched them in tall cottonwood so the first thing the baby fish ducks had to do was to jump out of it.

They hit the ground running for the river where everything wanted to eat them. While the numbers of baby mergansers hatched by their mothers in a given year may not be an indication of the health of a salmon population on a river it will have to do until a better method comes along. Twenty years ago, it was not uncommon to see a mother fish duck with a dozen chicks or more. This year they are averaging about four or five.

With the salmon gone the animals and birds that depended on them are going away too. The forest itself was diminished without the fertilization spawned out salmon carcasses represented. From my own perspective even worse than the fate of all the varmints, fish ducks and Orca put together was the effect on the humans who depended on the salmon.

Many of the campgrounds, stores, resorts and businesses that depended on salmon have simply disappeared. Meanwhile, precious little is being done to restore the salmon. Their extinction mirrors the disappearance of our traditions and the culture of salmon fishing In the Pacific Northwest. I hope someone studies the problem someday.

The Tourism Summit.

Recently a tourism summit was held by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Outdoor Recreation to discuss ways to stimulate the economy of the North Olympic Peninsula. A PDN 5-12-10 article said “In looking at the future the (summit) group decided to borrow from the past.”

We had better hope not. The rivalries between the various communities on the Peninsula go back to the days of the railroad, when every town dreamed of being the terminus of the transcontinental rails, from sea to shining sea. The fact that we were a rugged, uninhabited peninsula, surrounded by treacherous bodies of water, did not deter our visionary pioneer forefathers like, Victor Smith of Port Angeles.

He stole the customs house from Port Townsend at gunpoint and somehow convinced “Honest Abe” Lincoln to declare Port Angeles a Second National City.  This gave Port Angeles a sense of community pride. That, with an illegal election and a gang of vigilantes, allowed Port Angels to steal the county seat from Whiskey Flats, before the now extinct Port Crescent could beat them to it.

The coming of the Industrial Age allowed us to exploit our inexhaustible forests and fisheries. Now, after a century of plunder these resources are locked up, endangered or just plain gone. All we have left to exploit are tourists.

The summit concluded we need more year-round tourists. We are going to build them a bicycle trail on the old railroad from Port Townsend to LaPush which would confirm my theory of history as a process of decay. Getting cyclists off our narrow, crowded roads and onto a trail is a good idea that’s been around since the ‘70’s.

Let me give an example of how much it will stimulate the economy. Tourists are a hassle. That’s why we put a season on them, but they are human beings. They deserve our honesty, compassion and respect. If you can fake that, you have a future in the tourist industry.

When I saw a pair of soggy cyclists stranded down Oil City Road, I tried to rescue them. They were Canadians headed for Tierra del Fuego. Just lucky I speak Canadian, eh. I warned them about Oil City, it’s worse than Sodom and Gomorrah with a hangover. The Canucks threw their bikes in my truck. We went to the Hoh Store for supplies. They bought a gallon of water. We said goodbye, eh. John Speerin’s blog @ www.crazyguyonabike.com describes this epic journey. Continuing south, Speerin almost bought a tee shirt in Florence, Oregon but it was too heavy to pedal.

Then I met some “425’ers”. We ID tourists by area code in the industry. “425” means Bellevue. The “425’ers” stopped at the store to get supplies for a fishing trip. Several hundred dollars later they came out of the store and went out to dinner, the liquor store and the motel. The next morning they bought breakfast and a box lunch and stopped at another store for more beer, smokes, doughnuts, chew, bait, gas, ice, herring, personal products, and everything they forgot to buy the day before.

One of the “425’ers” got a call from the war department. Since he was fishing instead of visiting her mother, she was in Victoria grudge shopping for some retail therapy and wondering why her plastic didn’t work. Let’s review. The cyclist bought a gallon of water. The fisherman spent money like a drunken sailor, before his wife could. Someone really should do a study on the economic benefits of sport fishing but I think they already did. It’s probably filed with the other studies. Someone should study that or, have a summit. It’s the least we can do. 

Bugs.

It was daylight in the swamp. There was a faint buzzing sound as the insects of the forest awoke. The first to be noticed is the smallest, the No-see-um. You might not think a bug that tiny could be a bother but you would be wrong. These tiny, almost invisible insects can occur in swarms so thick they make breathing difficult.

They get in your eyes and ears while biting you, sucking your blood and leaving patches of itchy welts all over your hide. Once the sun warms the forest floor you don’t worry about no-see-ums any more. The larger insects awaken. Maybe it is our unusually wet summer but the mosquitoes seem to be larger than normal. It’s like they are evolving into a new species of bloodsucking bird. Some of this year’s mosquito crop are big enough to shoot with a shotgun but that is a desperate measure that could be risky in a crowded campground.

It would be a futile effort anyway. You’d run out of shells before you ran out of mosquitoes. In the heat of the afternoon sun, you’re liable to forget all about the mosquitoes once the blackflies hit. They are a little black bug about the size of a housefly with one big difference. Blackflies bite. Still none of our insect pests can match the Deer Fly for sheer evil genius.

Though a deerfly is larger than the biggest housefly they are able to fly silently, land lightly and start feeding immediately. Once a deerfly gets you in its sights your little outdoor outing just took a turn for the worse. That is because there is seldom just one of the little devils. They hunt in teams that wear down the victim.

So, when you take off your hat to swat a deerfly, chances are another one will bite you on your bare head. So, you try to hit yourself in the head with your hat but deerflies can take a punch and the first one you swatted is back in the air. The deerflies circle until they can approach you from behind. That’s when you need the buddy system, someone to watch your back.

I once saw some cranky campers who were swatting each other with tree branches to keep the deerflies off each other. The bugs were fierce. The tree branches kept getting bigger until the booze hit and the campers were beating each other with clubs.

Squashing one of these engorged bloodsuckers is a disgusting experience that is not for the feint hearted. Just remember, it’s you or the bug. Chances are you’ll do the right thing, even if it makes you look like a bio-hazard.

Still there are worse bugs. You’d know that if you ever kicked into a black hornet or a yellow jacket nest. They show up later this summer. The experts tell us not to panic when being attacked by hornets. These are the same experts who tell us not to panic when you get lost or drop your car keys in the outhouse. I’ve never seen anyone not panic while being attacked by hornets. There was a troop of Boy Scouts coming down the long dry switchbacks into what has to be the buggiest hole in the Olympics, Grand Valley.

There in the trail was a big underground nest of hornets that were tired of getting stomped on all summer. The first couple of scouts made it through fine. The rest suffered a brutal attack that sent them screaming down the steep trail. By the time the slower scouts came limping along the enraged cloud of hornets was ready for them. That had to be an unforgettable wilderness experience.

How Much Wood Does a Man Need? With Apologies to L. Tolstoy.

A man and his wife lived on a small farm in the backwoods of the Olympic Peninsula. If you were to ask what they raised on this farm the answer would be obvious, firewood. There were woodpiles stacked between the fence-posts, under trees and in sheds.

One night after a hard day of woodcutting the man was on the back porch sharpening his chain saw.

“How much wood does a man need?” The wife asked.

“We need as much as we can get.” The man said. “And besides, it ain’t like the stuff goes bad. You want to cure it for a couple of years to keep from getting a chimney fire.”  

The woman had heard this before.  She walked quietly back inside, leaving him to explain his love of cutting firewood. How the energy of the sun was transformed through the miracle of photosynthesis into plants that produced materials we could use for shelter and heat.

How he loved the feel of a sharp saw cutting into a windfall at daylight. They’re no good for lumber anyway. The bugs get into down logs about as soon as they hit the ground so you sure aren’t going to want to saw it into lumber for your own house and how the government’s trying to shut down the honest firewood cutters so they can push it all in a slash pile and cover it with plastic and burn it so they can keep their cushy jobs.

The next day the man drove his truck far into the forest following fresh tracks of a log truck. He knew the spoor would lead him to a logging show that might take pity on a firewood cutter with a cooler full of beer and smoked salmon jerky at quitting time.

Sure enough, past the fork and around the bend, the man found a high lead logging show in the middle of the road.

After beer and smoked salmon jerky the woodcutter made a deal with the loggers. He could have all the wood he could cut in one day for free. Any thing left would be torched by the government like a third world slash and burn forestry practice.  

The woodcutter barely slept that night. He had a nightmare of the loggers laughing around a bonfire made from the wood he cut. The next morning found him in the woods at first light with a “hot saw” he had borrowed from his brother in law. It was souped-up with oversized everything and a three-foot bar. He figured he’d need it for some of the pumpkin logs he rubber-necked the day before.

The big saw roared to life at the third pull. He started cutting through a big chunk of old growth fir like it was melted butter. The log was so big he would have to split the rounds into smaller pieces to move them to the road. None of that mattered as a stream of aromatic sawdust poured out of the saw, like water from a hose.

He ran the saw until the sun was high in the sky. Stopping only to refuel. Then, he started splitting the rounds of wood into chunks and throwing them into the road. Towards afternoon, the man saw he’d have to really hustle to get all the wood he had cut and split on to the road by dark.

As the sun dropped to the horizon, he kept finding more wood to cut. He felt feint and keeled over. The loggers found him the next morning. How much wood does a man need? It turned out it was just enough to make the box to bury him in.