The road west out of Port Angeles was little indication of what our experience riding through the Olympic peninsula would be. Most of the road for the first ten to fifteen miles was somewhat smooth with a wide enough shoulder and without much up and down serpentine motion. However, past Joyce on Highway 112 the landscape changed and was to stay this way. What we did not know were the extra challenges in riding this section, as well as the pleasant surprises.
This had been day six of pulling Fitzroy and it was really becoming a strain; hills are longer and steeper, he is restless and figits a lot with the slight shoulder, bumps, heat, and fast traffic. We are taking more frequent stops for us to adjust to the hills but also let Fitz out to stretch and run. I’m finding though he gets out sniffs, pees then finds a shady spot to rest. One of these rest spots was a long the Juan de Fuca Straight with the enjoyable scent of sea air and sounds of waves rolling in on the shore. Here I met Mark Ramiro, an Elwha elder who was crabbing off the west Twin River. He described, in his words and feelings, the removal of the Elwha dams in that they were making money and supplying energy to Port Angeles. He said the Kings would come up the river and get worms in their gills and kill them because the water was too warm, but the humpies, pinks, and Steelhead would return in the winter months but not in any great number. The Federal gov’t was pressured to remove the upper dam, they then met with the tribal gov’t and pressured them to remove the lower dam. This all happened and now the river flows freely and salmon have returned.
At the fishing town of Seiku we were told by a couple local hippies of a secret beach if we took a trail for a mile and half. They said we would have a mile in each direction without many people, if any walking the stretch. And so this is what we found.
A hell of a hill greeted us soon after Clallam Bay – six miles of up! Miles and days with no shoulder and logging trucks. Seeing and hearing logging trucks, and chain saws continued to remind me what Melvinjohn of the HOH Nation said in our meeting. His grandmother, and her ancestors, who subsisted on the Olympic peninsula, said ” there is no old growth here anymore, it has all been forested and what we have is, in many places, second and third growth forest.” I cannot be naïve in that we need timber and wood products in our lives. However, we need to drive, or at least encourage the Forest Service, logging companies, and people in general to practice sustainable practices so the long term doesn’t possess such negative results. The mountains around us were completely clearcut without replanting in maany areas. Forestry Policy states that within two years after harvest the area needs to be replanted. We came across clearcut areas that have been devoid of vegetation for at least seven years.
The escape of 160,000 farmed salmon from their pen within Puget Sound was the headline in the paper. Apparently, it “was caused by the Solar Eclipse which caused the tides to shift.” I found that interseting in that no other pens, which there are thousands of, did not experience an escape or collapse due to the eclipse. The facts behind farmed salmon, or “fresh Atlantic Salmon” as it’s sold in stores across the county are; they are fed pellets made from by-catch fish that have a higher nutritional value for humans (anchovies, sardines, mackerel), fed antibiotics because they are confined in a pen with the excrement of all the other fish, that excrement pollutes the environment exceeding the radius of the pens as well as migrates upstream, the meat is grey – dyed, color chosen from a color wheel, to look like a wild salmon, and they are omega 3 and 6 deficient, something natural in the wild variety. You choose. But be mindful and purchase in the lightest form of moderation, as either choice has an impact, one of course less than the other.
As we continued south we did the touch and go with the shoreline. At times there were stretches with great views of the ocean, other times we would contend with the fast and heavy traffic either heading to the coast for the holiday or pounding the rush hour grind. All the while, the thoughts of the impact I, We, have on the resources we think are renewable. Clearcutting forests impacts the watershed, riparian habitat, and the spawning streams of salmon. Farmed and even commercail fishing impact our waterways as well as the cultural heritage of the People who have relied on salmon for their food. As with all things, once its gone, its gone for good. Never to come back, and really nothing to replace it.