Olympic Peninsula, Part Two

We make our way past a few unmemorable towns and press deep in the national forest, national park, and timber land. Acre after acre of dead land surrounds the road. Every few miles a sign is posted saying when the land was cut, when it was planted, and when it will be cut again. The natural forest is far and away a different creature than the mechanized tree farms the timber industry builds. On one side of the road may be a couple dozen tree species, hundreds of shrubs and grasses and flowers and berries. on the other a mass planting of one tree, all the same height. The adage says that you can only replant the trees, not the forest. It is self evident in this landscape.

I am reminded of the corn fields I grew up in, massive carpets of the same plant. Clones on the march, looking more like slaves to man than a natural landscape. This wasteland of trees is the same, just a army marching to its own demise.

We eventually made it to the Olympic National Park, a beautiful and wild place covering the landscape of mountains and beaches with a blanket of protection. We found trees taller than thirty story buildings, gargantuan moss covered beast that were old when white men first landed in the americas. I wanted to lay in the moss and roll around like a dog.

We pulled of the road at a simple sign, the placed called “Big Cedar.” There was a winding dirt road, leading to a small cul-de-sac. There was indeed a large cedar, but not thirty feet from it was a stump large enough to park my jeep on, the chainsaw marks still fresh. We couldn’t help but laugh that the first thing one sees when entering the parking area is a massive tree on its side. The big cedar was impressive, a mass of tangled trunks with smaller plants shooting off it in all directions. Around twenty feet up a small douglas fir had found hold, growing up another twenty feet. This single old growth tree had an entire ecosystem upon its shoulders.

We left the tree and continued the journey, finally ending on the Kalaloch beach area. We walked a trail of disfigured trees, huge beast covered in burls and gnarled limbs from the salty spray. Even while wasting energy to grow beach ball size balls of wood these trees grew to epic proportions, too warped for sawmills or mans machines to make use.

We camped on the bluff overlooking the angry ocean. It frothed and fumed, spewing brown seawater ever forward. I pulled out a pair of cigars and a flask of bourbon for a windy walk. Despite the mid-winter date there were some other people camping there, or more correctly, staying there. Large recreational vehicles with steamy windows and engine rumbling sat around the area. The low rumble and golden light emanating from them was almost inviting compared to the brutal wind and salty spray.

I don’t like Rvs. They are a danger on the road, are almost exclusively driven by oxy-genarians or drunk nascar fans. They clog our national parks, fill up our campgrounds, and use enormous amounts of fuel. I feel ever so slightly sorry for the people in these tin cans because they have been removed from the environment. While I may not enjoy freezing my ass off I know that for me to no do so would make me a spectator of the ecosystem instead of a participator. Cooped up in that techno box man has moved that much farther from the real world, while leaving him thinking he is still a participant.

The same could be said for my nylon tent and butane stove but I like to think that a defining invention of civilization is the modern bed. Without a good bed we would soon return to the trees and grasslands like bald chimps. I sleep on the ground, but I digress.

The next day was beautiful, sunny and clear and just the right temperature. we stopped for burgers at a greasy spoon in Forks. There was a group of mid twenties guys there and a group of teenage guys. Seemed from their behavior that these did this every day. Same friends, same waitress, same food, same life. While I can appreciate the comfort this must give them, if given a little perspective it should scare the shit out of them.

We drove on, made home by late noon. We were muddy from the trip and plenty tired. We went to the bar and drank a few pitchers of beer while listening to Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd.


Amy said...

Hey dude, I'm from Forks, so I'm interested in your thoughts. Thanks. I hope people will focus on your great descriptions of the natural beauty of Olympic National Park. Spend your dollars locally--vacation on the Peninsula this summer people!

T.D.E. said...

Thanks Amy, send me an e-mail if you like, would be glad to hear what somebody else things of the peninsula.