Up the Beach — Sand pounding, mud stomping and get-out-of-the house wanderings


The solstice has arrived. North Beach folks dug into their closets and pulled out their yellow slickers and Hyak-colored jackets to go sand pounding, mud stomping and get-out-of-the house wandering before monsoon season.

It is a good thing, too, because the old cliché, “It is ‘day-za-voo’ all over again” around the Harbor. The old-timers are getting warm, fuzzy, at home feelings, while the newbies on the beach wonder what the heck is that all about. That being cold and hot decks piled high with lumber, favorite trucks on the road, loaded down, especially the ones with solid, second growth logs with no butt rot riding high on them. It doesn’t matter what type of truck it is (although a personal preference is the sound of a Peterbuilt), that sight and sound brings back memories of hardworking loggers and mill workers, the solid family life, the characters and the hometown support and pride of such a lifestyle.

Tsunami debris tribute totem

And, the beachers have to thank the Japan tsunami for such a demand for lumber. The sand pounders and honkers have been keeping themselves busy by beachcombing the debris and, as such, are interested in the Japan Daily Express story about one use of such flotsam:

Peter Clarkson who lives on the coast in Tofino, B.C., who is of the stripe as local beachcombers, has built a 23-foot high sculpture of a totem pole that has captured Japanese imagination. For some time now, Clarkson has been collecting debris that washes ashore since the tsunami in Japan. The Japanese people appreciate his desire to construct something meaningful that comes from a feeling connectedness.

He says finding this debris on the shore reminds him of the link shared between all people who live near the ocean. Makes one wonder which beacher is going to do something similar out of respect to the 19,000 people dead or missing from the event and in respect to the coastal towns that have disappeared with homes and buildings debris that have and will be washing up on the North Beaches.

Predicting ocean catches study

Out in the ocean, the latest news on the possibility of the first long-term forecasts to predict ocean catches six months in the future is exciting. The UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean scientists, while cautious, are greatly encouraged by the winter’s study results that predicted unusually low oxygen this summer off our local coastline.

The new methods will predict whether or not the low oxygen trend will continue, or get worse, in the near future. Research scientist Samantha Sidlecki explained being able to predict plankton blooms, ocean temperature and low oxygen events could help fisheries managers. That factor alone, said Phil Levin, NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center cooperator, simply knowing if things are likely to get better or worse, would be useful in predicting over-harvesting. By avoiding that scenario, the stocks are healthier, fishing can be maintained at a sustainable level and fishers can avoid getting penalized by a number of regulations.

The new tool is called Seasonal Coastal Ocean Prediction of the Ecosystem or J-SCOPE, which the researchers will present to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). They will work with NANOOS (Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observation Systems) to reach tribal, state and local fisheries managers.

Pelicans, Brandts & geese, Oh my!

Those who watch the ocean enjoy the evening spectacle of the Brown Pelicans antics. Folk going to town in the early mornings have nearly missed work by stopping at the Hoquiam sewer lagoon and being gob-smacked by the hundreds of pelicans flying in formations and patiently circling to land, as if some natural traffic controller is directing their sudden dive bombing into the lagoon.

It’s like old times to see the brown bombers in such numbers, along with some of the largest gull and tern flocks in years vying for cruising lanes in the water.

And, ducks… Lordy, Lordy, are there ducks, brandts, and geese nearly walking on each other’s backs!

Fishers in the pink with pinks

Again, like old times, from the Grays Harbor bar to the Hoquiam bridges, the river looks like the mouth of the Columbia River with fishers of all types flashing rods in the morning sun as they pull in their limits of pinks. It’s like the old days to see charter boats lined up in the channels with kicker boats, all vying for the best fishing spot. Only thing missing is the old charter boat fleet from Ocean Shores.

For some folks along the beach related to B.C. natives, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans is reporting promising numbers for pink returns on their rivers. An estimated 26 million pinks are just flooding into rivers and streams at a rate of three times the estimated rate of return. Pretty happy fishers up there since their sockeye runs were so low.

But, the late Shuswap sockeye are expected to reach 380,000 — more than triple the expected return. Bet the Quinault fisheries folks wish their sockeye returns would be the same. Unfortunately, the huge sockeye fisheries studies on Lake Quinault do not agree with such optimism.

Swifts finally return

Another thing making an appearance this early fall has been the Vaux swifts, the smallest of swifts in the U.S. At five-inches long, their long, pointed wings are a sight to see as they swoop from yard trees.

This breeding bird of our area has not been seen frequently until lately. And for those who really hate the annual influx of spiders, the latter is not good news because the Vaux’s favorite meal is spiders with a few bugs as a side dish.

SEALS swimming at Pacific Beach again

Yet another familiar memory has been brought back by all the talk of SEALS training at Pacific Beach. It used to be great fun when the Brit SEALS came to the Tidelands Resort or Rod’s Resort to train in the surf and rain during the fall. Even though beachers are not good at some things, they certainly did excel at kibitzing and gawping at uncommon sights in order to discuss them over coffee at the old Chili Bowl or Surf & Sand cafes.

Moonrise and sunset easy on the eyes

An uncommonly, gorgeous sight on the beach last week was the incredible harvest moon hanging over the North Bay. There it was in all its silvery splendor in a perfectly rounded ball, not merely a big circle in the azure sky. Now if the incredible, green sunsets will only come back this fall, the beachers will know that things are returning to the way it was.

Clamming comes early

And Dan Ayres, WDFW Coastal Shellfish Manager’s announcement that the razor clam season was getting off to an early start with an evening dig Sept. 19-23 at Twin Harbor beaches was just frosting on the cake for local folks. “We have a huge number of clams available for harvest this season — particularly at Twin Harbors,” Ayres said. “There are only so many good clamming tides during the year, and we decided there was no time to waste in getting started.”

Just so the Newbies know, the Twin Harbors Beach extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor. Who cares if the dig is not on the local beaches — it’s gonna be.

Just remember that during the fall season, the limit is no more than 15 razor clams and that means the first 15 dug, not just your selectively chosen ‘keepers.’ Each digger must keep their clams in their own container. A 2013-14 fishing license is required for anyone 15 years or older.

The latest clamming reports will be on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/seasons_set.html

Nevertheless. Go ahead. Haul out those bright yellow rain slickers and the yellow and black waterproof jackets. The rains they are a comin’ but beachers aren’t made of sugar—they won’t melt.

And, this is a great fall to re-play many wonderful beach memories.

Gene Woodwick may be contacted at genewoodwick@coastaccess.com.