Up the Beach — Signs of spring and some nostalgia


The warm weather has sprouted teens on skateboards like Junebugs after rain. Little boys are showing off on their bikes to other boys. Girls are wandering around arms across each other’s shoulders. I love it all. But, what I miss is being able to go up to Ocean City and seeing Leon Williamson and his buddies harassing his brother, Fred, by chasing him up and down the street, catching him, and stuffing him into a chicken wire crab trap, then rolling him down the hill. That’s just the sort of thing one does to a little brother. And I miss the grown up Fred, down at the old shop, peeling a banana in the sunshine, enjoying every bite.

It is a joy to see the knobby-legged, new born, colts in the Grass Creek pastures, or to find a piece of sky-blue robin’s egg shell under the tree. It’s even a spring thing to see banana slugs gliding out from under moist leaves, especially the ones not in my yard. How many have forgotten to make a correct turn because they are too busy gawking at the spectacular show the rhodies are putting on this year? Trilliums are spectacular out in the shaded areas of the North Beach woods. Unfortunately gorse has made its appearance. Land owners are responsible for this highly invasive species whose seeds remain viable for 60 years. Even fire can’t kill them. Gorse sprouts in areas where soil has been moved. So before those pretty yellow blossoms disappear, cut the bushes down before they go to seed, bag and take it to a landfill or spray with herbicide.

So far the tiny fawns are not in evidence, but last year’s late babies are looking pretty ratty. Although the Moms shed winter hair earlier, the little guys are halfway through the spring molt. The second molt of the year is not usually as noticeable. Some folks are concerned that the scrawny ones with bald patches are not long for this world.

The causes of the gray patches are due to infestations of Eurasian lice. The deer develop an allergic reaction that is exacerbated by the deer’s grooming of the infected areas. The problem first began in Western Washington in 1995. Blacktail deer, throughout both Western Washington and Western Oregon, annually suffer with the lice which does not affect humans. In some areas winter ticks engorged with blood fall off deer in the spring.

Black bears woke up early this year and a couple of beautiful specimens are roaming the Humptulips delta. Some are prowling around oyster beds and scuffling around for their spring taste of the delicacy. The largest concentration of black bear is in Pacific County where Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) estimates the population at 25,000. The beachers who have always lived around bears don’t understand the panic of the city folk over bears. Basically, they are no more interested in interaction with humans than city folk are with them.

When bears appear the police know cougar reports are soon to follow. There are a growing number of folks who want to see a change in state Fish and Wildlife Department policy regarding spring hunts for both cougar and bear. No state agency allows the spring hunting of ungulates. Spring hunting of bear and cougar are allowed. The Cougar Foundation uses WDFW estimates that 26 cougar kittens have been left orphaned in the past four years. The bear cubs die of starvation after the mother has been killed. It may be a long process to change policy as all of the western states allow both spring hunts.

The recent announcement that the Feds do not plan to fund Japan debris removal off the West Coast Pacific Beaches leaves some folks shaking their heads and applauding Sen. Maria Cantwell’s sharp questioning of NOAA officials in Washington D.C. The beachers grumblingly agree that if the debris was hitting the East Coast it would be a different story. More black buoys have been found and it has been reported that further up the coast refrigerators and some appliances have arrived. Ocean Shores’ regular beach walker, Steve Green has been finding a number of glass balls.

The only real action along the coast is at Long Beach wherre they are pursuing a grant application for a pilot project of vertical evacuation structures to protect against an off coast tsunami. They are requesting $1 million for large, hardened earth berms. The Safe Haven plan has identified five possible locations at Long Beach. Their local sand pounders are already doubtful of the success of such a project. They have spent too many years watching logs pound ashore tearing up dunes as big as the projected berms.

The Quileute tsunami project to move LaPush to safer ground is coming along. They will gain 785 acres from the National Park Service and 185 acres of non- federal tribal lands that will be transferred to trust reservation land. The trade came with a caveat that the feds gain permanent access to 2nd beach. The adjusted reservation boundaries are being set with GPS to avoid future disputes.

Out in the ocean spring brings out more ship noise with many studies ranging from the US Navy, to NOAA, academia groups and wildlife scientists. They are monitoring activity with hydrophones. Whales vocalize and “sing” to converse with each other, in many areas the sea noise is affecting their ability to communicate. Studies around the outlet for the Straits of Juan de Fuca are centered on Blue whales (the largest of all mammals, including dinosaurs), the “Greyhounds of the Sea” or fins, and Orcas. The latter has lost about 25 percent of its capacity to communicate with each other in recent years. Interestingly enough, if you lived at Bella Bella, B.C. you could tune into radio station 92.3 FM and, listen to the whales singing.

New sea vessels are in the news. The new submarine, the USS Washington, has been dedicated to honor state’s contributions and support to military.

For fishing vessels and other maritime trade to the Lower Columbia the news is welcome that a fireboat funded by USCG Sector Columbia River’s area Maritime Security Division. They approved a port security grant program of $2.7 million for 3 response vessels with fire fighting capability. Astoria Fire D department and the Port of Astoria will soon receive a Type V 30-35‘ vessel with the feds to pay for operation cost and the Port maintenance fees. Combined fire department personnel and volunteers from both entities help operate the ship.

A new Coast Guard cutter, the Charles W. Sexton, was named after Petty Officer Sexton who died responding to distress call from FV Sea King sinking just north of the Columbia River. Sexton served as emergency med tech aboard Motor Lifeboat CG-44381. After providing needed medical attention to crewman he began helping to “de-water” the vessel. After six hours the fishing vessel was stabilized and inside the bar when it suddenly, without warning, flipped over. Sexton went down with the vessel Jan 11, 1991.

Question of the week for old beachers: Where was Camp Tulips where fellows over 65 years of age, spent the rest of their lives together in a home of their own making? Don’t think too hard though. Now is time to go watch the teens skateboard and remember Fred did get out of the chicken wire crab traps and lived a good life.

Gene Woodwick may be contacted at: glw@reachone.com.