Fall is marching toward winter. It is a time of diamonds and rust. Time to get off the beachfront and take a drive on the east side of the beaches. Go up 101 and spend time seeing and remembering things off the beaten path in the majority of the neighborhood.
Bowerman Basin beauty
The best place to start is by heading south to see the incredible early morning light across Bowerman Basin that scatters diamonds across the wake of the incoming tide. Late fall light lies like silver on the water of the basin, punctuated by the ebony pilings of the old Grays Harbor City dock as they barely peek out of the shallow waters.
Further down, the ebony and silver scene is accented by the black and brown of an eagle on a hunt for breakfast threading its way through the WWII pilings that range in a ragged line out to airport peninsula.
Take in the glittering gold of the chips spilling out of the shoot at the dock area, surrounded by a sapphire blue sky punctuated with the back-lighted silver lining of the clouds.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee from the thermos and enjoy the blue mountains surrounding Westport across the bay, cradled in the emerald green of the surrounding forest.
Head over Lonngren Pass
Don’t linger too long because there is so much more awaiting the last fall trip before the rains begin in earnest. Head over Lonngren Pass. Enjoy the Little Hoquiam River boom poles’ hats of vegetation as they march down to the Hoquiam, where pewter moss clings to the riverbank trees. Remember what a joy it was to see the miles of booms, with boom men dancing across the river.
Logging legacy reminders
Further north it seems like Werner Mayr should be evident in the truck yard at his old mill, now the Little River company. Yeah, it is nostalgia time for miles, including the Spradlin’s, whose friendly drivers always honked for the kids who pumped their fists in the air.
And there is the old Grays Harbor Logging Scale draped in fantastic shades of emerald green blackberry vines just past the old two-story Logger’s Restaurant. Just looking at it brings back the faces of the old bucks, and some young bucks too, lined up on the stools around the counter, shaking dice for coffee and setting their world straight in their opinionated way.
Ah, over there on the right is the hunk of old Highway 9 that was cut off to prevent bunkers from logging a log in the folks’ front yards. Bronze leaves, bare stalks of alders, the warm browns of cattails and bracken ferns in the swales are at their best during this pre-rainy season.
Swishing on past Stoken’s with all the memories of those good folks, logging country is more in evidence. Bulldozers in yards are as common as SUVs in town. Stump pedestals hold planters filled with gorgeous fall flowers. The Egge Road makes one think of the brothers and cousins who helped log the area in pioneer days.
Failor Lake country
One has to laugh when the Failor Lake Road is reached, as one remembers Joe DeLaCruz and Mayor Jack McGuire’s tussle over the Hoquiam watershed as memorialized in Bob McCausland’s cartoon.
Further on, the new clear cuts begin for harvesting trees for Japan. On the other side of the highway in the non-logging stream area lie tangles of blow-down from the 1997 storm.
Nearing the old Railroad Camp location, a murder of crows march across the highway in some near-ceremonial parade.
Rayonier blue and Weyco yellow access gates punctuate the evergreens.
Are there some giant mushrooms back there like brothers Mickey and Billy Gillum found in Pacific County last week? The giant boletus were honestly big enough to serve as umbrellas, according to the Chinook Observer. Of course, they also found some puny 7-8 pounders, too.
Along the East Hump
As the Alaska-style muskeg appear along the road, sable mink are spotted scurrying down through the roadside grasses. Makes you wonder what lives in all those long ago established cedar spolt piles out in the brush.
It is the same as you near the East Humptulips River. How much of the old concrete dam upriver is still visible? And, more importantly, how is the fishing up there.? One thing for sure, the alluvial gravel beds on the west side of the road near the Hump, are certainly being put to use to provide gravel all over the county. Someday will those become a lake with fine fishing?
Kinda sad in a way to pass by the Axford Prairie Fire Station and not be able to see the old DNR Smokey the Bear fire sign. Why kids thought that was such a fine sight was never understood, but it was a great occasion as to who saw it first on the family road trips.
Stately tall ghosts of former springboard cuts on stumps are at their best at this time of the year. The silvery stumps set off the deep maroon leaves of brush—especially as the clouds take fall naps on the foothills of the Olympics behind the Sunshine Units clear-cuts on Newbury Creek.
A few elk are to be seen in some patches as the sun becomes warmer. Guess some folks just aren’t good at hunting, so they put bullet holes in the stationary caution sign near the Quinault Ridge Road.
There is a lot to gawk upon nearing Neilton. Ah, yes. The honey farm still has a lot of hives. Wonder how many jars of fireweed honey are for sale?
Gee… There’s that great old Timberland Library bus still in a residential yard. What a lot of memories are wrapped up in that bus that brought the world to the door in pre-Internet days.
Elaine’s Store is up for sale. What a great beacher person she was.
But times change. As have the coffee stops. Whoever would have thought that the Mobile Coffee Stop would be in business handing out espresso in Neilton?
Signs of the times
Another change is the former Olympic National Forest Service sign that now says Quinault Natural Area or that the Olympic National Park Area is now designated the Quinault Recreation Area? The Quinault Indian Nation signs are pretty snazzy.
Now if folks will pay attention to the ‘No Dumping’ signs, the local folks will be happier.
While the city folks might not think it is great news, beachers traveling to the upper county often will be absolutely delighted that the Amanda Park Mercantile has a brand new Rayonier-blue port-a-potty. Bet the over-60 crowd is deliriously happy now. They should all thank the Quinault Matron of the Lake, Miss Candace, for that and put some shekels down on her counter.
To get in touch with the real folks up north, reading the information on the VIC building always offers a different opinion on the encroachment of urbanity into the downhome area. But, you won’t be able to go inside and kibitz or commiserate because the sign on the door says: “Closed. Gone fishing while we still have access.”
So there they are… the days of diamonds and rust. Get out of the house and workshop and take a nostalgic cruise before they are gone.
Gene Woodwick may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org