Now this is a real beach folk time of the year. School has begun. Hunting season has not begun. Summer steelhead is on the wane. Fall salmon season is opening. Berry picking is nearly done. The time is gone for getting sunburn. So that leaves time for visiting, card playing, and planning for the upcoming sport seasons. It is a good time to take an old beacher’s route that took one through the logging camp areas and re-group into a life style in which most beach folks grew up.
That was the time when there was little separation between Olympic Peninsula folks because mobility from camp to camp or logging show to logging show was dependent upon what skills were needed where. And fall was the time to load the kids into the backseat or into the carryall and go visiting.
Most folks made the grand loop around the Wynooche to Montesano. Some went north to Forks. But no matter where they chose to go, early fall was a fine time for a great drive to get there. In those areas this year there is plenty to see.
One reason it didn’t seem so far to any of those places was Grandpa worked for Polson whose lands sprawled across the lower and mid-peninsula. Dad and Uncles worked the second growth in the same areas for Rayonier. No matter where you went you could run into folks from Mayr Brothers, Dineen Logging, Donovan’s, Simpson, Saginaw or gypo trucking companies. Lord help you if Dad stopped for gas somewhere because there was always someone for him to gab with “just a minute” that could turn into an hour.
This fall on the way to Forks, the maples are beginning to show off tan and brown leaves just waiting for fall to turn the rest of the leaves to burgundy and gold. Already the vine maple is showing some branches of colorful foliage. Up at the Clearwater the bears are fat but not very sassy. They amble along the river like a Florida retiree too content to even notice a human.
Fishermen at the Hoh are still to be seen but the views of the river’s glacial, green water is at its best, particularly at the DNR Cottonwood campground area.
For the local folks who cooked in logging camps, the trip brings reminiscences of calling from Sappho camp to Eudie’s, at Amanda Park, or to Camp Six, in the Humptulips area, to borrow some cooking supplies until the weekly West Coast Grocery Co. run delivered orders up to camp and the grocery stores. If it was a dire emergency Eudie would grab a truck driver and sent the needed items on its way. Neighborly help was what ran all through the logging country, whether it was groceries, parts, fixing the cussed equipment, or helping folks out of some disaster.
Taking the old route across the Humptulips and Wynooche Country is still a good beacher trip. Getting up early allows a swing down to the “Y” at the Ocean Beach Road and SR101 then heading north on 101.
In the early morning the drive across the lower Humptulips on the Powell Road makes one wonder how long before the Chinooks arrive in the river. The old “Rodeo of the Kings” that restored Kings to the area saved a fishery that was in serious decline. Fog will be drifting across the Grass Creek valley all silvery with golden highlights from the morning son.
One remnant of the logging camp days is on the right just past the DeKay Road. The old swamp works building of Rayonier still stands in its uniqueness on the right side of the highway close to New London.
Further up the road, if you know where to look on the left (near Axford) brings to mind the huge family-oriented Railroad Camp. It was a the favorite of little boys who fought over window space to see the huge steam engines getting ready on work days softly chuffing trails of steam into the air. Weekends the family often made stops there to see which Railroad Camp kids were in the high school in Hoquiam, and what the chances of league championships might come to fruition. In the kitchen the womenfolk would be talking about how glad they were that sewing school clothes, canning and getting kids on the bus was now over. Kids released from cars tried to scrounge something from the swamp works, or crawl under the railroad bunk cars just to smell the hot oily smell of creosote.
That adventure precluded the plans of stopping at Loomis’ in Humptulips because the folks wanted to get up the highway to make the Donkey Creek turnoff. But, if they were lucky and the folks had drunk enough coffee they might get to take a rest stop break at the Rayonier Promised Land park where they could mess around on the old logging equipment while the folks took care of their urgent needs.
The bear this fall on Donkey Creek Road seem to be all yearlings. Boy Howdy they are sleek and shiny. Their deep brown or black coats make a fine contrast to the tawny gold of the dying ferns. While the mushroom hunters grit their teeth over the new clearcuts, the berry pickers are checking out future new, little wild blackberry spots.
Near the turnoff to Wynooche Dam one must stop and take the right side walkway over the river. It is a sight good for the soul. The low water sparkles across the rock bed, the air smells like snakes, fish and ferns.
Today’s travelers will find it hard to remember where Simpson’s Grisdale Camp was. But old-timers can still stop their car and walk back into part of the huge community. Ah, what a great fall stop that was in the old days. The wider, lower peninsula community knew just about everyone in Camp where the logger’s family cabin yards were still blooming with geraniums, stock, nasturtiums, in a village that looked like it had popped out of a children’s book.
The sound of bouncing balls could be heard coming from the gym. Grisdale kids knew where to go frog hunting, the best mud holes to splash in and the boys knew where to go to get away from girls. Teen boys were another matter all together; they knew from past visits just where to find the girls. Pop would soon be talking cars, or going over a piece of equipment at the swamp works, playing cribbage over a kitchen table, or perhaps a indulging in a hot poker game in the mess hall. Or, perhaps getting away from the women folks to plan the fall deer and elk hunting trips. Unbeknownst to the men, the women folks were just as busy planning all the fun they could have when the men were gone and they could indulge in fixing meals when they wanted, giving each other perms, making fudge, staying up late and letting the kids run a little wild while the old man was gone.
But finally, just like today, the time has arrived, all too soon, to go on down the Wynooche Valley through fat cattle country, past the fishers on the Satsop River, down to Highway 12. Late afternoon sun on the newly mown fields is a heart-warming sight. Often there was a stop in Aberdeen or Hoquiam for Chinese food. Back to US 101 today the fall migration of birds have begun with Sooty shearwaters by the thousands swooping over the water. Little sanderlings are jitterbugging in the air. The cotton-tops of the expended fireweed blooms take on rays of the setting sun. The arrival home ends a perfect North Beach early fall trip. So lean back, enjoy the time of year when summer work is over, find some good card-playing friends, dig out the old-fashioned percolator to boil up some “real” coffee, plan that fall fishing trip, a good hunting trip, and enjoy some old-fashioned neighborliness.
Gene Woodwick may be reached at email@example.com.