She’d been burning oil for a while, and more recently, started leaking some, too. Last spring, towing our little skiff toward the Columbia, she didn’t have enough power to get out of second gear. On flat ground. When I hit Olympia to pick up Sweeney, we had to take his truck to drag the boat the rest of the way to the big river. That’s when I knew it was time.
I wrestled with selling her. She wasn’t worth much, but I could certainly use the cash. On the other hand, I didn’t have much confidence that she’d be reliable for much longer, and the thought of the burning and leaking oil continuing to hit our air and water weighed on me, as did the declining gas mileage. I put her up on Craig’s List, but found myself talking every prospective buyer out of buying. In short, I was a very lousy salesman.
The answer, of course, was to get her off the roads altogether. So a few days ago, after a surprising amount of emotional turmoil, it was time to say goodbye to a good and trusty friend. Apologies for anthropomorphizing here, but we had so many great adventures together, it’s tough not to. We drove to the Skeena, drift boat in tow, half a dozen times. Four trips to Bella Coola. Once up through the Canadian Rockies. Epic times on the Olympic Peninsula, the Deschutes, the Grand Ronde. Long drives through the desert. Fun in the snow. Crawling sideways out of door-deep mud on the Humptulips. Hundreds of daily commutes to the Skykomish. Twice she brought babies home from being born.
In the end, she had 249,000 miles on the dial and was only in the shop once for anything other than scheduled maintenance. Twenty-five years of trustworthy hauling, twenty-three of which were with me.
So yeah, it’s tough not to attribute some humanity to something that’s been such a big part of my life for so long. My hope is that she’s now providing parts for someone else’s old Montero that’s still running strong. And that our new car, a Toyota, lasts just as long.
I put up a post about summer dreams and BOOM! This happens. Classic. We spent a lovely Superbowl Sunday at the Sweeney’s house in Olympia, one eye on the game and the other looking out the window as five inches of white stuff piled up. Of course, I was too busy eating all the delicious food to worry too much, but we drove home in a whiteout blizzard, and the usual hour-and-a-half drive took an hour longer. Then two days of no school here, many hours at the sled hill (where the kids built a jump and learned the meaning of “getting the wind knocked out of you”), dogs running in snow, snowball battles, snow cones, frozen fingers, a roaring woodstove, and the knowledge that no matter how much we dream of summer, it’s still winter. But we had so much fun, I can live with that.
With more wet, cold weather and two weeks of battling the flu (I think we’re finally winning), I admit my mind has wandered to warmer days. My barely heated office hasn’t helped much, either. And the short, dark days are a factor, too. But maybe I’m just going soft? Whatever the reason, I’m already looking ahead to summer salmon (note to non-Puget Sounders: That’s July above, it only looks like we’re dressed for January), to the green woods and sunshine, to kids and dogs splashing on the beach.
Yes, there are winter kings in the Sound now, and I’m stoked for steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula, and in the not-so-distant future, springers on the Columbia. But what I’m really dreaming of, as I watch more slushy freezing rain fall outside, is shorts and flip flops. Better toss another log in the stove and huddle in close.
For more than 100 years, the mouth of the Elwha River was a sterile chute dumping out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Shortly after the dam removal began in 2011, a century’s worth of sediment began to flow downstream in the newly freed currents. And now, five years later, the reborn delta is a complex, thriving tideland with acres and acres of ponds, sloughs and flats–ideal rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and countless nearshore critters.
This weekend, Weston and I found ourselves in Port Angeles for a basketball tournament (his, not mine) and we stole away before Sunday’s games to visit, walk, and throw rocks into ice-covered ponds covering this new-yet-ancient landscape. As with every visit, I found myself buoyed by the rebirth of the Elwha. It’s simply one of the most uplifting places I’ve ever experienced.
I’m not sure if Weston fully appreciates the significance of what’s happened there, or if it’s lost on him, but I know it’s not just a great rearing place for juvenile fish–it’s also perfect for juvenile humans. And adults, too. Visit if you can. Walk into the lower dam site, close your eyes and imagine the canyon filled with stagnant reservoir water, then open them to see the miracle of rapids, flowing water, and gorgeous steelhead runs. Drive down to the mouth and walk the delta beach and feel the power we have to undo past mistakes. I guarantee it will lift your spirits. Next up: The Klamath, the Snake, Matilija Creek, San Francisquito…
Sometimes it’s the short, dark days. Or the rain. Or the seemingly unending gray. Whatever it is, winter in the Pacific Northwest can dampen the spirits, especially when it feels like it’s already been a long one, and it’s really just starting. But then one morning, mumbling and bleary in the crowded galley of the ferry, you look up from your coffee and watch sunlight pouring through rolling storm clouds. You run to the bow, pushing through the doors into a blast of icy wind. You stand on deck gulping great breaths of cold, salt air and remember, this is why we live here.