Four years ago, and for 100 years before that, the mouth of the Elwha River was a sterile chute running into the Strait of Juan de Fuca at a 90-degree angle. There was no habitat for juvenile salmon to rest in, feed or acclimate to salt water, and no beach to speak of. It was, in a word, depressing.
But look at it now! The sediment that was trapped behind the dams is making its way to the sea, and creating a spectacular estuary and delta. This is ideal salmon habitat, the kind necessary for thriving runs of wild fish, and all those sloughs, tidal ponds and flats are home to countless juvenile salmon, sea-run cutthroat, bull trout and forage fish. For humans, there are acres of new beach and, on the rare occasion when the swell lines up right, a world-class surf break.
But there’s still plenty to be done. My friends at the Coastal Watershed Institute are working year-round to monitor and restore the nearshore waters, and document the changes taking place. A huge thank you to Anne Schaffer for leading the charge, and to Tom Roorda who provided the aerial photo above. The Elwha dam removal and restoration is one of the great environmental stories of our times. I highly recommend a visit. To witness what’s happening there is just good for the soul.
While Weston was busy throwing sticks for Honey, Skyla and I checked out the life attached to the bottom of the dock. Ever since they were small, the kids have found endless fascination on docks wherever we go, and this one is no exception. Tube worms, anemones, barnacles, mussels, schools of perch…they’re all there to see. You just have to get down on your belly and peer underneath.
After a few minutes of this, Skyla rolled up her sleeve and shot her arm into the water. She came up with this kelp crab. Not really edible, but a prize, nonetheless. And while she was wishing we’d brought fishing rods (“I know we could catch those shiners, Dad…”) the crab was a pretty good catch-and-release substitute.
Hardly a big adventure, but when you’re as busy as we’ve been, these little outings close to home really make a difference. Fun.
With our good friend Smarty on the other side of the country, the kids and I made some time to go visit Honey. She was cooped up in the house all day, which made a great excuse for us to take her down to the beach. But the truth is, it’s probably even more fun for us than it is for Honey. Which is saying a lot, because she was stoked to see us.
It’s also good practice for Weston. I don’t think we’re quite ready to actually own a dog yet, but we’re starting to think about it. And Weston wants one more than anything in the world. Having grown up with dogs, I know how wonderful it is to have one in the family, but also how much work it is.
So Weston took the lead, played with her until they were both about to fall over, then toweled her off, checked her water, and gave her a snack. Honey was gracious and well-behaved throughout. Baby steps, but I think we’re getting closer.
The last few weeks have been a mad scramble for me, with work deadlines, kids playing two sports each, and trying to use any spare moments (Ha! He said “spare moments.”) to work on a new book. All great stuff, just a lot of it. So not much fishing, foraging or food to report today.
But I did want to post this flyer: John Larison (in a rare Seattle appearance), Cameron Scott and I will be reading and talking about fish, fishing, conservation and writing at a fundraiser for Wild Steelhead Coalition. I think it’s going to be an awesome time–details on the poster–and we hope you can join us. Did I mention it’s at the Georgetown Brewery? Tasty beverages and good times guaranteed to roll.
There are moments in everyone’s lives that you just want to hang onto forever. This is one of mine. To have a photograph of it is, to me, incredibly lucky. To have one this beautiful, takes more than luck, though; it takes a great photographer. This image, shot by our good friend, Steve Perih (who also shot the new cover of Closer to the Ground–check out more of his work HERE), currently graces the cover of the 2015 Patagonia kids catalog. But the experience was even sweeter than the photo.
The kids and I were in the islands of northern British Columbia with Steve and two of my conservation heroes, mentors, and good friends, Bruce Hill and Gerald Amos. These three guys are among the handful of people who’ve had such an impact on my life, it’s important to me that my kids spend time with them as well.
After days of heavy weather, the wind fell out and Whale Channel magically turned to glass. A pod of Dall’s porpoises spotted–or heard–us, and we watched them come all the way across the channel to greet us. They twirled, leapt and swooped around the bow of the boat, as they often do, and we were all delighted to watch.
After awhile, the kids walked down the port side of the boat, and the porpoises moved to follow them. When the kids went to the other side of the boat, the porpoises surfaced to starboard, often swimming on their sides to look directly into the kids’ faces. I try not to anthropomorphize, but this was clearly some kind of communication, or at least recognition of something.
Several days later, we steamed back into Whale Channel, this time going in the opposite direction. And the same three porpoises raced across the channel, ducking back and forth under the boat until they spotted the kids. Then, as before, they held pace just a couple of arm-lengths from wherever the kids moved. I don’t know what, if anything, it meant, but it was a moment that feels, even now, somehow important.