Amazing Neah Bay, Cape Flattery, clear cuts

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Beautiful sunny day. Getting used to the land of "uhuh" rather than "you're welcome", miles rather than kilometers and different radio stations: religious right, political right, NPR (National Public Radio) and talk, talk, talk radio as I headed off for Neah Bay.

It was just over an hour drive out there (more like 2 for me as I kept stopping off to take pictures). Huge cedars, hemlock and a bunch of other evergreens as well as some deciduous trees I can not identify. Some look dead but which are probably just not yet out for spring. As well, as this is the wet west coast rain forest there were trees with ferns at the bottom of the tree, moss up the trunk then, growing out of the trunk were more small ferns. Now that I have not seen before. Passing lots and lots of heavily loaded logging trucks with trees of large diameter. Passed through a little community called "Joyce" where there were places like "Bytha" Way "Itsa" and Upta" Creeks - not to mention the coffee shop "Thanks-a Latte" and their 1893 built general store.

Carrying on the road, I ran into a series of clear cuts done with feller bunchers about 2 feet up the stump. The clear cuts go on for miles with some brush piling and presumably burning going on as well. Of course there are also some stumps which show they were cut many decades ago as they have cuts into the stumps where they would have used boards in the stumps to cut with large axes.

One company (Merrill & Ring) has put up signs saying they are part of a reclamation project along the Pysht River. I was a little skeptical about the restoration of riparian habitat in the face of the clear cut. There clearly are places where they have replanted but the clear cuts still appear to be really vicious. And you can still see the 2 foot high stumps through the replanted area.

Moving further along the coast towards Sekiu and Clallam Bay the views became quite spectacular with guano streaked ocean stacks on one side and mud covered cliffs on the other. This is part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary with encompasses 3,310 square miles including beaches and marine habitats extending as much as 50 miles off the Pacific Ocean shore. This vast area includes sub marine canyons, rocky reefs, the broad plain of the Continental Shelf and many habitats critical to marine wildlife. The area is justly famous for its unspoiled coastline, salmon and halibut, gray whales, sea birds and otters. Also for its long history of maritime explorations lighthouses, shipwrecks and vibrant cultures of the Makah, Quileute, Hoh and Quinault Indian tribes. The road is very windy and when they say to slow down to 20, they really mean it. All over the place were signs of mudslides, road washouts and warnings of motorcyclists to slow down because of shifting in the road. The shoreline offered beautiful views and bird life on rocks: cormorants drying their wings, surf scoters, glimpses of Bald Eagles on rocks and trees. As the area is located beneath the Pacific flyway, could also have seen 250 species of birds including: puffins, marbled murrelets together with other migrating birds including a savannah sparrow.

I reached the highlight of my trip to the area just before lunch time. The Makah Cultural & Research Centre. One is required to purchase a Recreation Permit to enter the Makah Reservation and visit the sites there. Neah Bay is close to the place (Ozette) where, in about 1970, erosion began to reveal a mudslide which buried a 500 year old Makah village. The mudslide preserved the whole village, homes, artifacts, even cedar clothing. I know of this place as it is a place my folks went in the early 1970s with the Vancouver Natural History (or was it Archeological) society to visit the village itself as it was being uncovered.

This museum is as important a centre as any museum I have seen. It is apparently the largest archeological collection of any US tribe and features ancient Makah artifacts, a full scale replica of a longhouse, dioramas, stories of the ancient and current people, honouring the Elders, as well as a not too touristy gift shop with art and basketry from Makah artists. When it was found it also helped the Makah peoples to rebuild their traditions from the mess created by the denigration of the Indian culture and educational training imposed on the people in the earlier part of the 1900's. It took me about an hour and a half to walk round it. Many pictures from the olden times as well as the new. Thanks being given for help offered by non-native community as well as native.

A number of school groups were going thorough at the same time as I was. Their guide was one of the men who went out on the whale hunt a few years ago who described the hunt and the size of the whale, the feel of him, size of the canoe, etc. It was very interesting to listen to his story interwoven between my views of the artifacts.

The things which amazed me included the preservation of the cedar clothing, the hunting and eating implements, and the way the houses were built (long boards of wood fixed into place) and preserved for centuries despite the mudslide. I then took myself off for lunch at a lovely place called the "Warm House: Restaurant". I had a lovely seafood chowder and a veggie sandwich which was about all I had room for. Although I was the only non-native person there it was a very companionable place.

I then took a very rocky and potholed drive out to Cape Flattery, which is at the very northwest end of the Olympic Peninsula. By the time I reached the parking spot it had turned from a sunny day to cloudy with sunny periods. The Cape is the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States. A cedar plank boardwalk takes you on a moderate hike to viewpoints overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I took pictures all the way down the path as I thought it was quite gorgeous. Parts of the trail were a bit precarious - witness the root covered part I took a picture of. Lots of bird life in there as well. Saw a woodpecker - not sure if a downy or a hairy. Directly west is Tatoosh Island and there were supposed to be a small pod of Grey whales out there however, I did not see them. It was really starting to cloud over and get a bit chilly.

Long walk back with my small backpack on my back. Then a long drive back to Port Angeles. Found a lovely lounge and Café with wireless called Rick's place. Not only updated the blog but also had a very nice beer and dinner of Gyro with Greek salad at a very reasonable price. Very nice atmosphere.
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roffatsea on

Neah Bay
Great photos so far. (How are you managing the storage issue so far?) The light was very nice that day.
I'm not a fan of whale killers, I'm afraid. (And I believe we should arm bears!) If starving, its one thing... But I remember the video of the murdered baby whale that came to the boat and was gunned down. I was in the American Indian Museum yesterday and reflected on some of these things.
Sounds like the roads would be a challenge for a largish camper;am I reading that correctly?

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