“Perhaps it is because you are an estv hvtke, a white devil and a savage, and that is why you do not understand.” -Thunderbird
Day 1. 9:12 am—Aberdeen. Our portage begins north from the banks of the muddy Wiskah, toward the thick fog of the Olympic Peninsula and beyond. This shadowed land is steeped in fantastic mystery, where almost mythical creatures lurk unseen from the prying eyes of man. Hambone’s bipolar jack-ass of a navigator, Luke Skywalker has been a huge part of this endeavor’s problems from the beginning. He would tell stories of trappers and travelers who would lose their way in the Olympic Forest and emerge, weeks later, barely alive, just raggedy men wearing tatters and strips. Looking for nothing more than a warm cup of bourbon. Probably lies. The first or true people still hold many of the keys to this unending expanse, layered with dense forest, rocky beaches, and flowered prairies that look like something out of a damn Hallmark calendar. Between the hundreds of miles of Indian land and government protected areas, 90% of the Olympic Forest has been set aside for folks to do as they want. Except don’t pee in the river. That’s not on their cool list.
- Day 1. 10:17 am—Aberdeen. The air is growing thick and heavy. It can be felt everywhere. The tree trunks are getting bigger…Closer together and no one, not even the red savage, knows what they are anymore. It’s nothing like slash pines. Everything is beginning to look alike. All is wet and covered with moss, but it isn’t raining. Bald eagles and banana slugs are everywhere.
Places To Camp Near Lake Quinault:
- Day 2. 11:31 am—Olympic Peninsula: Somewhere toward the south end of the Quinault Nation, Hambone pulled over to speak with a homeless looking man standing on the side of the road. After they spoke for a moment, Bone directed the man to jump in our wagon rather than with he and Luke, considering their vehicle was over-packed with contraband moonshine and skate boards. The Indian’s name was Thunderbird and he was trying to get home to a little Indian village known as Queets. As he clamored into Lucy’s seat she growled, “That figures. Trade me in for a godless savage. Keep it up”, she dared. “I’m just about ready to split this whole scene.” and moved toward the rear.
“She broke my heart.” the old Indian mumbled. “I’m a three-time loser.”
“Those are salmon berries. They’re not ready yet for another month. We call the moss, mossy-moss. The jacket you’re wearing is an “old shaggy”. Wait for October, then there will be mushrooms everywhere. Morel, chanterelle, slimy spike cap and lobster mushrooms. And we eat the grouse. Brown grouse is white meat and blue grouse is dark meat. I’m an alcoholic, but I have my own house. Two-floors and four bedrooms. You can stay there tonight. Don’t worry about my brother. He’s a loser but he’s harmless.”
I commented on the size and untamed beauty of the Quinault Reservation. Thunderbird shot back, “It’s a Nation, not a reservation! We are the people and this is the Nation. She broke my heart.”
Still searching for concrete answers, I noted, “We have Indians in Florida who say they are the People also, but their land got taken. They seem to have worked it out in casinos. Maybe no one wants your land because it’s cold and wet all the time. You guys don’t have casinos, I suppose.”
“We do. In Vietnam, we would clear fields after they would drop napalm. We could clear a square four hundred yards in six hours. Let’s go to the big totem pole that I carved with my cousin. Biggest one in the northwest. First, let’s buy get some beer. My cousin works in the store. Get the one with the blue can.”
We took the dirt trail north of the Indian village and the sacred burial ground at the mouth of the Quinault River. It wasn’t long before we met some of Thunderbird’s cousins parked in the middle of the trail, leaning against their rusted Bronco and welding large automatic weapons. They were pleased to see Tbird and we all compared and exchanged weapons on the side of the road.
nailtravels is sponsoring a knock-down, drag out, downtown Birmingham, stick ball match between the Quinault Nation of Washington and the Seminole Tribe of Florida for the right to be called the last of the “unconquered”.
- Day 3: 6:12 am Quinault Nation, Queets: I woke up on a cracked leather couch, Lucy sleeping between my legs, in what appeared to be a huge garage, full of refrigeration equipment and assorted schmada. Thunderbird was sitting nearby, in an old reclining chair. His stare prompted me to turn back over and go to sleep for a little while longer. This storage space plus couch, recliners and television, was attached to a two-story home which had seen better days. Like most of the houses in this neighborhood, it had been run down by time and neglect, much like Thunderbird and myself. Queets is the governing hub of the Quinault Nation. There are no public facilities and technically, the land is off-limits to the white devil, but no one really cares what’s going on anyway. The surrounding beach and rain forest is private and undisturbed. Lucy found countless pieces of quality stones and driftwood, but all of Washington is like that.
- Day 4: 6:12 am Quinault Nation, Queets: Apparently, Luke Skywalker done went and got hisself lost last night. As the dead phone begins to drink enough juice and beep alive, I’m already receiving screaming text messages from Thatcher as he tries to figure out how I lost his precious. I knew this was coming. The first step is always blame. If we don’t find this dog, the man is going to come absolutely unteathered. He and his dog have shared the cab of that truck for several long drives across the country. You might say they’ve carried their hundred sacks of flour for each other, but when those toothless Indians on the side of the road started giggling and talking about eating the pit bull, Thatcher discounted their threats as playful mischief. Not me.
- Day 4. 5:25 pm Graves Creek Campground: Just south of the town of Amanda Park and Lake Quinault, head east on South Shore Rd and the unpaved, Graves Creek Rd. This leads to the spacious campsites on the banks of the Quinault River. With nearby trail head access to Enchanted Valley, these sites are first-come, first-served and $20 per night. There are restrooms and each site comes with a picnic table and fire pit. This is the most beautiful campsite we have visited so far on this entire venture. This isn’t Colorado. No one cares if you have a fire all day while it burns the old growth cedar that lies splintered on the side of the road. The smell of smoked cedar. Not too shabby. It’s better than wet dog, and speaking of that, Luke Skywalker finally showed up after walking all night down the Indian road. He was worn out and had walked his pads off. We were all just glad we didn’t have to watch Hambone cry.
- Day 4. 7:30 pm Quinault Rainforest: After deciding he’d had quite enough and obviously wasn’t going to be fed any time soon, Thunderbird, growled once more about the missed opportunity with the grouse and demanded to be taken home. At this point, Lucy walked up to the Indian and slapped him brazenly across his bristly, wrinkled face. We loaded Thunderbird up and took him as far as the Quinault Rainforest before kicking him out of the A.W. right into the dirt road in the middle of a Panama power slide. “Perhaps it is because you are an estv hvtke, a white devil and a savage, and that is why you do not understand.” As we peeled away in the dry gravel, Lucy dangled his bag of elk meat out the rear window and left him standing in a cloud of white dust .
- Day 7. 12:20 pm Moclips— We saw the first grouse not far from the beach. As it stepped out of the tall grass on the side of the dirt road, the old Indian froze. It looked blue, which meant dark meat. He grabbed my left shoulder and shouted in a in a whisper, “Shoot it! Shoot it! I was already fingering the pistol in my front pocket in case the Indian got any friskier. I opened the door and leaned out to take aim. As the shot rang, high-left, the bird jumped and scampered safely back into the brambles. The old man had already been muttering all day that he was hungry, as if I was somehow responsible for his situation or had any money whatsoever. “Once we get to the campground, I’ll get a fire started and make us some dinner”, I reminded him once again. He grumbled back, “If you hadn’t missed the grouse, we’d have supper.”
- Day 7. 2:34 pm Tahola–Thunderbird decided it would be best if he manned the wheel while I worked the pistol. As we continued north through the Olympic Peninsula, the road became more narrow with salmon berry bushes and vines. The immense fir trees began to black out the sun. For a reasons yet unknown, the old Indian floored the vehicle in reverse on the tight trail and shot backwards at high speed. Some kind of thick vine wrapped itself around the passenger side mirror and sheared it completely from the vehicle. Like a girl, I screamed for him to stop the car so I could retrieve the busted plastic, not that it would do any good. It wouldn’t be easy driving back to Florida without seeing out the passenger side or the rear view mirror. Thunderbird suggested we use super glue to adhere the mirror back onto the car. I figured if that didn’t work, we could use duct tape. It wouldn’t look good but we passed that point long ago. Without completely understanding what had just happened, no one yet realized that nailtravels had just adopted a new crew member. It would be another in a long line of questionable leadership decisions.
- Day 7. 6:24 pm Amanda Park—While tracking a herd of Roosevelt Elk, Lucy picked up the scent of another grouse just south of Lake Quinault. The 22 pistol is traditionally not a bird hunting weapon, but these things really let us get close to them. So close in fact, that as we followed her into the brush, she turned and demonstrated some kind of fluffed-up defensive posture. She was certainly close enough to shoot until we realized she was surrounded by a several fluffy little grouse balls. The grouslings barked at us along with their mother and both Lucy and I decided it was more charitable to allow them safe passage.
Graves Creek isn’t used for anything bur water. No one is rafting down it like the the Arkansas in Salida. No dogs or bikes are allowed on these trails. Lucy has been known to growl at passing hikers. Sometimes it’s a wonder why we keep her around when she makes us all look bad. We can’t even wash her in the river. And there’s no peeing in the river. No washing of the socks in the river. No washing of the dishes in the river. This is really serious, non-invasive camping.
- Day 7. 6:24 pm Amanda Park—We’re out of sugar and honey and melted marshmallows have begun serving as a substitute. Thunderbird managed to get a lift home, but turned around at Queets and hitched another one right back to our camp. We both began using the rocks in the river as target practice and there was a newfound confidence that we would still be eating grouse cooked over a campfire.
Internet and amenities–The Quinault Internet Cafe is in Amanda Park and serves as a place to get online, grab a burger, or enjoy a hot cup of joe while you play the piano. Tell Ros that nailtravels sent you and she will surely steer you right. The closest place to wash clothes or get a shower is at the Lake Quinault Lodge on the way to Graves Creek. It’s close to where the road becomes dirt so keep a keen eye for crossing grouse.
- Day 8. 2:30 pm Free Camping–if you are dragging around a vehicle, free camping can prove to be a chore. Graves Creek is the only place to park and it’s not free. Campers can be seen pulling their vehicles off the road and camping right on the creek. It’s not very private and the dust from the passing cars is non-stop. We found a long, private driveway that led to a secluded spot, perfect for our needs. The campsite overlooks the entire river valley with not a soul anywhere around, save for elk on the next mountain.
Be sure to take a gander at the East Nashville Hot Fried Chicken recipe that one second place way up north in Tennessee.
- Day 9. Experimentation with Marshmallows—Our days are pretty scheduled in the Quinault Rain Forest. Lucy and I are hammock sleeping under a canopy of spruce. We get up around sunrise and go for a hike through one of the nearby rain forest trails, hunting grouse and elk. After that, we head to the Quinault Internet Cafe to hang out with Bo and Ros for a few hours of inside time and then it’s all woods all day. The afternoon is filled with exploring the forest and hauling firewood. Each evening, while whittling cedar sticks we experiment with marshmallows and assorted fixins. After experimenting with combinations of peanut butter, honey, strawberry jam, and apple butter, the verdict is in; they are all delicious and work perfectly well mixed together.
Stay tuned to nailtravels as we continue to hemorrhage money as we head south to Oregon for adventures at Saddle Mountain, Salem (thug central) and perhaps the best festival of the summer at North West String Summit.