by Dave McBee
Third week in May, I bused out to the Pacific Coast to walk a section of the Olympic National Park coastal strip. I asked the driver to let me out at the Lower Hoh Road and started walking west. Walked about an hour, looked ahead, saw the ocean, saw the river, realized I was on the wrong side of it.
I did this trip last spring. And again a couple years before that. The hike is listed in this web site's Backpacking By Bus, written by me. The road I should've taken, the road I walked at least twice before, is about ten miles further northeast on Highway 101, the Oil City Road.
In retrospect, I realize I could've just continued on down the last half mile to the Hoh village and paid someone to ferry me across the mouth of the river in a skiff, but at the time I was just so annoyed with myself that I turned around, walked the three miles back to the highway and continued on, grumbling all the while about my apparent advancing senility. Could've sat in the shade and waited three hours for the next bus. Should've, even: blistered the crap outta my feet in boots not meant for highway travel (salt water can damage leather, so I'd worn an
old pair of work boots). By the time I became rational and switched to my sneakers it was far too late.
The really perplexing part of the whole thing was that I seemed to recognize the road I'd been happily tripping down, even walking right past the sign stating that I was entering the Hoh Reservation (in my mind, I KNOW that the reservation is on the opposite side of the river from where I wanted to be).
I suppose it underscores the fact that all tribal reservations in western Washington look just about the same: same government-supplied housing, same basic government supplied facilities, same ass-high weeds, same rusted-out auto bodies, same general level of dilapidation, disrepair, and despair. It really did seem like I'd been there before.
Did see some interesting stuff, though.
Every puddle of water, even within spitting distance of roadside, was full of frog eggs. One puddle, about the size of a bathtub, had seven visible clusters of eggs. Amphibian populations appear to be in good shape here.
A tiny weasel, either a least or a shorttail, scampered across the road in front of me, with a baby bird clutched in its teeth. Picture something along the lines of an anorexic hamster, about as long as your hand, frantically undulating along with arched spine, looking more cute than you could imagine anything with a dead baby bird in its jaws could be.
Remember passing one particular house on the reservation: briar patch of weeds, front door missing, windows broken; looked about as abandoned as could be. Passing, noticed big-ass yard-wide satellite dish at corner of house, almost hidden in tall grass. Then noticed blanket hung behind broken window.
Would've taken picture, filed under "priorities," but kids were nearby. Didn't want to have to explain why.
My embarrassment at walking for so long on the wrong road
was somewhat assuaged when I got back home and checked the atlas:
the two roads in question had either been switched on the map,
or renamed on site. Appropriate changes have been made in
Still doesn't answer question of how I walked three miles down road I'd never been down before, without realizing anything was amiss. Am I destined to venture out on upcoming trips with a note safety-pinned to my shirt, stating to where I should be returned, if found wandering? Will getting lost become progressively easier and easier? Will Leslie say, more and more often, "the article doesn't seem to have a point, and you tend to ramble?" Am I losing it? Will I know?
Author Dave McBee occasionally makes a point. But not this time.