Sunday, April 04, 2010

When the Whole Surface of the Sea is Foam

Watchers, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park... (Click for larger image)

Thursday evening went to a public meeting about adding a small parcel to Olympic National Park on the east shore of Ozette Lake. The Quileute Tribe would like the parcel to go to anyone except the Park, as they can't exercise their treaty right to hunt in a National Park. Is there anything to hunt on the Umbrella Creek parcel? Probably not a pertinent question. Protection of treaty right to traditional uses of 'usual and accustomed places' is defended fiercely by the tribes (1), and the Park therefore is not a natural partner. As the Elwha Klallam tribal chairman said a couple of years ago, 'respect the treaty, or give us back the Peninsula.'

Friday afternoon, there was that grand tour of the industrial underpinnings of Elwha ecosystem restoration. A couple of days later the lingering question in my mind is all that sediment to be bonded with settling agents to pull it out of the water supply, and then returned to the river. They needed special permission from the state to engineer it this way— ordinarily you're not allowed to return chem-i-fied slurry to the stream. So out it goes, into the Strait, and currents carry it eastward to restore the former beaches. Won't the clams notice? Surely the clams will notice...

So after a couple of days thus spent thinking about the nitty gritty of what 'national park' means, I needed to get to the outer coast and listen to waves for a while. The elk herd that hangs out on Beaver Prairie was hanging out as I drove by. Always a pleasure. I tried to get closer by driving up one of the side roads, but even though there were 'street' names, there were also No Trespassing signs. Well hmmm, elk in the West End. Elk herd seen here often. Elk herd seen once on Quillayute Prairie. Maybe there are elk to hunt in season on the little parcel east of Lake Ozette...

Just before the parking lot, a tree had come down on the road in Friday night's windstorm. There had been a high surf warning, ending right about when I arrived on the coast; so I didn't go to First Beach to look for whales, but headed to Rialto Beach. When the whole surface of the sea is foam, you can't see the whale blows. JL told me that even the scientists don't try to survey for birds or mammals at sea when it's like this, not because the water is rough for the folks in the boats (though it may be), but because you can't see anything. Mostly I just read a really really good mystery (Barbara Fister, Through the Cracks), moving higher up the beach whenever the incoming tide began to bring the foam to my feet; and listened to the waves; and watched the foam roll up higher and higher, sheets of foam, sweeps of foam.

View with Walkers (Click for larger image)

One eagle. Some gulls. Many walkers coming back from Hole-in-the-Wall as I arrived; there had been a minus tide. Many watchers a few hours later, perched in and on the drift as the tide reached its peak, enjoying the fierce power.

Tree on the road (Click for larger image)
Just for listening...

4 comments:

robin andrea said...

There is a grand metaphor about life here -- that restless and foamy surface of the sea and when to look for answers.

Pat Browning said...

Gorgeous photos! Thanks for posting. I also love the tribal chairman's comment: "... respect the treaty or give us back the peninsula." It has taken the Indians a hundred years to stand up and talk back. More power to them!

Sky said...

you are so fortunate to be so close to this magnificent ocean. i loved seeing and hearing and imagining...

Gator said...

A powerful, educational post. Thank you!