Monday, June 24, 2013

The Western-most Shores of WA

If you read one of my earlier posts about the Makah tribe, then you already know there were inhabitants on the Olympic Peninsula 4,000 years ago. But did you know there were mastodons up to 12,000 years ago? I didn't. I went looking for information for my last trip to the westernmost shores of Washington and found this link to the Olympic Peninsula from the National Park Service pages.

A young girl inspects something in the sand at the First
Beach, near an enormous dead tree, beached by the sun.
The enormous dead trees that litter the Rialto Beach (and other western coastal beaches) are reminiscent of those huge creatures, with roots like tusks jutting out and up to the sky, perfect for little boys and girls to climb on and swing from. I looked and looked for more of an explanation in the National Park Service pages about these massive dead trees but was stumped - pardon the pun.

The Mother of Invention...
Because the natural weather trends for the Olympic Peninsula includes lots (and I'm not kidding - up to 204 days of rain in Forks!) of rain, it was nothing short of amazing to wake up and know we were going to have a full day of clear skies and plenty of sunshine. But guess who forgot to pack any sunscreen? Oooooops. However, it seems that the improvised nose shade did provide protection.

We visited three beaches in all. Rialto, First Beach and Second Beach. Yes, dear readers, there is a Third Beach and probably other numbered beaches, but after my story of getting to Second Beach you will see why Third was passed by.

I did not take the one in the center.
If you can point to the one I did take,
I will give you a Special Award.
Someone's creative work.
This is the most completely ADA (American Disabilities Act) access point for being able to view the beach and picnic with family. However, no wheelchair, even with four-wheel drive, is going to get on the beach by itself as it is made up of millions of yet-to-be-converted-into-sand stones. Thousands of them. Lots of different sizes, shapes, colors and textures. The urge to collect is overwhelming. I settled on one, but I walked a mile in both directions before deciding (LOL!).

Walking on this less-than-stable platform is wonderful exercise for the calf muscles and I can attest that they remarked on it for a couple of days afterward. I did see families with babes in strollers, but they were likely carried down to the water's edge where the beach sand is being refined and thus is softer on the feet than farther away from the daily grind. (You can see lots of photos here on PhotoBucket.)

Dead trees stand in silent testimony to the potential forces
of the Pacific when it is not as lovely as on this day.
The waves seem to be larger here, and I am only guessing, but think there might be an issue with undertow, especially as the tide is retreating. I would not even think of swimming here, and I didn't actually see anyone doing it. I believe we just missed a surfboard competition, so perhaps strong swimmers don't feel the same concern I do now I'm older and swimming in oceans less.
This beach goer is only standing in the retreating water, not coming out.

Plenty of soft sand here; great for kids to safely run wide open!
I think there are two access points, but we went to the obvious public parking lot in La Push (the name of the Quilute village) and walked down a short, rocky/stony, sandy incline to the softest and loveliest beach sand I've put a toe into in quite awhile.
From the public parking lot in La Push, this is the view
looking back toward Rialto Beach, and the land mass on
the left are sacred islands for the Quilute tribe.
The wonderful weather did not draw huge crowds and with minimal breeze (thus no sand blowing over the food) it was a delightful hour spent relaxing and pushing the sand around with our feet, watching others run and jump in the very moderate surf which was probably pretty cool as well.
La Push Marina, tucked in behind First Beach.

Headed down the path to Second
Beach. Looks at first like you are
taking a stroll through someone's
lovely private garden.
As you are headed down Highway 110 (west) toward La Push, you will pass two miniscule parking lots and cars overflowing them for Third Beach on the left and then Second Beach, also on the left side. As we were leaving La Push, it was about 4 miles down the road and the entrance to the parking lot is a little daunting because there is no signage and it's only after you've entered you realize it is the wrong way in. Nevertheless, we found a space and locked up.

I had worn sneakers earlier in the day and in my wisdom brought sandals which were perfect for First Beach. But I didn't think it would be much of a walk down the path to Second Beach (no indicators, no directions for that either!) so I didn't change my footwear. And seeing other people wearing hiking boots did not give me a clue because I wasn't really registering on that important information.

You know where this is going.... downhill. And later, uphill, with sandals that did not have any heel-holder-inners. Hard to go ahead easily with a 40 percent incline. Oh, and by the way, if you have been 'walking' on the treadmill, a 5% incline does not cut it for training, folks. Yes, I whined all the way to the summit, muttered all the way down to the beach, groused on the way back up and puffed my way back to the car.... but I was smiling all the time, if that counts for anything. I'm not that great an estimator of distances, but my muscles are telling me it was about a mile and half in and even though it was more uphill on the way back, it was the same distance.

The Offering Tree had shells, stones, strings, and a variety
of other small treasures left by previous beach-goers.
About half-way down, or half-way up depending on which way you are going, there is a large, mossy-covered, 'offering tree' where little treasures may be left as offerings to the spirits. I chose a small mussel shell while I was on the beach, but this is what I saw as I was headed down the path.

This is a trip that I think my granddaughter would just love to do because not only is there a lot to see on the path, but the beach itself has tide pools, soft sand, places to build forts, lots of huge dead, splinter-free trees to climb on as well as dancing in the surf. I intend to be in much better shape for my next trip here.

Seagulls shop for supper or snacks.
 The seagulls seem to like this beach best of the three we were at as they left indications of their crabmeat dinners near the tide pools. An hour at this beac was not enough time, but the tide was coming in and since it was SuperMoon weekend with higher-than-usual tides, we decided it was in our best interest to not wait to see how high that might be.

So, reminder: check the tide tables for beach visits because not all paths near all beaches are accessible once the tide is in/up.

Tide pools have lots of things living in them and this is just one photo of many taken in the short time I was there. (You can see more photos by clicking on this link.)
Even I was surprised when I got home and downloaded this tide pool shot!!
A later bit of information revealed that Third Beach is considered a hiker's dream... meaning, according to the informant, that you started out for a hike and ended up at a beach and have a wonderful hike to look forward to heading homeward. Hmmmmm. Glad we didn't attempt it. I leave you with this shot here of Second Beach.
Second Beach tide pools glisten in the late afternoon summer sun.
It was a glorious day with some healthy fun and plenty of sun... it was sad to see it go.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Feed Me! Feed Me!

Baby bird, waits for mama to return with breakfast.
Those who remember the campy black and white film "The Little Shop of Horrors" which evolved into a stage musical might appreciate the headline here. Outside my kitchen window I have a demanding baby bird and a busy bird mama, very like the situation my own daughter faces with her brood. Trying to find good food that will satisfy...

I believe these are bank swallows (thanks, Seattle Audubon Society) that have returned to nest again in this cute little house that at least is dry enough for nesting.

The pair started preparing things back in April and I started hearing hungry bird sounds about two weeks ago, but they have gotten louder in the past few days. No wonder. It looks like it is nearly flight time from the size of that baby.

There are more babies in nests around the complex where I live so it is quite noisy around here just now. And my rescue kitty, Maksim, has finally come out of hiding to pay better attention to the outside world. This is reassuring that he is becoming a more relaxed kitty, but the birds don't have to worry because he is an indoor creature.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Dying Art of Sign Painting

Perhaps it goes back to the cave dwellers when paintings of deer, bear and other creatures was a way for the owner to advertise that he had smoked meat for sale, but it is clear that as we go more and more digital, we are losing certain artistic and hand-made skills.

Sign painter and mural artist Jackson
Smart talks about the tools of his trade.
As a Public Relations consultant years ago, I advised new businesses to think about how they were going to give their impression of what they were selling, which included signage. I worked with a few sign-makers in Boise, ID where my business was. However, even then I did not realize that, for the most part, the age-old apprenticeship program was how sign painters were trained. Tricks of the trade were not learned in books, but at the elbow of the master!

Recently I attended a presentation by a Port Angeles, WA, sign painter, Jackson Smart of SignArt Studio, demonstrating some of the learned techniques and the tools used, along with the paint construction. (The link is to an article in the Peninsula Daily News about Smart.)

There is a three-second rule for signs: it must be able to be seen and read, computed/internalized and a decision made in three seconds. "You are driving along the highway, see a sign and it either motivates you or you ignore it", Smart said. He added that it is not just letters, but colors and shapes, that convey the message and he is well known for his creative work around the Peninsula.

Smart demonstrates using a mahl stick to letter in script
style; it is used to keep hands and oils off the surface.
The Burma-Shave signs were inspired by the desire to sell. Started in 1925 to promote the shaving cream (purported to have ingredients from Burma), six signs placed in sequence along the highway originally sold the cream in little rhymes, but later offered safety messages.

One series I recall along the road from Peterborough, NH to Keene was this: Past / Schoolhouses / Take it slow / Let the little / Shavers grow / Burma-Shave. Although there wasn't actually a schoolhouse near where the signs were placed, we used to love to read them out loud as we rattled along to the lake, much to the irritation of the driver - usually our mother. Somehow even seeing them regularly didn't decrease our delight in this loud recognition of our reading ability.

Artist Smart uses a squirrel hair brush to demonstrate how
fine a line can be drawn with the right technique.
Increasing speeds, more sophisticated signage, television and other elements brought this roadside entertainment for the 'little shavers' to an end in the 60's. And just as the commercial elements of sign design were advancing, so was the looming digital age which would change it completely. And artist Smart opined that it is not just the digital age that is affecting sign painting skills, but there is a lack of desire on the part of the youth today to learn something that requires apprenticeship. "They want to be able to do it quickly. It requires learning about the shapes of letters, the distance between each letter, and the construction of the thinner and other chemicals in the paint and whether or not it is hot or cold outside, because that affects the performance of the paint, too." Smart says more and more signs are made on computer and fewer of the people who are making them have ever even used a brush.

Jackson Smart - an artisan and an artist - has painted on wood, metals, foam board, plastic and other materials. He has painted signs for businesses, on motorcycles, cars, trucks, and busses for a native american tribal casino as well as doing the Port of Port Angeles mural welcoming visitors from Canada.  As you enter Port Angeles from the East on Highway 101, you will see his sign greeting you to the city he has made home for the past 34 years. He is as much a part of the city as the signs and murals he has done here.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

I'm a 'drive-by shooter'...

There wasn't much else to do; there was little opportunity to stop and shoot, and in some places it wasn't allowed at all. So this is the story and the reason why I am being called a 'drive-by shooter.'
Along the coastline of the Juan de Fuca Strait, northern
Washington State, heading toward Neah Bay in Clallum
County, the Makah tribal lands.
Last Thursday, at 9 a.m. a bus was loaded up with more than a dozen seniors from the Sequim Senior Center and we headed west (although it felt like north) for the Neah Bay and Makah (pronounced Mah-ki-ee) indian tribal grounds. I am usually pretty well informed when I head off on any trip, but this was a short notice event and I was sadly ignorant about a lot of the history of Neah Bay, located at the northwestern-most point of the U.S. in the State of Washington. It is about two hours driving time from Sequim, not including any stops, of which there was only one - in Joyce, at the General Store. (The link to Wikipedia will answer more of your questions, if you care to formulate any.)

Makah Senior Center in Neah Bay, Washington.
After our stop in Joyce, we drove up and over a portion of the Olympics to reach the Makah indian nation (This link to Wikipedia explains much about the tribe.). There is a lot of logging going on, as truck after truck went by loaded with timber. The road is windy with many curves designating 25 mph and indications of clear-cutting having occurred in the past. But there were also a significant number of old-growth trees still standing.

Periodically the road would parallel the body of water called Strait of Juan de Fuca, the main waterway route for ships coming into Seattle from their Pacific journey and an area of water that is loaded with fish of all kinds, including halibut.

Neah Bay from Senior Center looking toward marina.

Neah Bay from Senior Center looking toward Vancouver
Island, B.C. over Straits of Juan de Fuca. 
Outside the Makah Senior Center.

We arrived at the Makah Senior Center for the lunch we were promised, and it was a wonderful meal with a surprise gift of a tote bag, hand-made tea bag holders, a flashlight, and a hand-crafted necklace made by local seniors and members of the Makah tribe.

The meal was a delicious beef stew accompanied by a macaroni shell and shrimp salad, a green salad, bread and butter and two desserts - a fruit salad with coconut and a portion of pie.

No one left hungry, that was for sure! The views from the deck of the senior center were delightful and I am sure when it is a little bit warmer that this is a nice place to enjoy some sunshine and gentle breezes.

The welcome of the tribal members was very special and warm and was an added element of delight for the trip overall. We were bussed over to the Makah Museum where June, a tribal elder, gave a detailed tour of the artifacts. Our introduction was to learn that the name of the tribe means, "People who live by the rocks and seagulls." She explained the history of the tribal lands and how the Makah peoples lived. We were not allowed to take any photos or do any sketching, and although we were not told why, my past experience with native peoples is that it is because we are looking at 'remains' of their way of life, and while historically important, they are also part of the ancestral burial sites, even though - in this case - it was due in large part to a mudslide, not a planned location.

Ozette Lake is one of the largest natural and undeveloped lakes in the State of Washington, and is now a popular place for hiking and camping during the summer. But it was once the central home of the Makah tribe, a good place to have a home with access to the Pacific waters for whaling and fresh water for the tribal needs. The archeological information places the origins of the people back over 4,000 years, making it one of the oldest native groups in North America. The Makah used to be a whaling community, but with the devastating mudslide which destroyed the ancient village in Ozette about 1750 and the consequences of smallpox from the Europeans later on on another nearby village, the remaining portions of the tribe seemed to have relocated closer to Neah Bay. The archeological dig is on the National Register of Historic Places, but is privately owned by the Makah nation.

Shells collected on the beach have been strung together
with beads and a carved whale tail for this necklace.
In the museum we were invited to sit in a replica of a longhouse, the native american version of an apartment house where several families lived together, except that the families worked together to keep everything working which is where the concept diverges. There we heard about how the tribe was structured, without chiefs, but group leaders who helped their people survive. And how today the Makah are working together to keep their young people healthy and fit.

We were shown the beautifully crafted whaling boats, made from one large tree, and all the implements needed for bringing in the large marine creatures. One interesting fact is that there were several Makah 'warriors' who were trained to hold their breath long enough that they could swim to the mouth of the whale and sew it shut after it had been harpooned, so then it could not dive. This was fascinating to me; that these ancient peoples knew how to keep a whale afloat. And once it was secured, they would tow it back to the shore to harvest, using all of the creature for their livelihood - blubber, meat, bones.
This necklace of shells and beads honors the seal-hunting
traditions of the Makah people.

Another interesting fact was that the wife of the man who would do the harpooning was required to go to bed, not eat and be quiet while her husband was off looking for, and getting, the whale. It was believed that if she was peaceful, her husband would not have to deal with a thrashing and dangerous whale and he would come home with a successful hunt's reward, a large and bountiful whale. The other women in the tribe would care for her, wash her, attend the children, and generally support her for the two or three days of the hunt. In this I can really see the concept of "it takes a village..." at work.

The Makah Cultural and Research Center Museum is well worth a visit.
It will take at least two hours to complete the tour and shop at the store.
In late August each year Neah Bay celebrates Makah Days, honoring the day years ago when the tribe accepted the flag of the United States to fly over their territorial lands. But it is sad to realize that the Treaty of 1855 took much of the land the tribe used, limiting their use to about one third of the original area claimed by the Makah. However, the elders were astute enough to keep in their rights to hunt whales and in May, 1999, knowing the whale population had improved, they asserted those rights and did go and bring back one grey whale, the bones of which are displayed in the museum.

The Makah people are instrumental in coordinating the annual 'journey' of native peoples by canoe and boat, a celebration of the old ways of living. This year the journey is in July, but the actual date was not discussed. Here is a link for the calendar of events of native peoples on the Olympic Peninsula. It should be a photographer's dream with all the colorful regalia (native dress and ornamentation) and events... I hope to be able to go and report on it, but I also have Colombia calling me, so we shall see what evolves.

At least no one was hurt in this drive-by shooting... and you can see more pictures here.