Rave: The Peninsula is beautiful. Really beautiful. And the State of Washington cares about that beauty and about making it available to people through good public transportation, abundant camping facilities, and by cooperating with the Feds in protecting the Olympic National Forest and the Olympic National Park. To see all of this, check the photos at my trip gallery.
Rant: The Makah Indian Tribe's concept of maintenance. One of my main goals for the trip was to photograph a waterfall known as Hi Hi Kwitht, roughly translated as "to take a drink stick your head out of the canoe." The falls are located at Latitude 48.38847, Longitude
-124.69337. They can only be seen from the water. One of my two main reasons for taking the trip was to photograph these hard-to-reach falls.
Our problems began with my friend Alan's difficulty in finding the boat he was sure he could line up. No boat. So we went off to Neah Bay sure we could find something to charter to see the falls and to go round to Point of Arches, my other main target for the trip.
We reached Neah Bay, home of the Makah tribe, (I almost typoed that as "tripe," which might have felt good but wouldn't do at all) quite late in the day. There was an 18 foot open skiff available for charter, but that's too small to go "outside" regardless of the weather. No go. So we asked around and were put in touch with "Boo" Lawrence, shown in this picture:
Captain Boo agreed to have his boat ready for an 8:00 AM departure the next morning. Ooops!
We showed up around 7:30 AM. First, we were told, the fog was too thick. (Maybe it was; that's a captain's call and not for passengers to kvetch about ... I've been a sailor for 50 years and know how that works). Next, OK, we launch not his boat, but his father's boat, a nice-enough looking 20 footer.
We get ready to launch the boat, test the engine on the trailer, and, ZAP -- no starter.
My friend Alan spent two hours fixing it.
Great! While Alan was fixing the boat, a dog ate his lunch by climbing on the trunk of the car, scarfing the food Alan had left covered on the roof .... I caught the dog in her escape down the hood. She was a nice dog, just desperate and scrawny enough to eat-and-run.
We're ready to go --- it's just about noon, 4 hours late -- we launch the boat (first time this season were told; OMG, I say to myself). Alan fiddles about and discovers the electronics are mostly kaput. But so what?
We fire her up, back her out, and --- oh, shit -- no forward gear. We back her in a loop towards the dock, tie her up with one crummy polypropelene dockline, then stand around while Cap'n Boo scoots off with his dad:
If you notice the license plate, it tells you all you need to know about the Makah standard of maintenance.
We waited half an hour, hauled our gear off the boat, re-secured it so others could use the ramp (including the US Coast Guard), and tried to arrange for a charter with someone else the next day. 36 hours later Boo's boat was just as we'd left her .... deeply conscientious, these Makah!
Now I have to tell you, we arrived at Neah Bay Wednesday evening, and the charter disaster was Thursday. Booths were being set up for Makah Days; we grabbed lunch at one for $4.50 for a pulled beef sandwich.
We drove off to other parts, specifically the Hoh Rainforest (in brilliant sunshine) and the Rialto Beach (heavy, heavy fog but still some great pix). Returned early Friday morning to a socked-in harbor, no charters available. But guess what? It's Makah Days! We hung out, shot pix of harbor and bald eagle young, then grabbed an early lunch at the same place we'd gotten it a day earlier. This time the price was $11.00! Makah Days pricing!
When I asked a tribal elder what they were celebrating with Makah Days, she said "Makah Days." Yes, but what are you actually celebrating? "Makah days."
So much for deep-rooted Indian heritage.
We went to shoot from the Point Flattery. Found the place, parked, and attempted to use the pit toilets provided. I managed; Alan couldn't take the amonia fumes. And in truth, out of 50 years of roaming the globe, these were about the rankest pits I've ever encountered. And that includes Morocco, Syria, and some other places. Another splendid job of Makah maintenance. You simply can't imagine the toxic gasses therein!
We're almost done with the Makah Maintenance Rant .... but not quite. It was raining quite hard by Friday evening, and the forecast wasn't promising. We didn't want to camp, but OMG, it's Makah Days, and the hotels are pretty full (there are 2 or 3 of them, I forget which).
We drive back to town, and investigate. Alan talks the owner of the Tyee Motel into giving us a room for a measly $52 plus tax, instead of the $75 he was charging for Makah Days. That's good!
Here's the Tyee Hotel, showing the entrance to the upper story where our room (no phone, no TV, no closet, 2 towels, and very little hot water) awaited:
Note the kicked-in door panel. Our room, first on the right up these sturdy stairs, had shag carpet from the 60s in bitterroot orange, no less. The room's electricity was fed by a single outlet with extension cords to things in the room, and a long extension cord running out the door and powering the hall lights. I guess the Makah don't have to answer to Washington State or US building codes! Oh, I almost forgot, the door to the room was cut away 2" at the top to allow for electrical extension cords. Privacy, nil!
The next day dawned chill and very foggy. No charter possible, which meant no fishing for Alan (who is ardent) and no Point of Arches or waterfall for me. Grrrr. Rave: I got great shots of an immature bald eagle trying his wings!
Decided to try again to reach Shishi (pronounced shy-shy) Beach. Had tried it once, to be rained out -- 2 miles in, 2 miles out.
Tried it again. The trail and beach are all on Makah land. The last 1/10 mile is a downhill scramble, as shown here:
I spent an hour and a half on this magnificent beach, watching the tide eliminate any chance of tidal pool shots, while the fog glowered down. Most of that time was spent watching the tide, while my butt grew wetter and wetter.....
Time to return. I had marked the position of the trail with care, and still had to ask .... because, of course, the Makah had not put any sort of sign indicating the way to get back up the cliff. All there really was was a small nick in the height of the grasses on either side of the passage .....
I can't really gripe about my age (64), because though I'm in pretty good shape, even with a 35 pound camera gear pack, there are lot of older fellows with far heavier packs roaming these trails and beaches. But I can, and do, gripe about the Makah Tribe and their total inability to provide even minimal care for the tourists, photographers, and visitors who, after all, provide the greater part of their income. Hell, there wouldn't even be any salmon to fish for if the Feds hadn't bailed 'em out with a major fish hatchery not far from Shishi beach!
One thing is certain: though the name "Makah" appears on this hatchery, it's run by the Feds ... which is why it's clean, neat, open, and effective at restoring the Salmon population to the Makah tribe and to the Soos and many surrounding streams!