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learning a little of the north-west

By morning, the weather has cleared and Babs, Dennis and I set off to explore the area around Forks.

Cape Flattery is the north-western corner of the Washington Peninsula and it is a dramatic, beautiful coastline. We drive along a coastal road that passes through Neah Bay, home to the Makah people. We walk on a boardwalk, through the forest, to a viewing platform hanging over the sea at the tip of Cape Flattery. Gazing out over the waves we see a grey whale travelling along the coast, cruising majestically by, first one way and, then, the other. A sea otter also skirts the cape gliding calmly amongst the surging waves as gulls and other sea birds wheel overhead.

Rock stack off Cape Flattery.

Rock stacks off Cape Flattery.

The north-west coast is dramatic and beautiful.

The north-west coast is dramatic and beautiful.

We drive back into Neah Bay, a much larger Native American community than the Quileute reservation at La Push. After stopping at a local café for pie, we visit the museum which houses a fine collection of artefacts uncovered in an archaeological excavation of a Makah village that was partially buried in a mud-slide over 500 years ago. We while away the rest of the afternoon here learning about pre-contact Makah life.

Part of the fishing fleet in the habour at Neah Bay. Fishing, of course, is a vital part of coastal community life.

Part of the fishing fleet in the habour at Neah Bay. Fishing, of course, is a vital part of coastal community life.

The next day we set off again, this time south of Forks to visit the Hoh Rainforest. Dennis and Babs point out items of interest in the forest and patiently teach me how to recognise and identify different trees. Dennis and Babs both spent years of their life working in the logging industry, which has traditionally been the mainstay of the local economy. It is possible – at a time long ago in the past when I thought I might have had answers, instead of only questions – that I could have ended up on the opposite side of some imaginary line from these people.

I am very glad, though, that I no longer feel so righteous because Babs and Dennis both clearly love the forest at least as much as any tree-hugging enviro-warrior and are, almost certainly, far more knowledgeable than the majority of self-professed environmentalists. We spent several hours wandering the forest, investigating moss-covered trees and masses of fungi, watching elk and deer feeding, avoiding underground wasp nests and marvelling at the clear streams of water.

The wierd forms of moss covered trees. The maples in the background are starting to turn.

The wierd forms of moss covered trees. The maples in the background are starting to turn.

A tall Douglas Fir.

A tall Douglas Fir.

Mature trees that have started out life on a 'nursery log' - a fallen tree on which seedlings take root.

Mature trees that have started out life on a 'nursery log' - a fallen tree on which seedling take root.

It's hard to imagine something a more vivid green than this water weed.

It is hard to imagine something a more vivid green than this waterweed.

A browsing young bull elk.

A browsing young bull elk.

This animal was totally unfazed by human presence.

This animal was totally unfazed by human presence.

When we get back to Babs and Dennis’ house we walk around their property. Dennis shows me the trees that he has planted on their land and I am introduced to Shorty, the bull, and his female companion – their task is to keep the ten acres of grass under control. Jet, a charming, gangly, old dog, accompanies us down to view the river. On the way back we sample the blackberries growing along the fence.

After spending three days with them, I arrive at the opinion that Babs and Dennis are some of the most open-minded, non-judgemental and accepting people I have met. I feel that I am privileged to have met them and, even more so, that they have chosen to treat me to their hospitality.

Babs and Dennis.

Babs and Dennis.

Babs is wearing a hat made from strips of red cedar. She made the hat herself under instruction from a local Hoh woman.

Babs is wearing a hat made from strips of red cedar. She made the hat herself under instruction from a local Hoh woman.

Jet, a very charming dog.

Jet, a very charming dog.

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