Slide Show

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The art of tourist baiting

Elwha River

Now that the tourists are here it's easy to remember why there's a season on them. 
The Olympic Peninsula is a recreational wonderland that encompasses a diverse variety of really cool biomes from ocean beaches to rain forests to alpine tundra and glaciers. 
Tourists come here from all over the world to clog up our roads and ask stupid questions like, “Does it ever stop raining here?” 
It's not their fault. Tourists are an important raw material in a major industry. We want the tourists to come here, have a great time spending money then go back home. 
Still, it's tough for the tourists to soak in the scenic splendor if it's raining so hard they can't get out of their car without a survival suit. 
Luckily, tourist season is different than the fishing or hunting seasons.  There is no limit and it is still legal to bait the tourists. 
Misleading the tourists is a form of amusement the locals have enjoyed since the first European visitors arrived. The Native Americans routinely told the first explorers that not one of them ever went up into the mountains because they were haunted by everything from hairy giants to a thunderbird that was big enough to pick whales out of the ocean and drop them on the glacier. 
Recent archaeological discoveries and tribal testimonies have shown the Olympics were inhabited for thousands of years with camps and trails all through the mountains. Obviously, the Native Americans wanted to keep it for themselves and not ruin it all by blabbing.
Our pioneer forefathers had their own ideas about baiting tourists. Many of them claimed to know what was up in those mountains. They said all you had to do was push a boat up the river to where you would find a lake and a prairie and maybe even some Indians that still hunted buffalo. Hearing this tall tale the Press Expedition of 1898 wasted no time in buying some green lumber, (from one of the pioneer forefathers) to build a boat. 
The expedition wasted weeks building and pushing the leaky boat up the Elwha in the snow before abandoning the craft. Then mushing on to discover a camp of Elwha's with a big fire and elk quarters hanging up where they said no Indian ever went. The Expedition claimed the Indians were ignorant of the country. 
I doubt it. 
By then the Elwha heard through the moccassin telegraph what the white man did to the buffalo and didn't want the same thing to happen to the elk. That would come later anyway.  Meanwhile, the Press boys plowed upriver into the teeth of the worst winter in 100 years. Then emerged from the mountains in the spring, starving and shipwrecked on a sunken raft. Never to return. There was no mention of a lake.
Later, tourists were told of the great mineral wealth that was waiting to be discovered in the Olympics. Mountains, streams and lakes were named after the gold, silver and iron you were sure to find if you had the right equipment. Promotions like these put Oil City on the map at the Hoh River.
Recently the government has come up with a new way to bait the tourists. We are going to take out the Elwha allowing an estimated 400,000 salmon return to the river. 
We don't have to tell the tourists that our other rivers that don't have dams don't have fish in them either. 
Just say the Elwha Dam removal is the largest project of its kind. The tourists will be so impressed they might not care if it's raining.  

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