Saturday, January 26, 2008

At the end of the road Part:2

A surfboard lay dinged but rideable in the weeds behind one of the homes, it was unwaxed and hadn't seen any water time for awhile judging from it's condition and I wondered who had brought it in. No shortboard, it had a little extra length to it and seemed to have been brought in with a purpose, as if at one time a lone soldier capable of bigger surf aspirations had carried it under arm and paddled out to heaving peaks, fresh out of a Gulf of Alaska storm. At least it was a somewhat romantic take on the sun damaged and mud streaked relic behind the little home.

Other than the board there was nothing else that hinted of surfing as an activity the current inhabitants enjoyed. They seemed as a group to be people living here content to be free of the normal constraints of a Western life. There was little trash or none at all, thinking back it seemed really clean. The grey skies and the coolness of the climate combined with the edge of the continental United States made Alaska seem "just over there" as you stared north along the horizon.

Pat and I surfed peaks on either side of Petroleum Creek. Long lefts peeled down the beach on a chest high west swell. When the surf boomed overnight we found ourselves paddling out into a solid eight foot groundswell and a lowering tide. Somehow the paddle out while a heart racer allowed us to penetrate the outside, that was in fact our bad luck. As the sets rolled through closing out all shoulder less walls. Entry was not an option and dodging cleanup sets we ended up paddling north up the beach, to a point where the wave slowed enough to allow a drop to the bottom but nothing else. We proned in thankful that we hadn't gotten into worse trouble. Out here help was hours away and unlikely even though the Coast Guard had a facility about fifteen miles away. It was a reminder of the rawness of the place.

My dad and I ended up making two trips there, fascinated by the misty beach at the end of the old logging road. The old man either chatting with one of the denizens of the forest or hiking the tide pools filled with critters, the ever present pipe in hand and cup of tea nearby.

Despite protests in Seattle the swap came to fruition and the area became part of the Olympic Park, extending the coastal boundary of the park to make it one of the longest unbroken stretches of natural coastlines left on the Lower 48. It looked bad for the squatters and as it eventually played out, the smudge of human habitation on the corner of the continent was declared illegal and wiped away cleanly and with little fanfare, just as the Pacific had tried to do twice each day at the end of a high tide.


ras said...

Great story Gaz. The battle between preserving man vs. nature rages but at some point perhaps man will realize that he is nature -and preserving the trees is no different than preserving our own habitat for survival.

Anonymous said...

Gaz, You should consider sending this to The Surfer's Journal.

Gaz said...

Thanks guys, SJ would be a cool feather! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Very cool. Surfed there a couple times, prob that same creek mouth, and never knew about the old commune. Same tpye of thing went on up on Van Island and in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Southern Oregon.

But why would people protest a National Park and land conservation over logging?

Gaz said...

The benefit of the park's protection wasn't the issue D, it was the little cabins on the beach.

People wanted to save them but the parks won't allow unauthorized dwellings on park lands, so they had to go.