Monday, July 11, 2011
Road Trip Day 6: Kalaloch
Yesterday I started the day with a campfire. I sat and read portions of two books before having lunch and going down a short trail from the campsite to the beach. I sat and watched the waves of the Pacific Ocean wash the sandy beach for several hours. Children played on the beach, an elderly couple collected wood for a bonfire, and people walked in the mists along the coast. Seabirds sat like intermediaries between this world and the next. All was very peaceful.
Kalaloch has been home to humans for 12,000 years. In 1977 a farmer digging a pond just outside of the Olympic National Forest unearthed a mastodon skeleton. Within the rib bones of the mastodon was a broken piece of bone resembling a spear.
The region is lush. Everything is green and growing. It is an area of beauty and abundance. Red cedars grow tall and have provided the raw materials for shelters, wood working, and baskets for time immemorial. Broken clam and crab shells litter the beaches and these creatures have provided sustenance to peoples since prehistoric times. Whales and other sea mammals come close to the coast and fishing is bountiful. There are also big game such as deer and elk. Indigenous cultures in this area became rich and complex with time to develop their arts.
When Europeans were drawn to settle in this area because of the abundance of salmon and the great forests, things changed. Entire villages of indigenous people were wiped out by diseases that they had no resistance to. Great swaths of the forests were cut down. The elk population was hunted to a fraction of its original size.
Driving to Kalaloch I saw areas of the forest that had been "harvested." Logging is a big business in this area. The Olympic National Park and areas such as the Hoh Rainforest were set aside to preserve "the finest example of primeval forest... and provide permanent protection for the herds of native Roosevelt elk." The Olympic National Park was established in 1938. Native peoples have been granted the right to fish in their traditional ways and to resume whaling. Otters were reintroduced to the area and are thriving.
Kalaloch which means in the Quinault language "a good place to land" has been a scene of interaction between the landscape and people for a very long time. I cannot imagine coming to Kalaloch and not being taken with the beauty of the place and transformed in some small way.