Rain drops raced down the window pane like ragged race horses at the Tuesday derby while he clung desperately to his second cup of coffee. The rain was not what worried him but it weighed down his thoughts like wet satchels upon a mule’s back.

The steam curled out of the cup and stuck to the inside of the glass, metastasizing his dread and indecision in real time right before his eyes. The mug was warm and fit perfectly to the curve of his hand whereas the window was old and wonky and allowed gusts of winter’s sorrow to seap inside the house.

That’s when his towheaded two year old began to pull at his shirtail and repeat his most common demand ad nauseum — “Outside. Outside! OUTSIDE!”

There was no mistaking the young dictator’s demands, nor was there any advantage to be had by denying his plea. So as fast as he could pull it all together the ransacked dad began to assemble the vestiges of any out of doors adventure worth its salt. If there’s one thing that he knew for certain, it’s that in the Pacific Northwest there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad rain gear.

Accordingly, the first preparatory chore was to put his son into warmer clothes to better suit the occasion. Strip last night’s pajamas and change that diaper. Put those socks on once, and once again after he peels them off for fun and spite. Head through the hole. Arm. Arm. How about some pants? Leg. Leg. Standup. Cinch up. Now if only we could find those crusty boots.

Then the droopy eyed dad repeated the process for himself, rushing around the house and looking for things he’d dropped lazily in plain sight the night before. Topping off that quickly cooling coffee he grabbed his Bub a “waddy” bottle and a snack for the road and they were out the door.

A wet rat looking cat darted in the house as they headed out and the wind howled like wolves on a blood moon killing spree. The dad grimaced as the cold and wet hit his neanderthal brow. A good caveman would stay in his cave, he thought. His son just laughed like some mad sea  captain as he bounded down the stairs hellbent on meeting the storm head on.

As they walked the son picked up sticks and then discarded them according to his particular whims. He’d pick one up and whack a hedgerow in order to count the raindrops that fell like clown tears. Then he’d leave one behind in favor of another imperceptibly more perfect stick that the wind had brought down to earth.

Later the little boy changed out his cache of stick figures for his slow-speed four-wheeler that sat charging in the garage. With its one-wheel-drive and plastic tires he cut a course across the easements, right of ways, and gravel drives that mark the uncrowded neighborhood. The little crash baby careened off of roadside stumps and spun out in the mud along the shoulder. He rocked as he rolled and cut a course directly for the river run that flanked the far side of the farm.

When the locust tree lined trail bogged down the mini Mad Max impersonator left his trusty patrol rig on the side of the trail in favor of hoofing it through the puddles. He stopped at barren blackberry bushes and searched in vain for the sweet morsels that hung in clumps in the summer and fall. The brambles scratched his hands as he scratched his head. The snowberry bushes caught his eye but a mostly attentive father pushed them away and extolled their grave danger.

After a long trudge past crumbling seed logs and jungles of knotweed the drenched duo arrived at the river’s swollen edge. Where sandy beach and rocky redd flats dominated the landscape in the summer the seasonal rains conspired to bring the river right up to the trail’s edge. Reeds buckled into an oxbow tangle in the driving current and no fish seemed to be in the river since the surface ripples were indistinguishable from from falling rain.

With the coast clear and a pocket full of rocks ready to go the father and son began taking turns unleashing their quarry. With a flurry of sidearm slings they sent the rounded stones hurtling back into the river from which they came with an arching grace that matched the movements of trapeze acrobats. One. Two.. Three… They counted the skips together before calculating the trajectory of their next imperfect toss.

When their pockets were empty and their laughs a little more subdued by the weight of the unrelenting rain the man and his boy began to make their way back home with a silent agreement. That way the dad wasn’t telling and the boy wasn’t asking, so nobody was forced to make any concessions.

Back near the trailhead the boy hopped back on his wheeler but it wasn’t as much fun to ride this time. The seat was wet and the battery was sapped. That much, at least, they all had in common.

They retraced their steps past the naked bones of old apple trees and fallow pastures, across an empty intersection and beyond an abandoned home that once saw a river run right through it. When at last they returned home the haggered boy feigned a reluctance to go inside. He worried that he would be considered weak for wanting to dodge the raindrops now.

That’s when the clouds began to break and a bit of blue emerged slowly from the creases of the pillowcase sky. As the doting papa pulled muddy boots from his son’s feet on the doorstep a screech erupted from directly overhead and sent menthol chills running up his spine while his hair tried to stand on end.

Looking up it was hard to believe at first. After hours out in the wild world without seeing a trace of any wild animals, other than the neighbors mangy dogs on the loose, their luck had suddenly changed. A hulking bald eagle had perched directly above the drenched duo on the swaying crown of a pioneer evergreen. It shrieked into the evaporating storm but held still and noble as a statue even as its wobbled on the untable airwaves.

Looking up in awe the young adventurer wondered aloud at what he was witnessing.

“It’s an eagle! Such a big bird,” said the dad.

“Why?” asked his son.

“I guess we’re just lucky,” replied the dad.

And as the sun poked from behind its dependable veil the eagle lurched and set off with a monstrous flap of its wings like an arrow toward that distant seam in the sky. As it left, though, it turned its big white head toward the porch and looked the little boy right in his eye.

“Eagle!” said the boy as he jumped up and down and pointed at his newfound friend.

Sometimes it takes the most meandering of adventures to help you see what’s right outside your door.

FISHIN’

Anglers have plenty of options for waters to wet a line in these days but the results have been more ebb than flow in recent weeks.

The lower Columbia River is open from Buoy 10 to the I-5 Bridge in Portland for steelhead and king salmon harvest while anglers can target hatchery steelhead all the way up beyond the dammed corridor. Additionally, there are sturgeon and walleye harvest opportunities in those warm water dam pools on the mighty river.

In the Bonneville Pool anglers are allowed to keep white sturgeon measuring between 38-54 inches. In the John Day Pool anglers can keep white sturgeon measuring between 43-54 inches. The Dalles Pool was closed to sturgeon harvest earlier this month when the quota limit was reached.

Last week at Bonneville the WDFW sampled 18 bank anglers with four small sturgeon released but 79 rods on 25 boards kept 13 sturgeon while releasing one legal size fish along with another 151 small sturgeon and one oversize fish. In the John Day Pool four bank anglers and eight boat rods had no catch to show at all. Walleye anglers had more fun at John Day with 14 boat rods keeping a bakers dozen and releasing six more.

While creel sampling by the WDFW will not start again until February on the mainstem results were scattershot again on area tributaries to the Columbia River.

On the Elochoman River 30 bank anglers kept three steelhead but six boat rods had no catch. Four bank anglers on Abernathy Creek were skunked but 12 bank anglers on Germany Creek kept three steelhead. The East Fork Lewis River saw 26 bank anglers release one steelhead between them while 25 bank anglers on Salmon Creek kept one steely.

On the Cowlitz River effort was dispersed fairly evenly from the mouth to the Barrier Dam. However, that spread out effort appears to be a result of not knowing where to find a hot spot as opposed to a red hot run throughout the river. From Vader to the mouth 33 bank rods caught just one steelhead, and it was tossed back. From the I-5 Bridge up to the Barrier dam 18 bank rods kept one steelhead and 21 boat rods released another. Perhaps the most telling stat last week came from the Cowlitz salmon hatchery where employees retrieved only three winter-run steelhead adults and two coho jacks. Those crews also released one coho jack into Lake Scanewa in Randle, as well as one coho jack and three winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton. On Tuesday river flow below Mayfield Dam was reported at 7,720 cubic feet per second with water visibility of 10 feet and a water temperature of 44.6 degrees. By Wednesday that flow had dropped to 6,090 cfps.

A tease of a steelhead bite on the mainstem Chehalis River dissipated this week along with the heavy rains that seemed to bring the salted fish inland from the sea. Folks have still been tossing baited lines in from Independence to Porter and a few dogged jet sleds have been plying the water below Borst Park. The only problem is the fish don’t seem to be biting this week.

Another gush of water should help to send steelhead careening upstream on the mainstem as well as tributaries from the Wynoochee to the Newaukum. On Wednesday river flow on the Wynoochee was reported at 5,260 cfps above Black Creek and 1,230 cfps at Grisdale.

Lowland lake fishing can be a tempting opportunity during the dread of winter and continued hatchery stocking efforts by the WDFW have serve to sweeten the pot. On Jan. 14 Kress Lake was planted with seven adult winter steelhead weighing upwards of 10 pounds each and three days earlier that lake was planted with 18 steelies of the same lunker size. On Jan. 10 Fort Borst Park Pond was planted with 2,000 fingerling rainbow trout and Lake Sacajawea recently received 75 overgrown trout that tipped the scales around 10 pounds each.

HUNTIN’

In the wide world of hunting the refrain is the same — Bird, bird, bird. Bird is the word.

The yearly 10-day brant hunting season in Pacific County is well underway and will come to an end after hunters take to the field on Saturday and Sunday. At the same time, the enduring general hunt for geese and ducks will also continue through Jan. 27 in many areas of southwest Washington. However, in Goose Area 2 (Pacific County and Grays Harbor County west of Highway 101) geese will not be legal fodder again until a late season from Feb. 2-16. The inland section of Goose Area 2 east of Highway 101, as well as Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and Clark counties closed on Jan. 13. More locally, Goose Management Area 3, which covers Lewis, Pierce, and Thurston counties, among others, will be open through Jan. 27. Additionally, hunts for ducks, coot and snipe will also continue through Sunday.

Most applicable areas are still open for cougar hunts but hunters should be sure to check with the WDFW before heading out to the field. That’s because since the new year cougar areas have been subject to emergency restrictions based on cumulative harvest numbers from the fall and winter season. In areas where the take remains below the quota hunting will continue through April 30.

Permits for spring bear hunts be on sale through the end of February. Additional information, including purchase requirements, can be found online at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/permits/spring_bear/.

Bobcats, fox, raccoons, snowshoe hares and cottontail rabbits will all be on the run through March 15 when those hunting seasons come to an end. Off the beaten path, trapping season for beaver, badger, weasel, marten, mink, muskrat and river otter will continue through the end of March.

Roadkill salvage is also legal in Washington with the use of an emergency permit provided by the WDFW via phone. And, as always, coyotes are legal fodder year round.

All hunters are required to report their activity from the previous year no later than Jan. 31. Those reports are due for each special permit, as well as any deer, elk, bear, cougar, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey tag purchased in 2018. A $10 fine is assessed on the next license purchase to anyone who fails to comply. Hunting reports can be filed by phone at 877-945-3492 or on the WDFW website.

Moving over to the boardroom, the WDFW is seeking public comments regarding proposals for the 2019-20 hunting seasons. Written comments will be accepted through Feb. 13.

“We encourage everyone interested in the upcoming hunting seasons to check the proposed changes and send us your comments,” said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager, in a press release.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is set to meet on March 1-2 in Spokane and will also take live public comments on those days. A final decision on the proposals is expected to be announced during the public meetings on April 5-6 in Olympia.

Written comments can be submitted online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/. A complete overview of the proposals can also be viewed at that address.

CLAMMIN’

The ongoing shutdown of the federal government served a blow to last week’s razor clam digs before they even got started when the WDFW cancelled a set of rare dgis at Kalaloch Beach due to a lack of supervising staff at Olympic National Park. Then, a king tide and uncooperative weather conspired to wash out much of the rest of the effort that was allowed.

Getting skunked is part of the game for die hard diggers and if all goes according to plan there won’t be much more time for crying salty tears into consolation beers. That’s because the next round of coastal razor clam digs proposed by the WDFW are set to begin on Feb. 1.

That three dig includes a trio of openings at Twin Harbors, a pair of days at Copalis, and a single day at Mocrocks. However, those digs are awaiting final approval by the WDFW pending marine toxin testing. Another seven day set of digs has been proposed for the third week of February. Those proposed razor clam digs would take place on the following dates, tides and beaches:

  • Feb. 1, Friday; 4:48 p.m.; 0.2 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

  • Feb. 2; Saturday; 5:28 p.m.; 0.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

  • Feb. 3, Sunday; 6:04 p.m.; -0.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

  • Feb. 15, Friday; 3:11 p.m.; 0.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

  • Feb. 16, Saturday; 4:08 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Kalaloch

  • Feb. 17, Sunday; 4:59 p.m.; -1.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch

  • Feb. 18, Monday; 5:46 p.m.; -1.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Kalaloch (Presidents' Day Holiday)

  • Feb. 19, Tuesday; 6:31 p.m.; -1.5 feet; Twin Harbors

  • Feb. 20, Wednesday; 7:14 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors

  • Feb. 21, Thursday; 7:56 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Twin Harbors

Ayres noted that he is hopeful that replacement dates can be scheduled for those recently cancelled at Kalaloch, but those discussions will have to wait until Olympic National Park staff are back at work.

Whenever you do get out to the beach it's important to remember that the late winter digs all coincide with evening tides. Ayres recommends that diggers show up an hour or two before low tide for the best results. Lamps, lanterns, or headlights are also a must.

"Diggers should always keep an eye on the surf and come prepared with good lighting devices for the digs that occur after dark," Ayres said in a press release.

All diggers at least 15 years of age are required to have a valid fishing license to harvest clams. Additionally, all diggers must dig their own clams and carry them in a personal container. State law allows for up to 15 razor clams to e dug per person, per day.

SNOWIN’

A rush of snow that pounded the high hills late last week has disappeared but it’s left a beautiful mess in its wake at White Pass.

On Wednesday morning there was only a light snow falling above 5,000 feet but eight inches had already accumulated over the previous 24 hours. With temperatures at 35 degrees near the base and 31 degrees all the way up top that new snow should remain in good shape heading into the weekend.

The weekend storms that carried over to the early part of the week helped to bump the seasonal snow total up form 68 inches at the summit last week to 84 inches this week. Likewise, the snow total at the base increased from 40 to 46 inches. A string of relatively bluebird days are expected to shuttle in the weekend but snow showers could return by Saturday or Sunday night.

Currently the White Pass ski area is open for daily operation while the nordic area is open Thursday through Sunday. Tubers can hit the soft slopes on weekends and the Monday of Presidents Weekend. Additionally, night skiing (until 9 p.m.) is a bonus feature with any general admission lift ticket on Saturdays and the Sunday of Presidents Weekend through March 2.

Up to date information on operations and weather conditions can be obtained by calling 509-672-3100.

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