There they were. Two grown men and complete strangers. Shoulder to shoulder and crying together at a bar.

They were not sad tears, exclusively. There were happy tears mixed in. And reflective tears and longful tears. And it didn’t matter why. It only mattered that they were.

As the final moments played out in front of their eyes in real time it was the mothballed memories of yesterday that cluttered the gangplank of their minds. How young were we all when it first began? Back then we couldn’t even imagine the end. All of life seemed to be but a red carpet ready to be rolled out at our feet and trod confidently upon until we reached our assumed destination. It seemed all but inevitable that greater things lay in wait for a transcendent future just begging to be unveiled.

We were patient at first. And why not? We had nothing but time. The potential was there. The desire was there. Surely the momentum would swing in our favor some day. At some point, without a doubt, everything would work itself out and a champion’s glory would befall us all.

But somehow those expectations always wound up pushed off until tomorrow. And then next week. And then again until next month. Eventually, we found comfort in the fact that there would always be next year. We knew in our collective heart of hearts that next year was when everything would pan out. After all, the King was on our side.

But the great unseen arbiters of life, as they are wont to do, always found a way to shackle and torture the formerly boundless prospects of expectation. At first it seemed that the world simply wasn’t prepared for his prowess at all. He baffled the best of the best before he had even earned his moniker and it figured to reason that his talents and spirit would combine to buoy those around him so that we could all rise to the unfamiliar top together.

Instead, time and disappointment conspired to degrade us all while the promises of next year failed to materialize. Again and again, injuries and bad luck teamed up to shred the thread of sinew that held our unbridled communal expectations aloft. It happened not all at once, but gradually, the way a tree sheds its leaves in the fall, or how a Chirsmas snowman melts in place until it’s forgotten forever. 

Denial sheltered us from reality at first. Then we smothered the compounding stench of rotting potential with a gravy boat of optimism. At first it helped to mask the unspeakable truth, but eventually we’d all eaten too much and fell ill in the pit of our stomachs.

Still, we never really gave up on our King. Although we might not have said it out loud as frequently, it proved impossible to stop believing that he always had one more momentous performance percolating in his powerful right arm. The let downs piled up like old newspapers on the kitchen table but we still tingled with anticipation each time it was his turn to take the ball and climb the hill again.

In the end though, the storybook never came together much like we’d imagined. We were never good enough for him when he was at his best and by the time the pieces were finally put in place around him the plush fabric of his talents had turned threadbare and prone to heart wrenching failure at the most inopportune times. 

Even so, when the once unthinkable end became inevitable we never turned our backs on the King. Instead, paupers and jesters filled his court one last time in order to shower the over-the-hill prince with all the love that perfect strangers can muster one last time.

In the end there were no words that could do the decade and a half long saga justice. There were only tears and smiles. It was all anyone had left to give.

FISHIN’

On Thursday the state dropped the hammer on salmon and steelhead fishing in most stretches of the Columbia River. That closure extends to the entirety of the lower Columbia River between Tongue Point and Bonneville Dam.

The emergency closure was implemented in order to provide protection for depressing returns of upriver bright Chinook bound for Idaho. 

“Despite record low numbers of summer steelhead, and poor ocean conditions, we have worked hard to offer meaningful fall Chinook fisheries in the Columbia, both above and below Bonneville,” said Bill Tweit, special assistant with the WDFW, in a press release. “Offering those opportunities while meeting conservation guidelines is always a difficult balancing act, and one that we take very seriously.”

The release noted that the commercial harvest for Chinook will need to be reduced on the Columbia River in order to account for the fish caught during the fall fishery. However, anglers will still have a shot to catch silver salmon at Buoy 10.

“The Buoy 10 fishery has a negligible impact on the number of Chinook making their way upriver, and is still providing good opportunity for coho,” Tweit added.

Luckily, that closure of the mighty Columbia coincides with the opening of a pair of popular tributaries. The Green River, along with the Toutle and North Fork Toutle rivers, are all now open through Nov. 30. The daily limit on those Cowlitz River tributaries is six hatchery fish, of which four may be adults. Only one hatchery Chinook may be retained per day.

Last week on the Cowlitz River proper the majority of the action was again found below Toledo. From the I-5 Bridge downstream the WDFW sampled 27 bank rods with one coho and one jack kept. Another 72 rods on 32 boats had 11 coho and three jacks in the box, plus 62 Chinook, 53 jacks, 15 coho, and eight jacks released. From the freeway to the Barrier Dam eight bank rods released three Chinook adults and two jacks.

The Lewis River was also active last week with 36 bank anglers showing off seven coho to the WDFW and reportedly releasing three Chinook and two more coho. Another 18 rods on six boats released one coho jack.

On Saturday sturgeon anglers will have one more shot to target the river monsters in the lower Columbia system. That fishery will extend from the Wauna Powerlines to Bonneville Dam. Harvestable sturgeon must measure between 44 and 50 inches in length. Last week on the Cowlitz River 29 bank rods released three sturgeon for being too small. Another 37 rods on 11 boats kept seven “right size” sturgeon and released 33 more for being too small.

The rest of the Chehalis River is set to open up on Oct. 1 and rumors around the old muddy drainage indicate that silver salmon may already be making their way through Rochester on their way to the headwaters beyond. The river was closed to all fishing at the start of the summer and has been subject to staggered openings along its main stretch since July 25 when the lowest stretch between Elma and the ocean was opened under permanent rules. On Sept. 16 the Chehalis was opened up between the South Elma Bridge (Wakefield Road) and the mouth of the Black River. When the calendar flips to October the rest of the mainstem will be open for sport fishing, along with the South Fork, as well as the assorted tines of the Newaukum River. The Skookumchuck River will open to sport fishing on Oct. 16.

Anglers who prefer to try their luck on the Ol’ Salish Sea will find that their daily limit has been reduced in most areas. Those changes came rolling down on Monday when the daily limit for coho salmon was dropped to just one fish in Marine areas 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point), 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), 7 (San Juan Islands) 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, Skagit Bay), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area), 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), and 13 (South Puget Sound).

A press release from the WDFW noted that, “Since early September, state and tribal co-managers have been assessing coho runs throughout Puget Sound waters. Preliminary information indicates that returning coho have a smaller body size and potentially lower-than-expected run sizes to many systems. WDFW is implementing this rule as a precaution to ensure escapement and hatchery goals are met.”

While salmon fishing remains open all year long in Marine Area 13 anglers in the South Sound are now limited to two salmon per day, of which just one may be an adult. Hatchery Chinook salmon must be at least 20 inches in length to be kept. All wild coho and kings must be tossed back.

HUNTIN’

The last of the early season archery hunts for black-tailed deer came to an end on Friday. There won’t be much of a lull in the woods though as early muzzleloader hunts for black tails begins Saturday. Musketeers will also have their season open for mule deer and white-tailed deer east of the Cascades on Saturday.

Muzzleloader toters will begin to take aim at elk on both sides of the mountains beginning Oct. 5. WDFW stats show that some of the most fruitful areas for elk hunts in southwest Washington include GMU 520 (Winston), 506 (Willapa Hills), 530 (Ryderwood), 550 (Coweeman), and 560 (Lewis River). In response to elk hoof disease that’s common in area elk wildlife managers are asking successful hunters to sever and leave the lower leg portion of any harvested animal at the kill site. Additionally, any elk with hoof deformities or mobility issues should be reported to the WDFW.

Pheasant hunts open in kind on Saturday and continue through Nov. 30 in all the regular spots other than the Woodland Bottoms release site. That area was closed suddenly just days before a youth-hunt was set to take place last week. Release areas that will open include Fort Lewis, Kosmos, Scatter Creek, and Lincoln Creek. 

Saturday is also reserved for youth-only waterfowl hunts in eastern Washington. Ducks, including scaup, coots, along with Canada and white-fronted geese will all be legal fodder during that hunt. General seasons for ducks and geese won’t open up around the state until Oct. 12. It’s important to remember that hunterse in Goose Management Area 2 — Coastal and Inland including Clark, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, Pacific, and Gray Harbor counties — must fill out harvest cards for any geese harvested.

Wild turkey hunts will expand on Saturday as well. Back at the beginning of September, turkey sesaon opened up in GMUs 101-154 and 162-186 with a limit of two beardless turkeys and two of either sex. Now, turkeys are also on the menu in GMUs 382, 388, and 568-578 with a limit of one turkey of either sex.

Quail seasons are open in western Washington and will fly on through Nov. 30. Band-tailed pigeon season closed on Sept. 23 but mourning doves are fair game until Oct. 30. Forest grouse and crow hunts will continue through the end of the year. 

Bear hunts will continue through Nov. 15. They are rumored to enjoy pic-a-nic baskets and blackberry bramble. Also, garbage cans. Cougar will stride on through at least the end of the year before harvest quotas are considered. Cougars prefer the wooded mountain foothills of Thurston and Lewis counties. Fishermen say they’ve seen them drinking from rivers, and video evidence seems to prove the claim. The Skookumchuck unit (667) is well known for producing the highest cougar harvest of any section around.

Bobcat, fox, raccoon, rabbit, and hare hunting is all good to go through the Ides of March. And, of course, coyote hunting is a never ending story in Washington.

CLAMMIN’

Clam hounds are howling at the moon with the first razor clam digs of the season already underway on the Long Beach Peninsula.

Those kick-off clam digs began just before 6 a.m. on Friday and will continue through noon on Sunday. Final approval was announced late last week after marine toxin tests found that the succulent bivalves are safe for human consumption.

The upcoming dig is for the following dates and morning low tides:

  • Sept. 27, Friday, 5:52 a.m. -0.9, Long Beach only

  • Sept. 28, Saturday, 6:36 a.m. -0.8, Long Beach only

  • Sept. 29, Sunday, 7:19 am -0.6, Long Beach only

No digging is allowed after noon during the three-day opener and no other beaches besides Long Beach will be open.

"We know people have been looking forward to digging razor clams, and based on our surveys, we expect some great digging on Long Beach," said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, in a press release.

Ayres promised that there will be ample opportunity on other coastal beaches as the tides churn toward winter. The next proposed round of razor clam digs would take place on the following dates, beaches, and tides:

  • October 26, Saturday, 5:59 pm, 0.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

  • October 27, Sunday, 6:47 pm, -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

  • October 28, Monday, 7:33 pm, -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

  • October 29, Tuesday, 8:18 pm, -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

  • October 30, Wednesday, 9:03 pm, -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

  • October 31, Thursday, 9:50 pm, -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

  • November 1, Friday, 10:38 pm, -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

Following these late September openings no digging will be allowed before noon for the rest of the 2019 digs. Ayres always recommends arriving about two hours prior to low tide in order to buoy the odds of success.

All diggers age 15 and older are required to possess a license. The daily limit is 15 clams and no grading is strictly prohibited. Additionally, there shall be no commingling of clams into a communal container. You dig ‘em. You carry ‘em.

FORAGIN’

Mushroom enthusiasts will be able to learn all about the fungus among us as it pertains to the southern slopes of Mount Saint Helens on six dates over the next four weeks. The Mt. St. Helens Institute will host a mushroom centric workshop at the Pine Creek Information Center in Cougar on Sept. 28, Oct. 5, Oct. 6, Oct. 13, Oct. 19, and Oct. 20.

“Come explore the magical kingdom of fungi! Learn how to identify common characteristics of wild edible and inedible mushrooms. Then learn how to harvest many different types of edible mushrooms and cook them into delicious dishes. Plan to get your shoes and hands dirty as you discover the forest's most striking and sometimes delectable offerings. Come explore the magical kingdom of fungi! Learn how to identify,” read an invite on the MSH website.

The cost to attend is $82. Children ages eight and up are allowed but must be accompanied by an adult. No one over 125 years old will be allowed, per the reservation form. The Pine Creek Information Center is located off of Highway 90 near Cougar. It’s after the Camp Creek bridge but before the Campground Road.

Information on reservations can be found online at www.mshinstitute.org/explore/mushroom-foraging.html.

There are even mycologically minded events on the radar closer to our flood valley mycelium mat. On Oct. 1, the Southwest Washington Mycological Society will hold its monthly meeting. This time around Daniel Winkler will be the guest speaker for all the mushroom heads in attendance.

“(Winkler) enjoys world renown in the mycological community,” noted the mushroom group. “His Mushroaming Eco-Adventures takes mushroom enthusiasts on tours around the globe in search of exotic fungi. Among other publications, he is the author of Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest.”

Non-members are encouraged to attend and even bring along unidentified mushrooms for expert analysis. Meetings start at 6 p.m. in the Agricultural Extension meeting room located in the basement of the historical Lewis County Courthouse at 351 NW North Street, Chehalis (near the west entrance). 

PROPOSIN’

Anyone looking to host a recreational event within the expansive bounds of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest during the coming year will need to submit proposals post haste.

The powers that be with the GPNF are soliciting proposals from the public regarding new and existing events to take place on the forest in 2020. An interesting, but by no means all-inclusive list of events in a press release suggested events such as group kayak floats, snowmobile or ski events, endurance races, hike-a-thon fundraisers, horse competitions and bike races.

“Events should encourage fun and responsible outdoor recreation experiences,” the Forest Service noted in the press release. 

The release added that, “All new proposals will be reviewed under criteria intended to diversify recreation opportunities, reduce overlap with existing events and increase opportunities for youth-focused events”

There are 25 recreation permits up for grabs and proposals will be accepted through Nov. 1. Existing events with current permits must re-apply for next year. Applications for new trail runs on the Truman Trail, Boundary Trail, Loowit Trail or within the Mount Margaret Backcountry will not be considered.

Additional information can be obtained online at https://tinyurl.com/gprecevents, or, by calling Brittany Zapata at 360-449-7806.

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