NOW THAT THE tourists are finally here it’s easy to remember why we put a season on them.
From the acidified ocean to the melting glaciers the Olympic Peninsula has always been a magnet for tourists.
It might have begun back in the good old days of the Bearing Land Bridge when groups of stone-age hunters crossed from Siberia to Alaska and continued south looking for warmer weather.
They found Sequim to be a paradise for big game hunters.
That was back when the big game was really big.
We’re talking about the Pleistocene megafauna like the mastodon, wooly mammoth and giant ground sloths that lolled around the water holes unaware of just how dangerous the puny, hairless tourists could be.
The tourists had fire and knew how to use it.
Fire could be used to cultivate the new growth of plants the animals fed on and drive the herds of bison and caribou that once lived here into an ambush or off a cliff.
These activities have led to speculation that the disappearance of these mega-critters shortly after the arrival of the first tourists was more than just a coincidence.
You could feed your whole family for weeks on a mammoth and make a tent from the bones and hide and heat it with the creatures’ fat.
Life was good, in fact it was too good to last.
After a while a whole new tourist demographic might have visited our shores.
The Chinese told of a land east of Japan they called Fousang where a Chinese junk was driven off course by a storm to land in 219 B.C.
The Chinese might have been the first tourists to visit the Olympic Peninsula.
They started a rumor about the Strait of Anian, a body of water that was believed narrowly separated the Pacific Northwest from Asia.
When Marco Polo returned to his home to Venice in 1295 from his journey to China he brought a map of the Strait of Anian, igniting a search that would last for 500 years.
Sir Francis Drake might or might not have been another early tourist to visit the area while on his round the world cruise looting treasure from the Spanish that the Spanish had looted from the Incas and Aztecs.
In 1579, Drake sailed north up the Pacific Coast claiming land for Queen Elizabeth and burying 17 tons of treasure along the way until he was lost in a frozen fog and went home.
In 1588, Capt. Lorenzo Ferrer de Maldonado said he sailed through the Strait of Anian from east to west.
Adm. Pedro Bartolomé de Fone claimed The Strait of Anain was actually a river coming from a lake on an inland plain populated by a race of “cultured savages.”
The existence of the mythical inland lake is a recurring theme in the history of Olympic Peninsula tourism that was employed successfully much later in the 19th century on other unsuspecting tourists.
The Strait of Juan de Fuca was named after another tourist who might or might not have actually been here.
The Greek navigator Apostolos Valerianus who went by the name of Juan de Fuca, claimed that in 1592 he found an inlet on the Pacific Coast in which he sailed for 20 days in a land rich in gold, silver and pearls.
The Spanish, English, Russian and American tourists spent the next 200 years looking for this mythical Northwest Passage, an imaginary short-cut across the continent to the treasures of the Orient.
It wasn’t until July of 1787 that the first documented European tourists visited the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The results were catastrophic.
To be continued next week.
Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwild [email protected]