YET AGAIN, IT was raining and the power was out at home, so I split by 9 a.m. to see what was happening on the West End.
Heading south on U.S. Highway 101 from Forks, cruising around 55 mph, I passed a tipped-over road sign before the bend by Fuhrman Road.
I hit the brakes hard upon seeing power lines laying across my lane of the highway.
Gliding to the other lane, I kept going for half a mile before I came upon a power pole snapped in half. The top of the tree causing this mess was nearly across the road, but the road was still passable despite the tree and the low-lying power lines.
Crossing the Bogachiel River on the Russell Barker Memorial bridge, I got almost to the Jefferson County line. There lay a fat tree fully blocking the road with lines mixed in the tangle.
Aloud, I expressed gratitude for the linemen who would, without fail, be out to fix this mess.
Going to watch the storm at Kalaloch was out of the question.
The next choice was La Push and as long as the Bogachiel River hadn’t flooded Highway 110 just past Three Rivers Resort, I should be able to get there to see the wind dance with the waves.
The most inviting place would have been Cape Flattery, but I figured if I couldn’t get to Kalaloch, getting to Neah Bay was not likely, either.
Forks appeared shut down except for Thriftway and two gas stations.
A local elk herd was huddled tightly together behind the train engine at Tillicum Park and hadn’t appeared to move since I first passed by them.
They all had their faces to the wind so the rain blew over their fur rather than under it.
On Highway 110, coming past the site for the new Quileute Tribal School on higher ground and entering the upper village, I slowed and let gravity pull me down toward the Pacific Ccean.
I’ll have to admit, I got a bit giddy when I caught sight of the frothy waves.
High tide was within the hour and the pebbly beach was lost beneath the unusually punishing waves. Pulling into the camping area behind Lonesome Creek Store, my windshield was plastered with sea foam.
It was blown off the crest of the beach, just a few feet from the edge of the parking lot.
Pushing open the car door, I felt the resistance from the wind and felt the door slam shut as if by invisible hands. A shot of panic hit me as I checked for the keys before I found them in my coat pocket.
A few seagulls were flying into the wind, parallel to the beach. Their flight wasn’t the usual easy glide of gulls, but looked more like they had been tipping a bottle the way these birds erratically dodged logs and bushes lining the ocean.
The rock faces to the south of First Beach were getting throttled by relentless waves and the spray was being carried way up into the trees perched on the high ledges.
Driving over to the parking lot between the ocean and Quileute River, I saw I wasn’t the only one enthralled by the power of the storm. There were seven other vehicles, each with a human or two holding their cameras up. The wind was grabbing the tops of the waves and hurling the spray at the cars like it was trying to break windshields.
I fairly chuckled as a man chased after his hat until it became waterlogged in a big puddle. The seagulls here were rocking on the churning Quileute River or clinging to a patch of grass, streamlining their bodies to blend with the earth and their bills into the wind.
Every man-made obstacle was being put to the test: waves were battering levees, roofs were being torn piece by piece, portable toilets had toppled over.
This storm was making a mess of the West End.
Heading home, I felt trapped by slower vehicles driven by people that seemed unfamiliar with the area.
It’s rather unpredictable which trees will fall and I was rushing through the areas of taller timber.
Approaching my home, I saw traffic stopped and I hoped it wasn’t one of my trees blocking the highway. It wasn’t, and I had a hunch the landowner wasn’t even in this state.
No matter, a seasoned local was wisely traveling with a chainsaw in his truck and was already cutting up the tree. Other travellers were pitching in, throwing limbs and chunks of wood off to the roadside.
In minutes I was pulling into my driveway. The house was still dark, but now I was more content to light some candles and ride out the storm at home, keeping my eye on the shimmying trees surrounding my house.
Zorina Barker has lived on the West End for most of her life. She is married to a Forks native who works in the timber industry. Both of her kids have been home-schooled in the wilds of the Sol Duc Valley. She can be reached at 360-461-7928 or [email protected]
West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be Jan. 8.