The Thanksgiving weekend staff at U.S. Coast Guard Station Quillayute River, from left, were Russell Smith, John Montenegro, Michael Laurenti, Turner Setlich, Kaya Cornejo-D’Oyen, Matthew Pullen, Irenio Riggle, and in the window Daniel Hookaday. (Zorina Barker/for Peninsula Daily News)

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Finding light in the gray of La Push

THE WAVES WERE stacked, one upon the other, like fans rushing a concert stage.

Last Saturday, the Pacific Ocean was utterly pounding First Beach in La Push.

The gentle rain seemed timid compared to the frothy sea.

Gray on gray layered both the top and bottom of the horizon to the west, broken only by the dark shades of green and brown of the cliffs and islands to the north and south.

This was Thanksgiving weekend on Quileute land.

Debbie Wick of Seattle was walking through the campground that is part of the southern end of Oceanside Resort &RV Park in La Push.

She had a wide-brimmed hat on her blonde mane and was in rain clothes, walking briskly to meet her husband to hike Second Beach.

“We always come out here for Thanksgiving,” she said.

Wick explained that the pair make beach hiking a priority, but if the tides don’t cooperate, they’ll head for the Hoh Rain Forest.

Ellen Dungy of Winthrop and her boyfriend were snuggled under a tarp and into the canopied back of a pickup truck.

A blue and white surfboard was under the picnic table of their site.

“We came to surf for the holiday, but it has not been good for surfing this weekend,” Dungy told me as she stood barefoot on the rocky ground.

Dungy said the choppy waves and riptide were keeping them off the ocean and cuddled up by the fire.

I looked again at the waves pummeling the beach and, though I am no surfer, I had to agree that cozy and warm was more inviting.

Dressed in denim and topped with a ball cap, Skip Segerman of Silverdale watched the Pacific holding a steaming mug in his hand.

His wife and friends, Dan and Sheri Johnson of Poulsbo, had set up an outdoor living room under their RV’s awnings.

Two of their three dogs sat by chairs on a carpet laid out on the ground.

“We like watching the ocean,” Segerman said.

“The stormier, the better.”

A pair of young ladies in knit caps and gloves was walking the beach.

Their booted feet frequently scurried away from high waves.

There were a lot of cars in the parking spaces for the cabins of Oceanside Resort.

The hotel buildings, Thunderbird and Whale, had full lots, too.

Trucks, Jeeps and Priuses had kayaks, surfboards and bicycles on board and were getting shiny wet in the light rain.

A neon sign for the resort flashed “No vacancy.”

Inside the office, Starlite Christie met me with a smile from behind the front desk.

She said she had been selling a lot of cold weather stuff such as rubber boots, sweaters, coffee mugs and blankets.

Christie is from the Cherokee nation in Oklahoma and recently moved here with her two teenagers, Ahmya, 17, and Lance, 15.

“I have been enjoying learning about this tribe, and it helps me explain the area to visitors,” she said.

Passing several tsunami evacuation route signs, I headed over to the River’s Edge Restaurant and caught Tia Ward at work.

The day’s specials were Philly cheesesteak and prime-rib dip sandwiches.

“It’s been steady enough to keep me busy,” Ward said of the off-season day.

She added that besides a few regulars, everyone else was from out of town, including places such as Italy, Greece and Germany.

She laughed when I said I was amazed she recognized all those accents and explained she usually asks folks where they are from when they are at the register to pay their tab.

Silly me.

The U.S. Coast Guard Station Quillayute River is almost at the end of the road in La Push.

Going through the gate and up steps painted with the words “Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty,” I met Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Matthew Pullen.

He and his wife, Katie, have been in the area for five months and are expecting their first child in January.

This day, though, I caught him in shorts and sneakers at the end of a workout at the Coast Guard station’s gym.

He said he was the officer for the day, and his job was to make sure all of the work on the day’s docket gets done.

Pullen introduced me to Kaya Cornejo-D’Oyen.

Cornejo-D’Oyen arrived just three weeks ago and is working on her radio qualifications before her move on to boat training.

As the watchstander, she’s the first line of defense for anybody needing help, Pullen explained.

Driving out of La Push, I passed local kids playing football in the street, some in shorts and others in sweatshirts and hats.

The rain had all but stopped, and way offshore, blue sky was trying to push some sun through the gray, gray clouds.


Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.

Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorina [email protected], or phone her at 360-327-3702. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.

Her next column will be Dec. 13.

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