PAT NEAL: All aboard the love boat

It’s tourist season on the Peninsula

AND SO, ANOTHER tourist season passes astern.

This year’s tourist season has been a record-setting invasion that’s caused miles-long traffic jams to get on the ferries.

Olympic National Park was packed with people.

They closed Lake Cushman.

There were hour-long waits to go to Hurricane Ridge and get into the Hoh Rain Forest.

The crowds and the traffic did not improve anyone’s temper.

The tourists were tired, hot and cranky.

They got lost and fell off rocks.

Someone started a forest fire, keeping our wildland’s emergency responders hopping all summer.

This summer, it was tougher than ever to get away from it all.

We weren’t going to raft at all this year, but then the COVID-19 restrictions lessened to Phase 2 and every other raft company in the country was doing it, so we did it, too.

That meant there could be no mixing of groups of rafters in the raft or shuttle van, with sanitizing all equipment between each use, and using gloves and masks where appropriate.

There’s been a lot of controversy about wearing masks.

Some folks would rather pack a pistol than wear a mask.

That is their Constitutional right as Americans, and another reason why, with only 4 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the world’s COVID-19 deaths.

Internet rumors hint that masks can endanger the wearer with sickness or even death, which would be news to doctors, nurses, dentists and other health care workers who spend their entire careers wearing masks.

Sure, masks are a hassle — but so is intubation.

They say you can’t exercise with a mask on and that may be true.

I can only row 18 miles a day down the river while wearing a mask, but that’s far enough for me.

I tend to look on the bright side.

They say you can tell if a guide is lying if his lips are moving.

When you’re wearing a mask it almost isn’t fair.

Wearing a mask, it’s possible to spawn any half-baked fable you can dream up and the tourists will suck it up like the gospel truth.

Not that it matters.

The river speaks for herself.

We watch her moods change with the passing of the seasons.

Every day brings a new hint of fall, with random patches of red and orange vine maples splashed across hillsides that echo the bugling elk.

These are the days when you really never know what will happen.

Like when a quiet young couple sat in the front of the raft.

We watched an eagle circling high above us.

Then another eagle caught a fish in the river just downstream and landed on a log to eat it.

I told the people we were just going to watch the eagle eat the fish, if they didn’t have anything better to do.

They put down their paddles and moved together in the center of the raft.

He gave her something and she started crying.

Then she said yes and he started crying.

Things were getting weird, so I asked them what the heck was going on up there.

He said he asked her to marry him and she said yes — so I started crying.

I told them that by the powers vested in me as captain of the ship I could get them hitched right then and there, but they were going to plan a big family wedding back home.

So, I started singing the theme from the Love Boat and rowed them down the river.

Just another day on the water.

It was the best raft trip this summer.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360- 683-9867 or by email via [email protected].

More in Opinion

PAT NEAL: A ‘Dirty Thirties’ Thanksgiving

THIS IS A story of an Olympic Peninsula family celebrating Thanksgiving in… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: It’s spawning season again

IT WAS DAYLIGHT on the river on a dark and dismal day.… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: ‘Neverending Story’ shines bright

THE LIGHT BULB blazed on courtesy of Anna Andersen, director of Port… Continue reading

Four North Olympic Peninsula residents have received Medal of Honor

Veterans fought in Civil War, World War II, Vietnam

PAT NEAL: Opening day of elk season

IT WAS DAYLIGHT in the swamp on the opening day of elk… Continue reading

Jim McEntire
POINT OF VIEW: Reflections on open-carry of firearms

By Jim McEntire THERE’S BEEN TALK of post-election unrest, making me think… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The day after the election

“THE WHOLE COUNTRY is going to hell in a bucket now that… Continue reading

A labyrinth is tucked into the forest at H.J. Carroll Park in Chimacum. photo Diane Urbani de la Paz
DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Walks of life, indoors and out

RUSHING TO CATCH the water taxi, I shifted into high walking speed.… Continue reading

Becca Korby
Law enforcement aids victims of crimes

IF YOU’RE COMPELLED to call for defunding law enforcement in our community/county,… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: How to get lost

AUTUMN MUST BE my favorite time of year. There are just so… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Safe passage for wildlife and humans

INSTEAD OF DREADING the soggy Sunday, I went diving into the rain.… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: October fishing madness

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news. An invasion of desperate… Continue reading