Washed up plastics can be plentiful on the Pacific Ocean beaches of the Olympic Peninsula. (Pat Neal/for Peninsula Daily News)

Washed up plastics can be plentiful on the Pacific Ocean beaches of the Olympic Peninsula. (Pat Neal/for Peninsula Daily News)

PAT NEAL: Come for the view, stay for the plastic

IT WAS DAYLIGHT in the swamp.

Something had gone terribly wrong. There was an ominous silence with no reassuring splatter of rain drops hitting the roof.

Searching for answers I looked out the window and noticed an unnatural brightness in the sky that seemed to intensify with each passing moment.

Suddenly, a blinding bright light burst out of the eastern horizon.

It was the sun.

You tend to forget about the sun after a couple of months of monsoons. But there it was, a sunny day after months of winter storms.

In the old days that meant one thing. It was time to go to the beach and look for glass balls.

These shiny relics of the Asian fishing fleets used to wash up on our shores in great numbers just waiting for the lucky beachcomber to find them.

That was then. This is now. Things have changed.

For one thing there are people at the beach these days.

Encountering these citified beach explorers can be a terrifying experience.

Olympic National Park rules for its scenic coastal section require dogs to be on a leash no more than six feet long.

Meanwhile, small children are allowed to wander freely. A leash law for children might seem cruel and unusual until you watch a toddler barely able to walk in their oversized rubber boots stumble toward the surf while their unsuspecting parents are busy off in the distance attending to the sanitary requirements of their bathroom-challenged animal companion.

These same parents, who would never allow their children to walk out into a busy freeway, think nothing of letting the kids wander into the surf with its freak waves and sucking undertows.

Experienced beachcombers only go to the beach at an outgoing tide to avoid the dreadful experience of being drug out to sea by an undertow or pounded into the beach logs by sneaker waves.

Modern beachgoers seem to have a total disregard for these concerns.

Hoping to avoid a potential tragedy we continued down the beach where a beachcombing treasure lay hidden in the drift wood. There were no glass balls.

There was, however, a dizzying array of plastic of every size and description.

According to the good folks at the American Chemistry Council, we manufacture around 35.4 million tons of plastic every year in the U.S. alone.

Meanwhile worldwide, we dump billions of pounds of plastic in the ocean every year. Where it forms gigantic floating islands that decay and are eventually absorbed into the pelagic food chain.

Unlike the glass balls which seem to be increasingly hard to find, plastic is hard to miss. And there is no danger of us ever running out of plastic because they are constantly making more.

Plastic is the wave of the future. It’s everywhere we want to be.

Where the surf hits the shore a glittering array of tiny plastics awaits the modern beachcomber.

These miniature plastic pieces shine like little colored diamonds in the sand.

It’s no wonder fish and other marine life just love to eat pieces of plastic, mistaking them for food.

The further from the surf you go, the bigger the plastic gets.

You can find everything from boots to barrels.

Sometimes it’s fun to think of where all that plastic came from.

It really makes you think it’s a small world after all.

Picking up plastic may not be as cool as finding glass balls but it’s all we’ve got left.

So, let’s all enjoy our wild Pacific coast, where our motto is come for the view but stay for the plastic.

_________

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 patnealwild [email protected].

More in Opinion

The author of “Crazy Brave” will give a Peninsula College Studium Generale talk Jan. 28 via Zoom.
DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Elusive poet to open up online

I TRIED TWICE to arrange a phone interview with Joy Harjo, the… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Going down the sucker hole

IT WAS GOING to be one of those days. I remember it… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Yet another bad idea

THAT WAS YET another bad idea in last week’s column. When out… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Epiphanies: They’re in there

TODAY IS EPIPHANY, aka Three Kings Day. On the Christian calendar, Jan.… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Steelhead season’s sinking feeling

EVEN WITH GLOBAL warming, January is the coldest month. When all the… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: New Year’s resolutions

OFTEN, NEW YEAR’S resolutions that seem like a good idea on New… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Christmas of yesteryear

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

LETTER: Seek Peace

How sad to see the Dec. 14 letter about no unity, ever,… Continue reading

EDITOR’S VIEW: Outrageous Facebook claims include attacks on vaccine

EVER PLAY THE game of Telephone? I did when I was younger.… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The fish and game commission is irrelevant

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news as the Washington Fish… Continue reading

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Trip of a lifetime traces family roots

TWO YEARS AGO this week, I had a few surprises. First, I… Continue reading

paul larsen
POINT OF VIEW: Working together means staying apart

2020 HAS BEEN an interesting year. I can’t think of anything I… Continue reading