PAT NEAL: Heading out to Neah Bay Fest

MAYBE I WAS born too late.

Gone are the days when newspapers would send expeditions of stalwart adventurers to the remote ends of the earth on hazardous expeditions of exploration and humanitarian aid that would provide interesting reading for their subscribers.

This was the golden age of newspapers when, in 1871, Henry Morton Stanley set out across Africa on an expedition financed by the New York Herald to find the explorer David Livingstone, who had vanished in the wilderness several years earlier.

In 1874, having found Livingston, Stanley returned to Africa, financed by two newspapers, the Herald and the London Daily Telegraph, to resume Livingstone’s unfinished explorations.

This journey turned out to be one of the most significant expeditions in the history of African explorations.

In 1879, The New York Herald again stepped up to the plate to finance the U.S. Arctic Expedition.

This was a failed attempt to reach the North Pole by way of the Bering Strait.

The Jackson-Harmsworth expedition of 1894 to 1897 to Franz Josef Land was financed by Alfred Harmsworth who owned the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror.

The expedition eventually proved that the Franz Joseph Land was in fact an archipelago.

Once upon a time, The Seattle Press, forerunner to today’s Seattle Times, sponsored the Seattle Press Expedition.

They were to explore the rugged interior of the Olympic Mountains, what was then called “terra incognita.”

The Press Expedition had a big job cut out for them.

Washington’s Territorial Gov. Eugene Semple warned them of Seatco, a super-sized ogre that buried people in landslides.

The locals entertained the explorers with tales of a big lake somewhere up in the center of the Olympics.

The Press Expedition set out with an expense account that we modern “freelancers,” (that’s a newspaper term for unemployed) can only dream of.

They built a fully equipped party barge with plenty of ammunition, fishing gear, bacon, flapjacks, beans and whiskey.

They spent the hard winter of 1890 pushing the party barge up the Elwha River until they ran out of whiskey.

At that point, the Press Expedition had only made it a few miles up the river.

The party barge, built of green lumber supplied by the locals, had more holes in it than one of my fish stories.

The Press Expedition came to the sober conclusion that the good citizens of Port Angeles enjoyed misleading explorers as a way to stimulate the local economy.

This is a tradition that has been carefully preserved into the modern era.

Fortunately, this historic quest to expand our knowledge of the universe has been revived by the Peninsula Daily News.

A slowly building groundswell of support for an effort to send me somewhere, anywhere, preferably far away, has been brewing in the newsroom for some time now.

It is in this spirit of man’s quest for knowledge that I will be journeying to Neah Bay (my second hometown) to attend Neah Bay Fest.

This is a celebration at the Makah Community Gym put on by the Neah Bay Chamber of Commerce.

This year’s theme for Neah Bay Fest is “Sasquatch and Nature’s Bounty.”

This should come as no surprise.

Washington state was named by the Huffington Post as the best state in the country to observe the Sasquatch with 537 sightings.

Seventy-nine of these sightings have been reported on the Olympic Peninsula.

Many people don’t bother to report Sasquatch sightings, fearing shame and ridicule.

Others try to prove they exist.

I have tried to prove to the Sasquatch that I exist and we can coexist.

See you at Neah Bay Fest.

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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 patneal [email protected].