“Does it always rain like this?” my fancy friend asked recently while huddling under a refreshing morning shower that hit so hard the raindrops seemed to bounce off the surface of the river.
I reassured the soggy tourist that, of course, it didn’t always rain like this. Sometimes, it rains a whole lot harder.
People caught in the rain sometimes have a hard time appreciating the beauty of precipitation.
Without rain, there would be no rainforest. We would eventually burn it down.
Someone tried to burn down the rainforest last week. That is, we can assume a human started the 70-some-acre fire on the south side of the Hoh River that fire crews and helicopters put out.
Humans seem to be the leading cause of wildfires, next to lightning, and we don’t get much lightning in this country.
Nothing will make you appreciate the rain more than not having any.
No one seems to remember the last few summers when the smoke was so thick it seemed like the end of the world, or we were living in California.
Rain is much preferable to the alternative, smoke. With an abundant rainfall, forest fires are much less likely to start and blaze out of control.
Make no mistake, despite the campfire ban, which was declared after the unprecedented heat wave we experienced in June, when the temperature went up to 113 degrees in the Hoh Rainforest, people persist in building fires.
Watching tourists stand around a campfire in 100-and-something-degree heat in a crackling dry forest is a wonder of nature thing. It makes you wonder about the place of people in nature.
A central theme of the campfire experience seems to be the construction of the campfire ring.
These miniature monuments to functional fixedness are found scattered everywhere these days. Along roads, in roads, parking lots and boat ramps — in fact, everywhere you want to be.
One campfire ring seems to spawn others, since no one seems to want to use a used campfire ring. Removing campfire rings has become a full-time job the locals are getting tired of.
The only weapon we have against the current tourist invasion seems to be an abundant supply of rain.
Unfortunately, we just can’t get enough rain. Record numbers of tourists have been crowding the Olympic Peninsula for months now, causing people to wait for hours to get into Olympic National Park.
Tourists waiting to view this World Heritage Site and United Nations Biosphere Reserve typically sit in their cars with the engine running and the air conditioning going, while their children melt into their screens playing video games as they inch their way closer to the fee station in a failed attempt to capture a moment of solitude in a crowded wilderness.
Once past the fee station, the tourists drive like the chase scenes in action-adventure movies with screeching turns around blind corners. Typically, these gangs of tourists drive inches away from the rear bumper of the car in front of them, in a conga-line of cars each itching to pass the other to get behind a different car.
That’s how a bear cub was run over on the Upper Hoh Road last week.
Every tourist on the Peninsula seems to want to see a bear, but no one wants to see one bad enough to run them over. We hope. Observing a bear in the wild is not so cool once it has been run over.
Rain is our only defense against the tourist invasion. We need rain and we need it now.
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].