PAT NEAL: The early tourist season

ALL OF YOU people who were complaining about the unseasonably nasty weather can knock it off at any time.

Say what you want about a rainy, cold and windy climate, but it keeps the mosquitoes down.

It controls the growth of that other seasonal curse: the lawn.

Also known as America’s largest crop, the lawn is a textbook example of what could be the most useless invention in human history.

The lawn bloats our carbon footprint by burning fossil fuels to cut, vacuum and aerate it.

The lawn pollutes our precious clean-water resources with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, and robs us of our creative potential through the rigorous mowing regime that we must repeat week after week until the lawn dies.

Sometimes I think of all of the really wonderful wilderness gossip columns I could write if I didn’t have to mow the lawn.

I’m talking about uplifting stories of the victory of the human spirit in the face of adversity that could improve our lives with the certain knowledge that things are getting better, but no, I have to mow the lawn.

Unless the weather stays cold.

Instead, the weather turned sunny so I could spend every waking minute getting bug bit and lawn mowing.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take the pressures of pointless household chores anymore, I decided to hit the road and check out some of the scenic splendor in this emerald-jeweled paradise we call home.

But it was only to find myself crowded into a frustratingly endless line of that other seasonal pest: tourist traffic.

The tourists represent a threat to our quality of life that is greater than all the bugs and lawn mowing put together.

While you can swat the mosquitoes and ignore the lawn, the tourists are a force to be reckoned with.

Our tourists represent an important element of the tourist industry, but they are a hassle.

That’s why we put a season on them in the first place.

Sometimes in the chaos and disgust of the tourist season it’s hard to remember the goals and objectives of the tourist industry.

These include but are not limited to getting the tourists to drive over the various traffic counters, providing them with informative brochures printed on recycled material and facilitating their spending as many dollars as possible before leaving.

Lost and far from home at the end of a decayed transportation infrastructure that has left them visibly shaken by the abuse, dangers and uncertainties inherent in modern travel, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the tourists are human beings too.

They deserve our hospitality, compassion and respect.

Unless they are bicycle tourists.

They represent a thrill of nature that you can only experience by approaching one of our narrow antique highway bridges built in the early years of the past century where two vehicles can barely pass safely with a line of bicycles thrown into the mix.

That’s my major beef with the sunny weather.

It brought out the bicycles. And not just any bikes. No, these are the cross-country adventurers with trailers behind them.

One group was even carrying surfboards on their bicycle trailers. That’s a hardcore tourist.

They are insane.

We know this because even though we built them a nice new trail around the north shore of Lake Crescent, they insist on cycling on the primitive narrow highway being rebuilt on the south side of the lake.

This makes a dangerous drive even more thrilling and difficult.

Be careful out there. It’s tourist season.

If you can fake that, you might have a future in the tourist industry.


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

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal

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