SOME NIGHTS, I dream of rivers. Ones I have floated and others that exist only in dreams of a distant past. Last winter was a hard one. In places, the river has changed and waits to be discovered, while parts remain the same as they have been for decades.
We’ll never forget one stretch of the Hoh River that flowed deep beneath an overhanging forest of alder trees. When it was hot and sunny, the alder forest was a cool and shady refuge. When it was raining, the trees were like a giant umbrella shielding us from the deluge.
Birds of all sorts lived in the alders and, later in the summer, it was not unusual to see a nest of what could be the most dangerous critters on the Olympic Peninsula, the bald-faced hornets. They allowed us to pass unmolested as long as we didn’t bother them. We didn’t.
One day, we were floating under the alders with a quiet young couple in the front of the raft. We were watching a pair of eagles circling far above. Just then, another eagle swooped out of the alders right above us and caught a fish in the river.
The eagle landed on a log on the shore to eat the fish while a pair of crows dive-bombed just for fun. I said we’re going to sit and watch the eagle eat the fish if they didn’t have anything better to do. They didn’t.
Then the young couple put down their paddles and sat 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. We called that patch of alder trees hanging over the river the “Tunnel of Love” ever since.
It was a landmark that survived a half-century of floods — until last week.
That was when contractors for the Federal Highway Administration clearcut the tunnel of love.
They yarded the logs through the beds of the spawning steelhead that had been shaded by the trees — all in an effort to put concrete log jams in the river.
I went down to the river to give them a piece of my mind, but heck, if you can’t beat them ask them for a job.
So, I did — a “greenwashing” job.
Greenwashing is a branding makeover where a product or service is presented as environment-friendly when it is in fact, bad for the environment.
Globally, Volkswagen bragged about their eco-friendly vehicles, while their engines emitted 40 times the allowable pollutants.
Locally, logging companies spray herbicides in clearcuts and call it, “conifer release.”
Currently, the Federal Highway Administration insists concrete is a more environmentally friendly choice than rocks along the Hoh River.
It all makes perfect sense.
If salmon and steelhead are crushed in their nests by concrete, even more money can be spent mitigating the effects with a greenwashing rebranding program of monetized extinction.
With the miracle of greenwashing, our rivers are worth more dead than alive. I made my pitch, but I didn’t get the job.
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]