Monday, August 11, 2014

The Return

The demolition of the Elwah dam is complete. The return
of the wild salmon begins.

We arrived on the Olympic Peninsula and decided to find some wild hot springs in the interior that Tim knew about. The exciting thing was that the area (and the trail to the springs) was closed to the public because of a 3-year project to take down a hydro-electric dam on the Elwah river for the purpose of restoring the salmon run. The demolition was complete but the equipment had not yet been removed. The big red sign made it clear that no one was allowed in, which just made it all the more compelling.

We camped in the designated campground, debating about the merits of embarking on a 12 mile round trip hike that night. First we thought no….then we thought YES. We set out around 6 pm. Within an hour we came to the demolished dam. There we met a local who shared our anarchist tendencies. We stood on the lip of the chasm that had once held the lake. The newly restored river meandered far below us. She told us in a reverent whisper that beginning this fall the salmon would now run the full 35 miles of the river for the first time in 100 years. In a world of bad news, this was deeply moving to hear. We also met a hiker who had just come through the pass and down from the springs. She was clearly shaken to the core by the bad condition of the suspension bridge that she had crossed over to get here. But after thorough cross-examination, we decided that we could handle it. We pushed on.

We reached the bridge about 2 hours later. The damage was impressive but so was the engineering of the bridge. A landslide had fallen on our side and a large boulder had catapulted onto it, breaking half way through some of the floorboards. Fortunately there was still some light left so we scrambled our way over. Indiana Jones couldn’t have done it better.

In another hour we reached the hot springs. Needless to say, we were alone. It was intensely dark. There were seven shallow pools but most of them had filled in and grown over. One remained clear. We relaxed in the silence and warmth of Heaven for about an hour. Then, like the salmon, we began the return.

The damaged suspension bridge just before
we cross back over in the dark.

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