Entering the Quillayute River on a good day must be difficult. I’m just guessing of course, because I’ve never gone in on a good day.
Two navigational buoys lay offshore to help guide you to the river’s mouth. Depending on the waves and wind and speed at which you’re traveling, the course may not be straight; you’ll zig and zag. With a heavy following sea, the zag can be extremely wide. As you start to gain James Island the zig will bring you uncomfortably close to wash rocks, rocks, rocks, rocks. The steep sandy beach is dead ahead. Just before the breakwater, a quick jog to the left, then a quick jog to the right through a tight opening gets you to the mouth of the river. The river is tidal and so may seem wide or very narrow. It silts up regularly and must be dredged often to keep a channel open for deep water boats.
Zig, zag, rocks, rocks, rocks, jog, jog …
Our first approach was in dense fog, no wind or seas of note and the radar worked fine. Finding the first buoy, we motored ahead for the second. A sailboat appeared, coming close alongside. “We thought you were the buoy. Your boat has a really strong radar signature,” And then they motored off north.
Moving landward and slowly, wash rocks appeared and the surf hitting the beach seemed deafening. Finding the red light at the end of the breakwater, we jogged and jogged and entered the mouth of the Quillayute. It was low tide.
Traveling ahead about 100 feet, we went to dead slow. It was salmon fishing season and the river was choked with gill nets. Too narrow to turn around and nowhere to go, we essentially just sat there.
A local in an outboard skiff, picking fish from his net, saw our dilemma. Immediately he let go the net and rushed downstream to us. “Follow me. I’ll guide you to the marina.” Beyond grateful, soon we were tied to the float.
Our 6 year old goodwill ambassador was on deck and caught his eye. “Welcome to LaPush. We have a new community center where our children are doing arts and crafts right now. Please come and meet them.” So hand in hand they walked together while I followed behind.
Having felt his kindness and being wrapped in a blanket of openness and friendship from the Quileute community, LaPush will always be my healing place.