Adventure is Just Around the Corner5/9/2017
When you sit surrounded by nature it is not difficult to leave your world and enter another in less than 30 minutes. And so it was that on a warmish, sunny afternoon that I decided my dog, Star, needed an outing. I threw a towel over the back car seat and off we went.
Twenty minutes later we were walking down a trail through the woods to the mouth of the Elwha River. When we came out of the woods, our normal beach area was gone from our sight. It lay a good couple feet beneath a raging river. We retraced our steps and took a different path to a slightly higher elevation north of our original position and closer to the mouth of the river that has served as a gateway for migrating salmon for centuries.
Benjamin Franklin may have thought the turkey should have been our national emblem, but I - like many others - have always fancied the bald eagle. We are blessed here in Clallam County to have multiple areas of eagle habitat. One of them is up river from where we walk in the high bluff area. Years ago, I had been told there were ten mated pairs that nested there.
They are majestic birds and quite powerful. I have felt the wind from its wings as one flew three feet over my head.
Eagles mate for life and use the same grounds every year for nesting and raising their young. Several years ago, I had friends who lived in eagle habitat. They would buy pork roast when it went on sale and cut it up into chunks about the size of a tennis ball. Standing on their back, second-story deck, they would throw the meat chunks onto the yard below when they saw eagles circling overhead.
Once the eagles came to trust my friends they would show up with their young to teach them how to swoop down, grab the meat in their talons and fly off -- a skill essential to survival for these birds of prey.
There was one eaglet that was larger than the others and was given the name "Baby Huey" by my friends. Baby Huey was a delight to them because he refused to follow the plan. He would fly in, land, hop over to the meat and grab it with the talons of one foot, then hop to the edge of the bluff and jump before spreading his wings and flying off. My friends said they noticed two adult eagles in a nearby snag watching, calling out loudly and encouraging (read that as screaming at) Baby Huey to no avail. It got particularly loud one day as the watching parents saw Baby Huey land, hop to a chunk of pork and grab it. As he hopped to the bluff he saw a second chunk and grabbed it with his other talons then stood there unsure how to proceed.
Had he been accustomed to grabbing and flying off there might not have been a problem, but the chunks were too cumbersome to try moving across the lawn. With meat in each of his talons he could not think of what to do next and stood on the lawn like a kid with his shoes stuck in the mud, unable to move but not wanting to free either foot for the sake of losing what was attached. This dilemma was compounded by the parents going ballistic in their reproach from the sidelines.
Baby Huey survived despite his unorthodox method to approaching food. He returned every year and they could easily spot him. He was the only eagle who would land, grab a chunk (just one) hop to the bluff and jump off.
The tales of Baby Huey, the experiences I had had with eagles, the memories I had of viewing eagles all flashed before me and were instantly supplanted as we emerged from the woods and saw nine bald eagles on a fallen log near the opposite bank of the river. I stood mesmerized by the sight. Then I looked up. . . in the tress on the other bank were more. Star did not seem to notice the river sentinels basking in the sun and watching the water. But standing just inside the tree cover I counted 22 more. Thirty-one bald eagles. . . twenty minutes from my house. It was a sight I will not soon forget.
I am not certain about other places in the country but I love that in Port Angeles -- and throughout Clallam County -- adventure is just around the corner.