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Hunting experience versus holding an experience

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Jorsted Creek Road (FS 24) takes you into the Olympic National Forest much more quickly than the Hamma Hamma or Lake Cushman approaches.

Heading north on Highway 101, turn left immediately after the fire station, or about a mile short of the Hama Hama Seafood store.

You're quickly up a hill and into the forest. Keep bearing right at the power lines and you'll merge onto FS 2480, which connects to the Hamma Hamma Recreation Area going northward (and Lake Cushman, if you bear left instead).

Last November, I was desperate to bag another batch of chanterelles in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, it's a little late in the year for them, as they get rain-soaked and begin to lose their firmness and flavor, but even soggy chanterelles will transform a pan of turkey drippings into world-class gravy.

I'd hunted successfully many times along FS 2480, learning my identification skills in the hills and mossy tracks beside the Hamma Hamma River, as well as introducing our son and his future wife to wild mushrooms there.

Beginner's luck, I told him, after he amazed this old master on his first time out.

They've rebuilt a key bridge on FS 2480, allowing you to connect with Jefferson and Elk lakes, as well as Lena Lake and everything else in the Hamma Hamma Rec Area. The new bridge also re-opened logging on the public lands bordering the road.

In what has to be one of the largest operations in the area in recent years, I watched the loggers, amazed at the proficient equipment enabling just three or four workers to down acres of waiting trees. At the epicenter of the harvest, where FS 2441 joins FS 2480,1 could now see snowy mountain peaks that had never been visible before.

"Improves scenic view," I noted as a bullet point on an imaginary brochure.

No worries about publicizing the great chanterelle spots along here, I also noted. They were gone.

Saddened, frustrated, I climbed FS 2441 toward Jefferson Lake, winding above the buzzing saws, until they faded, blending in with Jefferson Creek as it splashed and crashed in the canyon below.

I found an old roadbed that I hadn't hunted on for maybe a dozen years. The last time had been with Dave and Aylene, dear friends who had built their own hilltop house in Lilliwaup.

On that day many years ago Dave and I had broken off from Aylene and the others, skirting a slope and finding enough scattered mushrooms to keep moving in the same direction.

I noticed Dave didn't have his mushroom basket.

"Not planning on finding much?" I said.

"Don't feel like it today," he replied.

My luck was good. I started scoring yellow chanterelles in bunches, so I veered off alone, pushing up the slope again. I left Dave behind.

Many minutes later I dropped back down, finding Dave in a small pocket ravine with a tiny creek trickling through it. He was sitting on a rock, staring. It was a serene little spot and I stopped hunting long enough to observe my friend, wondering why he stayed so still, totally uninterested in hunting.

"Dave, what's up? What's wrong?" I asked.

"Nothing," he said. "I just wonder sometimes what takes greater strength, to go and get everything you can fit in your basket, or to simply sit and observe something instead of always collecting it?"

That autumn Dave stopped mushrooming altogether. Shortly after, his doctors diagnosed him with Parkinson's.

I have seen others embrace hardship and long-term calamities. But none come close to the whole-hearted serenity — and strength — Dave has brought to this latter stage of his amazing life.

I would buckle under, fall into depression or despair.

Not Dave. He says Parkinson's is neither good nor bad. It is his teacher.

The lesson? To watch. To hold rather than gather.

We stay in touch and he knows of my intentions to write this story.

I told him about the logging, my sadness, and how I then found the place where we had last hunted, the tiny streamlet where I believe he first sensed something changing in his life.

He nodded. He couldn't recall the details, but couldn't deny the truth of the story.

"Things don't always advance in one direction only," he said.

I took that to mean that loss, aging, and death form stages of life, too. They just don't get top billing in a culture obsessed with more things, more conquests, and winning.

There is a small cut along the hill as you climb FS 2441. It is a hollow holding a tiny creek with an abandoned roadbed above it.

It is a very ordinary place, a mere blink in the forest if you are driving by.

Whenever I pass it, I think of Dave.

Mark Woytowich is a writer, photographer and video producer who lives in Potlatch. He can be reached at

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 4, 2016

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