The big city of Kanaskat.
After my usual early morning hike (there were so many trails!), I jumped in the big white truck and headed out in search of the actual town or community of Kanaskat. What I found was charming, tho small, not surprisingly. No stores, just nice, simple, country homes. The Kanaskat-Palmer area does have its own fire station, tho, so that’s saying something.
I drove through “town” and continued on down the small, well-maintained, gravel road. After a few twists and turns I came upon the Green River Rearing Ponds, a hatchery for steelhead. You can read thoughts from a 2009 online discussion about it here.
Basically, the State of Washington closed the hatchery several years ago for two reasons .. budgetary and a hoped-for increase of native salmon. It has become well documented that hatchery fish and farmed fish negatively impact natural, native fish. I didn’t take any photos of the ponds as they weren’t very attractive this many years after closing, but it was interesting to see and then to research after I got home. Here’s hoping for the healthy increase of those native fish.
Almost at the end of the road, there was another small group of homes right along the Green River .. nothin’ fancy but certainly comfortable enough.
This road sign was leaning slightly sideways, but was also leaning a whole LOT backwards. Seemed to me maybe it wasn’t just the end of the maintained county road, but maybe it was getting close to the end of the maintained county road SIGN, too. Hopefully somebody will come along and straighten it up.
There appeared to be a fairly wide path on the other side of the road that led into the woods, so I parked (above). Just past the white fence and the van in the photo above, there was a woman watering her flowers outside her home. I wanted to make sure she knew I wasn’t a sneaky bad person who was parking in front of her house for nefarious reasons, but was just a city woman out for a walk, so I said “hi” and she said “hi” back and she walked out to the road. We chatted a little while.
She had lived here almost all of her life but had moved into Seattle for a few years because she worked for a “high profile international politician”. After a few years, she realized the city drove her crazy. So she moved back out here and now commutes four days a week for the same job with the same person and has never been happier. She has no TV, no radio, no internet .. just a phone with local service for emergencies. She doesn’t subscribe to a paper or magazines. She knows her neighbors well. She loves winters when the cougar and bear come through the area. She writes a lot, and reads real books a lot, and walks a lot. Her grandsons visit often and are not happy when their parents come to take them home (the grandsons too use no electronic devices while they are visiting here).
It was a very friendly, pleasant chat. We said our farewells. She went back to her flowers, and I walked down the road to find the path that I had seen. I thought about that conversation for a long time afterwards. How much do we really need in order to be happy?
At the entrance to the path, there was a vehicle gate and a small grey pickup. The sign on the post said the path beyond the gate was public access to the river so I started in. That little covered kiosk on the right side of the path informed me that local residents had donated the land for the path, and the sign asked that path-walkers respect private land on both sides of the path.
Ordinarily, when I’m alone, I might not venture into the woods where there is just one lone, old, grey pickup truck also parked at the head of the path. But this felt ok. Still, at the beginning, I was watchful.
Quite a ways down the path and into the woods, this small, metal bridge spanned a stream that flowed from the rearing ponds and then into the Green River. It was so pretty and cool and peaceful back in here.
Just past the metal bridge, the path widened out to this little clearing with access to the river. Turns out that the owner of that small grey pickup truck was here, sitting on that board-bench and just watching the river.
As soon as I saw him, I walked back up to the metal bridge and stayed back up there, watching the little creek that flowed from the rearing ponds, with my back to the fellow at the river. He stood and started to leave, but when he got up onto the path and up onto the metal bridge with me then we both said “hi” and we ended up chatting. I’m not sure why people were telling me their tales today, but I liked it.
He appeared to be in his early 20’s and was very well spoken, slender, a bit taller than I am. He liked that I was out adventuring in my trailer and, as he said, “not letting your age stop you” … (hrmph! the young whippersnapper!) As nice as he was, he also seemed subdued and dispirited and didn’t say much about himself at first but eventually said he had recently come home to Kanaskat to stay with his folks for a bit. He said he had done exceptionally well in high school, but wasn’t doing well in college and was really unhappy and felt lost.
Initially, here in this blog post right now, I wrote quite a bit of detail about the discussion he and I had, but have since decided not to do that … for his privacy but also just because it was quite personal and probably wouldn’t translate well to a blog of this nature.
I will report on one part of our conversation because it was so wonderful. As mentioned, he was so dejected and defeated. He talked about his Dad’s criticism and he talked about not knowing what his professional path should be in school. Eventually I took a chance and asked him if there was anything that he really, really loved. He thought a moment and then he brightened so bright that he almost dazzled .. he loved the river!
Rather calmly but with an obvious sparkle in his eye and a complete change in his physical demeanor, he told me all about rafting the river, the always changing water, the birds, the fish, he even talked about how he thinks the stars look different depending on how high the water level is in the river. He knows the river like the back of his hand, and he loves it … and, just as importantly, he loves to study it. He talked about the VOLUMES of notebooks he has at home with all the details of all things related to the river that he has taken note of over the years.
The end result of our long talk was that he was most likely headed back to college but with a change of his major to Environmental Studies or Fisheries or something of that nature, exactly what he had always wanted to study in the first place.
At the very, very end of our conversation, I said “don’t ever lose sight of the river.” He looked stunned, and stood there for several moments. Then he closed his eyes and ever so quietly said “thank you. I will never lose sight of the river.”
I raised my hand in peace and he did too. I turned away and walked down the path to the water where he had been sitting earlier. When I turned around a few moments later, he was gone, as was the little grey pickup truck when I got back up to the road.