core sample

Several miles into our bicycle ride last weekend I remembered the headlamp was still back in the car. Oops. The second old tunnel along our route was truly abyssal, we dismounted (that makes us sound like flexible gymnasts, which couldn’t be further from the truth) for the descent into clammy darkness until the distant light at the other end of the curving hole in the ground was slowly revealed, backlighting basketball-sized basalt which would surely have caused any number of disasters-on-wheels. The frame below depicts the eastern entrance of that tunnel.

July 2020 - Upper Yakima Canyon 59

This morning the boys and I sojourned to the beach at Discovery Park for the third time in four days. They’d been pleading to attempt an excavation of a small, coast guard-issue row boat which was buried keel-up in thick sand and clay, several hundred feet out from shore. Adam’s truly a lad after my own heart, he thought that doggone little boat would be a splendid addition to the rust garden and last night as I attempted to fall asleep I was tossing and turning with excitement. Could we really do it? Am I corrupting the boys with bananas shenanigans like this? In the event we were actually successfully, the matter of transporting the boat home was of slightly-more-than-mild concern and with no bungee or rope, we scrounged several faded, thirty foot extensions cords. We hauled along my small, old kayak carrier. This was going to be interesting, to say the least.

Armed with two shovels and a hoe, we labored for four hours to unearth the rowboat, working knee-deep in murky Puget Sound stew. The boys did most of the hard work. Although I stuck mainly to hoeing sand away from their dig, my arthritis will be screamingly bad tomorrow. When it looked as though we’d been defeated by the flooding tide, had started patting each other on the back for a job well-done and don’t worry that was still really fun! lo and behold, Adam discovered our excavation was having the effect of floating the upside-down boat! Furious and frantic levering enabled us to flip the boat which was revealed inside to be a moldy, stripped-down-to-the-fiberglass mess, fit for only the hardiest barnacles. The boys had a bit of fun in the flood tide before it got too deep, floating the boat (more of a soggy, ripped-open burrito) around in circles. Adam was convinced to the end that the thing could still be sunk and filled for a charming raised-bed but it looked far better buried the way we found it. In the end we had to let it go, the tide was coming on too strong.

I’m proud of the boys, they worked furiously without complaint, refused to give up. This was even after I’d thrown my hands up with exhausted bemusement and tried to entice them with visions of huge bowls of ice cream at home. We’ve found some pretty cool treasures over the years. A couple of summers ago, Adam wheeled a humongous tractor trailer tire a mile down the beach, to the mouth of the Elwha. It’s in the backyard now, leaned against the Hawthorne tree, framed by English ivy.  The S.S. Moldy has probably found another resting home at the foot of the south bluffs in Discovery Park, at least until the next storm in November.

postscript: Wrote this on Thursday.

11 thoughts on “core sample

    • Hi Robert. It’s good to hear from you! I’ve been reading your last essay in installments. It’s another very good one. Yes, those are old railroad tunnels, for the Milwaukee Pacific. It’s part of Iron Horse State Park that extends from one side of the state to the other. There’s even a tunnel at the mountain pass above Seattle that’s a little over two miles long and if you don’t take flashlights or headlamps you’re in serious trouble. That one’s so deep it can be a hundred degrees outside but freezing cold in the tunnel so I’m thinking of taking the boys up there next week because we’ve got a heat wave coming. There’s a cool train snow shed we like to ride to.

      • Oh that’s great the Milwaukee RR! that is amazing, a statewide park! and you can walk through a 2 mile abandoned tunnel!The chilliness sounds purely wonderful. I visited relatives in NM when I was a kid, during a heatwave, 105°, and I remember how great it was to walk through Carlsbad cavern and enjoy the coolness.

      • It’s pretty amazing how many different states you have relatives in! Do you have an exact count? I’m probably inflating it in my mind on the basis of the good stories or anecdotes you’ve shared. But the epicenter of your tree is in NY, right?

      • My mom has six brothers and sisters, my dad has just two, but his older sister had four kids, and they all had a bunch of kids, etc. and they all fanned out, and some of them have moved to state to state for work, yeah we are pretty much coast to coast now. NY & PA are kind of the epicenter as you said. My NYC granddad was actually born in Detroit, but grew up in the Bronx, and his mother’s family is still around the Detroit area. I’m guessing the extended family is in about half the states. I am going to ask my folks to get a piece of paper and figure out exactly.

  1. Beautiful story! What adventures your boys will have to tell their offspring about in the future, and I love how hands on you’re willing to be as a dad. Very reminiscent of the Famous Five to me, many of their adventures (which I grew up on) were around an island, surrounded of course by the sea. Lashings of plums and ginger beer always seemed to be their reward when they arrived back home…

    • That day is one I’d really like to write about more at length, it was a strange, peculiar chain of events that was a fun culmination of a rewarding week at the park for us. Thanks Dan, with respect to your remark about fatherhood, that’s very sweet. over the years at various times I’ve struggled with self-consciousness about this very thing. it’s complicated, I could write a book lol. But your affirmation as a fellow man and father is more than just lip service…’re a thoughtful person through and through 🙂

    • I completely forgot about The Great Brain! I’m glad you mentioned it. That’d be pretty cool if I could find some of the old editions with the Mercer Mayer illustrations. My older boy has probably completely aged out of them beyond all repair but my youngest would really, really dig them, I bet. I’ll have to see how the stories have aged. I was reading some of the reviews on Good Reads for fun, tonight.

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