Aki walks ahead on the forest boardwalk like she has done many times before. Always in the moment, the little dog seemed unaffected by my nine-day absence. I can’t say the same about myself. The forest silence reminds me in a perverse way of the road noise that filled my day on a recently completed bicycle tour in the Pacific Northwest. Log and wood chip trucks downshifted in my ear as I pedaled up steep grades that took me away from the Columbia River or shallow bays of the Pacific Ocean. Huge recreational vehicles, homes on wheels that towed cars and (ironically) hauled braces of bicycles, produced a more refined roar as they eased by on descents that bottomed out in towns dominated by tourism, a pulp mill, or oyster processing plant.
Aki and I see no fish on our walk, only gulls and crows that remain along Peterson Creek to pick over the bones of spawned out salmon. Our fish will come back next summer. Most of the runs that swam the Columbia, killed off by the Grand Coulee and its brother dams and climate change, will not.
We see no bear or deer this rainforest stroll. I spotted deer and elk on my bike ride along the Columbia, but on city streets and farmer’s fields. They have adapted. I hope our wild things won’t have to do the same.