Backpacker Post 12: Washington State

This is my second to last of the backpacking through America blog posts and it features one of the most amazing people I've ever met. We made two trips out to Washington, the state just above Oregon. Personally all I knew about Washington was that it had some beautiful forests. I soon learnt it had a volcano called Mount St Helens and that it was safe for us to hitch hike there from the train station. A guy that picked us up on the way was a hunter named Jeff (who is in the picture above.) 

Before I met Jeff I didn't know what to make of hunting. I didn't really understand the differences between hunting and poaching. Jeff is NOT a poacher, he kills what is in season and what he can eat (or indeed likes to eat.) He lives in a house out on its own with his dog Pepper (who is a useless hunting dog but very cute) next to a river where he fishes, near the land where he hunts elk almost what seemed exclusively, and on a huge plot of land in which he was planning on turning into an orchard. His plan is to be almost completely self sufficient and to give his surplus to his family that live in the nearby town.

Marionberry pie in the nearby lodge.

I'm not a vegetarian but I do believe if you kill an animal you should use every piece of it, Jeff told me he believed in the same thing and demonstrated massive respect for the elk he killed and told me he ate nearly every innard. He even described how he would fry the brain up sliced very thinly! But would only bring skulls or antlers back if it was a particularly interesting or large specimen because animal's skeletons are actually a part of the food chain that animals will eat to get certain minerals.
Jeff seemed oblivious to how strange we found it when he told us how most hunters in his area will eat what they kill, whether it is bear (which he would eat if made into jerky but he didn't like it much), or bobcat (which he had a lot of in his garden but wouldn't shoot because "at the end of the day you're still eating a cat." )

(he also taught us to fish..)
We ended up staying the night at Jeff's where he fed us elk burgers and steak and chanterelle mushrooms he'd foraged and dried himself. He promised me his next elk skin but told me I had to figure out how to get it from his house to mine in England but did give me a set of red deer antlers and an amazing "small" elk skull he'd found in the woods. I've named it Jeff and I'm sure he'll be featuring in another blog post soon.

Our other trip out to Washington was in search of bald eagles. For most of the day we were told we would definitely see bald eagles sitting on this beach. We walked and walked and kept taking other people's advice without much luck.  

(I really like pelicans)

We were giving up and went to one last spot and suddenly this huge thing flew over really low. The sun finally sort of came out and they were everywhere! And we ended up being very close to a few fishing. As a novice bird watcher I couldn't have asked for a better birding experience in America. 


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