Muddy banks of the Wishkah

Posted by Ken Campbell April 1, 2008 2 Comments 643 views
Underneath the bridge
The tarp has sprung a leak
And the animals I’ve trapped
Have all become my pets
And I’m living off of grass
And the drippings from the ceiling
It’s ok to eat fish
‘Cause they don’t have any feelings
Something in the Way
– Nirvana
The ghost of Kurt Cobain still prowls the dirty streets of Aberdeen, wandering through the mist like some skinny saint looking for food, a dry place to sleep or some adult conversation. The town has an authenticity and a raw type of beauty that I admire, but even I can see how growing up in Aberdeen would have its down side. Hard times and Aberdeen seem to have been made for one another. I remember when I first came here, over 20 years ago, it seemed like every other house had a little yellow sign in its front window: “This home supported by timber dollars.” Most of the mills are closed now. You don’t see those signs too much in Aberdeen or Hoquiam anymore. I’m not saying that growing up here would have made me suicidal, but I can see where Cobain got his dark side.

I drop the canoe at the put-in and head back to town to park the car. It’s a 30-minute pedal on the old orange Schwinn back up Wishkah road and then it’s on the water. The Wishkah is a slow moving stream, but with the tide falling in Grays Harbor and the current helping me along, I move down river easily.

Along the way, giant fir trees are upended and strewn across the river in parts, victims of the wind storms that visit here from time to time. There are routes around most of the downed trees, but there is one sweeper that spans the entire breadth of the river, meaning that I have to get out and portage. The banks are mud and dried grasses, very few places suitable for coming ashore. I move carefully through the mud that sucks at my boots, hauling the canoe up and over the logs and back down to the water’s edge. It’s not the most graceful of restarts, but it works, and I am back on the water once more.

A wind comes up from downstream after a while. The frequent gusts push against me and send me from one bank to another in search of better moving water. The muddy shore is getting more obvious as the distant tide continues to fall, a slime of brown covering the zone between the water and the green. Houses start to come into view as I get into the eastern outskirts of Aberdeen.

I take out at the Young Street bridge, the place where Kurt Cobain claimed to have sought shelter on the various occasions when he ran away from home. There is graffiti everywhere on the bridge supports. “We love you, Kurt,” and other snippets of sprayed-on sentiment that makes the place seem like some rock-and-roll shrine, in spite of its grimy reality. A very muddy shrine.

The bridge is not the best place to conclude the trip. The banks are slick mud that clings to boots, clothing and hands. In spite of this, however, it seems like the right place to end today.

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