The days speed by at Lake Cushman


THE BRIDE AND I are alone out here on the lake as of yesterday evening. Just us and the cougars and the bears, though I haven’t seen either species yet. Jan said of the cougars, “They’ve seen you,” but I want to see the animal or a paw print or scat before I throw in with the local lore. (Newsman’s motto: “If your mom says she loves you, check it out.”) Haven’t seen bear sign, either, other than a tree where a bear reached high and scratched the bark to show his rivals how big he is. Jim Hanna saw the bear over at his place, so that’s documented to my satisfaction. I notice there’s a can of bear spray hanging on a nail in the Nelsons’ picnic shelter. Good idea.

Jan went back to work in Redmond yesterday, Connie had a few things to do at home in Gig Harbor, and upwards of 20 family members and friends who camped here over the weekend were scattered to the four winds. It’s surprising how a place can get so quiet so fast after being so full of life. What a fun crowd! We’re missing all the Mundays and the Nelsons and others.


As the light grew long Saturday, two of the Nelson cousins, Araceli and Kaya, joined hands, leapt into the lake, swam out a hundred yards or more and bobbed around clinging to a driftwood log.



There they go! Some of us were concerned about westbound boaters not being able to see them in the setting sun. The girls would have ducked under and swam deep and let a fast-approaching boat pass over them, but…



As the girls swim out, Keller, the Mundays’ dog, swims in with a piece of driftwood. That’s Jan’s sister on the dock, Mari Munday. Mari’s an actor, had a role in a movie last month with Keira Knightly and had interesting stories to tell about the work on set.



A lot of people ended up in the water closer to shore, some by jumping off those rocks in the center of this pic. It’s way too small to see in this wide-angle shot from my GoPro cam but someone’s just diving off the rocks about 20 feet over the water. Mari’s husband, Hugo, I believe.



We took a leisurely sunset cruise down to the west end of the lake.



I recall tequila shots making the rounds, courtesy of Reid Nelson, a tech wizard with a very fine taste in tequilas. (I recall said shots, I suppose, because I only had three.) That’s cousin Elias Nelson to his left, from Argentina, a talented musician and singer studying music in British Columbia.



After a leisurely ride out, a fast ride back. The jet boat skipped over the water like a polished stone.



Cap’n Nelson at the helm.



Then all was quiet on Lake Nelson, technically known as Lake Cushman.



Some of us gathered around a fire in the upper camp.



My bride included.

We’ll be here until Thursday, I think, then in Gig Harbor to see friends before Pam flies home to Rhode Island on Saturday. The heat will decide where the iron piggy gets headed next: east for home, most likely, if I can see a path of only moderately hot and punishing weather between the Pacific and the Atlantic. Or maybe south down the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco if I need to watch and wait and bide my time. In that event I’ll camp at Johnny Danger’s place in Bishop, CA, in the Owens Valley. High desert, nice and dry, comfortable at 100 degrees. The Bay area would be my last chance to duck off the PCH and cut east over the Sierra without riding too far south of Bishop.

The weather looks good right where we are. Jan asked me to watch for whitecaps rolling down this 4,000-acre lake we’re on. Whitecaps from the west would mean high pressure to the east is weakening and I’ll need to take the jet boat up to Jim Hanna’s cove for better shelter.



I’m doing a bit of lumberjacking around here today, given that my riding gear is oddly lumberjackish. The canopy is thick enough that the uncut trees tend to hold up the ones you cut.



I took three more big bites out of the trunk before the cedar was short enough for the top 30 feet to fold back over and find its way down to the ground. I cut six or seven fir trees as well. The idea was to create a view of the mountain ridge to the north from the window in the cook house. Dunno if I made enough of a view but that’ll be Jan and Connie’s call.



For now, the mighty Stihl and I declare victory and depart the field.



Don’t want you to think that roughing it is all we do around here, for we do get Superbike racing off the satellite. In my next life I want to top out at 5 feet 5 inches, 140 pounds, and have the mental and physical skills to race against the best riders in the world. Oh, to be 19 and up on two wheels and not all bashed up yet! And riding at the limits of the materials and the physics. I’ll be World Champion Superbike Champion of the World. That’s right. I’ll be so far out front they’ll want to put “World” and “Champion” in there twice.



I close with a word about my new best friend, Jimi the dog. (I spelled his name wrong in my last post, spelled it “Jimmy.”) Notice how he cocks his head when I howl at him. AROOOOOOOOO!

I slept in the little log cabin in the woods for three or four nights before the bride got here, then decided to mix it up, sleep under the stars on the boat dock for a couple of nights. No tent, just my sleeping bag and air mattress. Jimi the dog pads down to the dock because he thinks we’re going to play throw a stick in the lake and watch Jimi retrieve it. I sleep on my back, so here I am looking up at the stars, but I’m aware of a big canine head six inches to my left, eyes fixed on me. Jimi has been in the lake. He’s dripping lake water all over the dock. In his jaws I see a chunk of driftwood as big as a cat. I’m supposed to throw it into the lake 20 times an hour until the sun comes up. A flat-coated retriever, Jimi expresses all this with soulful brown eyes and a nervous shuffling of spring-loaded paw pads on the dock. I can “hear” him say, “Throw the stick.”

“We did that all day, Jimi.”

“Throw the stick.”

“It’s time to sleep.”

“Throw the stick.”

“Sleeping now.”

“Throw the stick.”


“Throw the stick.”

I stop answering.

“Throw the stick.”

I maintain silence.

“Throw the stick.”

I am resolute.

“Throw the stick.”

Not gonna give him the satisfaction.

“Throw the stick.”

If I answer it’ll only encourage him.

“Throw the stick.”

“Go lie down, Jimi.”

“Throw the stick! Throw the stick! Throw the stick!”

“Lie down, Jimi the dog.”


“Go lie down.”

“Throw it.”

I see a satellite high over the earth and follow its arc until it disappears over the mountain ridge to the north. In the next 20 minutes I follow two more.

“Throw the stick.”

I turn my head east, away from his, and see two dozen lights on the distant shore. I try to sleep that way but I know he’s watching.

“Throw the goddamn stick.”

I turn my head west. Only one light toward the upper end of the lake. It’s maybe half a mile away and it’s weak, like one of those solar-powered lawn lights that didn’t get a good charge during the day. Other than that, darkness.

Jimi the dog lies down next to my ear and starts reducing the driftwood to splinters in his powerful jaws. CRUNCH! SNAP! CRACK!

“Aw, Jimi the dog…”

“Throw the stick?”

“You’re killing me.”


“Go to sleep!”

He finally lies down on the dock and settles in. But he wants to sleep on my sleeping gear. He leans heavily against my leg. Then he rests his head on my knee, which bends it backwards uncomfortably. Soon I can tell by his breathing that he’s out.

Now my sleeping bag smells like wet dog. Must admit, though, it’s an improvement over two months of biker funk.

A meteorite burns up in the atmosphere. I drift off.

When the sun comes up, Jimi the dog is gone. I trudge uphill to make coffee and oatmeal in the cook house. As I pass the little cabin where Connie sleeps, Jimi eagerly pokes his head out through the open door.

“After coffee, Jimi the dog.”

Tony DePaul, Lake Cushman, WA, July 8, 2013






About Tony

The occasional scribblings of Tony DePaul, 62, father, grandfather, husband, freelance writer in many forms, ex-journalist, long-distance motorcycle rider, motorcycle wrecker, motorcycle rebuilder, collector of surgical hardware, blue routes wanderer, outdoorsman, topo map bushwhacker, handy with a wrench, hammer, chainsaw, rifle, former photographer, printer, logger, truck driver, truck mechanic, jet fueler… blah blah...
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11 Responses to The days speed by at Lake Cushman

  1. Beth Toney says:

    Sounds great! I love Jimi the dog!!

  2. Brian Slusarenko says:

    Great story, Tony. Enjoy your time with Jan and Connie. Sounds like you had an awesome holiday in a great part of the country. If you are heading over the Sierra by way of Highway 70, in the Feather River Canyon, and need a place to stay or pitch your tent then give me a holler. I’m 8 miles off Highway 70 in Paradise, CA. and the town is not even on fire this time. Knock on wood. Bailey, our Chesapeake Bay retriever has a remarkably similar vocabulary to Jimi. “Throw the stick, throw the ball, throw something.” Have a safe trip back home.

  3. Dave Bell says:

    Great blab, Tony. This is (obviously) the best time of year in the PNW. Good to see you, Jan, and all the gang enjoying it. When you decide to head east, travel safely.

    Throw the stick.

  4. steve says:

    Hey Rambler, if you get to ramblin’ as far south as Los Angeles, you’re welcome to crash at our casa in the warehouse district downtown. Lotsa weird artsy types ’round here, you’d dig the sociology.

  5. Bill says:

    With Julia our Sheltie the dialog is the same but substitute ‘rope’ for ‘stick’ and don’t throw it in the water as she doesn’t like getting her feet wet.

  6. Matthew Reed says:

    Looking forward to the next blab-gab. Makes me want to give up the 8-5.

    Bettendorf, Iowa

  7. Adrian says:

    Just outstanding…what pictures! What a trip!

  8. Tony says:

    Many thanks for the kind comments, all! It’s always fun to know that the road blab gets read here & there after I fire it off into the ether.

  9. Denise Waterbury says:

    WOW. What can I say. Pure delight in that visit, including throwing the stick!
    If you come out to the eastern Sierra to visit Johnny Danger I hope to see you.
    Your adventures are always great stories!

  10. John Chafee says:

    Really enjoyable. I love the sense of narrative. I liked the sequence about lumber jacking, and the last “panel” in that. Great shot of the person diving — could see it.

    If you haven’t done it, Tioga Road, thru Yosemite N.P.,, is a great pass through the Sierras, if you don’t mind paying the $20 Park fee. A steep drop down the east side. Safe travels!

  11. Vincent says:

    First rate distraction from the hard dissertation work I was doing 🙂 I don’t know if I can concentrate after this!

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