Preface: I’ve held off on posting this until I checked with NatGeo to see if they wanted the story, but as it’s been awhile and they’ve yet to respond I’ll take their silence as a no.
Ever since I was a old enough to be interested in revving engines I’ve been fascinated by the unique creatures that call the Pacific Northwest home. Not so much the common everyday ones, like Sasquatch (I mean hell who hasn’t seen one hiking around St. Helens), but the less understood, rarely photographed beasts with limited range. Found only where the convergence zone works it’s wonder and creates perfect microclimates perfectly honed for their existence on the shores of the sound or deep in the Cascade foothills, the Ivar’s clams and the Rainier Rainbeers have always held a special place in my heart, right next to the spot reserved for fresh hop IPAs, puppies, unicorns and Taylor Swift’s inevitable sex tape.
Every bar worth it’s musty beer lines has an old man in the corner, and the Naches is no different. You know the guy I’m talking about, blurring the line between PTSD sufferer and playground masturbator, an ‘observer’. He just sits there, quietly minding his own in the corner while watching the world unfurl before him, lazy eye thrown in for dramatic effect so you never know if he’s actually watching you or if his eye is just running laps around his peephole. Anyways, that guy.
To be honest I don’t recall the exact details about what happened next as it had been a loooong day in the hills surrounding Crystal, high winds/low viz, the knee deep juice was worth the hours of squeezing. Tired and needing to hulk up before my drive back I found myself in a corner right booth at the Naches, eyelids heavy, nursing a Manny’s and waiting on a plate of nachos. The creepy old guy in the booth in the corner had been eyeing me since I arrived but as I didn’t see his arm moving furiously under the table I wrote him off as innocuous and got settled in. Inbetween slow deliberate blinking, staring aimlessly at the patterns in the wooden booth, and likely falling asleep (like I said, it was a blur) for a short period of time I found myself fed, cashed out and ready to go.
This is where it starts to get weird. Have you ever done hallucinogenics, or had your wisdom teeth pulled with an extra heavy dose of crazy gas? Anyways, for those who haven’t a blink seems to last a lifetime and 1000 stories are projected onto the inside of your eyelids in the span of .0001 seconds that your blink lasts. It’s crazy. Somewhere around Puyallup, as my Naches nap was wearing off, I caught another case of the slow, heavy (aka roll the window down and blast the radi0) roadtrip blinks. However, instead of just seeing black/red like a normal blink I was experiencing the aforementioned 1000 story type blinks. The old man in the bar was telling stories with every blink, talking about seeing Rainbeers in the hills just inside the Rainier gate on 410, Ivar’s clams, overpriced lift tickets and interspecies breeding. TOTAL MINDFUCK, but whatever, I quickly forgot about the day.
Fast forward a few years to a drunken jam session with my ‘not really brother but might as well be since we’ve literally known each other since birth’ Adam. I began to tell Adam the story, and as soon as I mentioned the old man at the Naches he strummed his 12 string Gibson so hard he broke not one but two strings and reached for an American Spirit in defeat. I kept on, mentioning the foggy dreamlike blinks, clams and Rainbeers, and watchd his eyes getting wider with every word. Long story short HE’D EXPERIENCED THE SAME THING AFTER VISITING THE NACHES! #neckhairsstandingup
We swapped our versions of the story, and what we could remember from our hazy blinks. Adam seemed to recall the old man mentioning something about seeing the love child that springs up when a Rainier Rainbeer puts his longneck in an Ivar’s clam’s clam. As I had vague recollections of the old man mentioning interspecies breeding, and as we both had long weekends, we decided we’d head up near the Chinook Pass entry to MRNP and poke around.
Anyways, this is getting long so I’m going to have to leave out some details and cut to the chase. We knocked on trees, we whooped off hillsides, we used thermal night vision, and we struck golden breadwater. The trip report was posted here, but there’s been one photo I’d held off on posting. I believe that Adam and I were the first to not just prove the existence of some aqueous living lovechild but also capture what appears to be a courting/spawning ritual. I’ll let the masses decide for themselves.
And finally the money shot. These little guys were circling each other in the shallows, oblivious to us watching as they went about their strange courting ritual.