The drive out to the Olympic Peninsula, if you’re leaving downtown Seattle, takes you through Bainbridge Island. You get off the ferry and you’re on Highway 305, the main artery bisecting Bainbridge from north to south and ending at the ferry terminal. If you want to go further south on the island you have to take arterial roads.
The first traffic light you pass is the intersection of Winslow Way. Take a left and you’ll be in downtown Winslow. Park your car. Get a latte from Blackbird Bakery. Stroll the main street (Winslow Way). Pop into Willow Market for a kombucha or some crystals, or pop into Eagle Harbor Books for some literature. Get pizza at the newer Bruciato, the Island’s swankiest restaraunt and still only place on Bainbridge that makes you feel like you’re “out.”
Or don’t go into downtown Winslow at all! You wouldn’t anyway, you uncouth miser. Continue straight on Highway 305, not even glancing sideways to take in the splendor that is Bainbridge Island, though from the highway it’s admittedly not that splendid anyway. Mostly embankments and second or third or eighth-growth trees. A McDonald’s. The Day Road Industrial Park. The Seabold Church. A sign promising Bloedel Reserve if you’ll just slow the hell down and take a goddamned right.
But you won’t.
You must keep going.
Now you’re in Poulsbo, and things are heating up. You’re muttering to yourself in Norwegian. You’re still on 305 if you somehow once again resisted the charms of a small Washington State town built on a bay. Poulsbo is ALMOST as charming as Bainbridge. Almost. Nearly. But somehow not quite as charming. No one knows why, but everyone knows this is true. The one thing Poulsbo does has going for it is it’s probably easier to get a Danish or similar Scandinavian pastries. Some people find the Norwegian flags charming. These people are cretins.
Congratulations, you’ve escaped the clutches of the Kitsap Peninsula and crossed the Hood Canal Bridge! If you didn’t accidentally drive off the bridge and get swept under the current, you’re now on the………….
…wait for it…..
Prepare to get eaten by a black bear.
Or don’t, because most of the wildlife got killed off a long time ago and is still making its comeback. In all my forays onto the Peninsula I’ve never seen a black bear. Never seen a brown bear either, ’cause those got killed off a long time ago. Never seen a cougar, ’cause those suckers are damned elusive. The most wild thing I’ve seen on the Olympic Peninsula is a seal. A cute little seal. And maybe a merganser.
After the Hood Canal Bridge you’ll pass Discovery Bay, home to a few weed shops, and from there it’s smooth sailing to Sequim and Port Angeles. Over the age of 65? Stop in Sequim and stay there until you die. Like firearms? Stop in Port Angeles and stay there and hang out with other folks like yourself. Hate the US and want to leave and never come back? Well, you used to be able to take the Black Ball Ferry over to the illustrious town of Victoria, but those days are long gone due to a linear chain of 1,273 amino acids which compose a spike protein. Go figure. You could always swim, or paddle board, or take a pleasure craft, but you might have to deal with the Canadian authorities.
If you have a real taste for adventure, continue westward past Port Angeles to places like Joyce, Clallam Bay, Sekiu, Neah Bay, and Forks. In case you’ve been living under a piece of granodiorite for the past 20 years, Forks is where Stephanie Meyer’s hit book series “Twilight” is based. It’s a wonderful town (in theory). In practice it’s a (semi) impoverished logging town with a weirdly good skatepark, a shit ton of rain, and an underwhelming grocery store. Oh and also some pretty good Mexican food, if I remember correctly.
If these riches of the Olympic Peninsula don’t sound spellbinding, your best bet might be to turn around and head back to Seattle. Life slows down a bit on the Peninsula. For better or for worse, but usually for the better.
Welcome to the Olympic Peninsula. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.