Welcome to the Olympic Peninsula

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…..

….on the…..

….keep waiting….

….OLYMPIC PENINSULA!

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.

 

 

The Island Behind

O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye.

– Traditional Scottish Song

–The word of the Lord.
— Thanks be to God.

– Popular Church Refrain

I’m on the ferry coming back from Bainbridge, where I spent the afternoon/evening at my parents’ house. As I said yesterday, my original plan after physical therapy was to drive to Leavenworth, but then I thought, I don’t want to drive out to Leavenworth. But I do want to get off my boat. So I went to my parents’ house.

The seagulls are preening themselves this morning. They have such brilliant, white feathers. They are perfectly clean. No one is speaking on this ferry. Everyone is quiet. Everyone is wearing a mask. And now there’s a crow next to the seagulls, cawing. It’s just flown away. The seagulls did not bat an eye, so engrossed are they in their self-care. I wish I had a cam with which I could follow these two particular seagulls for the next 24 hours. What would they do? Where would they go? Will they spend most of the day on this piling next to the ferry? Where do they sleep at night?

Two Canadian geese drift into the picture on the water below. The geese have been very active around my boat lately. I don’t know if it’s mating season or what, but they’re always honking ferociously and a fight seems to have always broken out. Meanwhile the heron stand on the pier, in groups of 10-20, impassable. They look like old businessmen hunched over in grey suits. They fight too, and their fighting is hilarious. They rear their necks back but never seem to touch each other. Theirs is an elegant, capoeira style of fighting. And then they go back to being hunched over, looking out at the horizon.

The ferry leaves and the island recedes into the distance. We’ll be in Seattle soon, with all that that brings. The honking, the homeless, people generally seeming stressed out. I’ll get off the ferry and walk the two miles up the waterfront to my car, passing the strange tourists who at 8:30am are out walking the Seattle waterfront. There are always a few. Families. Sometimes masked, sometimes not. You wonder where they’re from. Renton? Yakima? South Dakota? I don’t understand what they’re doing, their thought process. But I prefer not understanding what they’re doing. I’m sure their explanation wouldn’t make sense to me.

The ferry groans slightly as it turns right to leave Eagle Harbor. It begins to shake. Everyone is still preturnaturally quiet, still wearing their masks except for one guy who has his mask off to eat and drink his coffee. Naturally, I despise him for this. Who are you to have your mask off, asshole? How is your coffee drinking somehow more important than the safety of those around you? I am a spectacular hypocrite, of course, because if I had a muffin, if I had an americano with just a little bit of heavy cream, if I had a latte and a scone, if I had a large earl grey tea with just a little bit of heavy crean, if I had a mocha, if I had a green tea, if I had a drip coffee, if I had whatever this guy is drinking, whatever this guy is eating, I’d be doing the exact same thing.

And there, look, he just put his mask on. Maybe he isn’t Satan. Maybe he’s actually a great guy.

Now we’re fully in the sound named after Peter Puget and the island has lost its grip on us. Not that it ever had a grip on us. But it was caressing us, and now the caress of the island is gone, the caress of tranquility, and the city and the skyline and the dirt and the noise spring ever more into view. The ferry is gathering speed now and shaking ferociously. Screws are coming loose. We sound like we’re about to take flight. We must be doing 20 knots now. The wake we’re putting off is tremendous as we round the last buoy and head straight toward Seattle, straight toward the metropolis, straight toward our destinies. What are my fellow ferry riders up to today? Are you all off to work? To visit friends? To conduct business transations? To go shopping? I have no idea. I imagine the first guess is the most accurate. This is, or was, a full-fledged commuter boat. Thousands of people would ride it every morning. The atmosphere then was always lively because anytime you have that many people in an enclosed space the atmosphere becomes lively. Groups of people who ride the boat together everyday, having the same conversations, gossiping. This was their last respite before working 9-5. And then in the evening they’d do it all over again, and when they got to the island everything would be quiet, or at least in comparison to Seattle, and they’d have dinner, and they’d hang out with their families, maybe do a little extra work, watch some TV, go to bed, get up and do it all over again.

But that was then.

I wish I had a coffee.

But I’m done with coffee.

Should I stop by Whole Foods on the way to my boat?

I have therapy at 10am.

Today is Tuesday, the year of Yaweh two thousand and twenty-one, the ninth day of March. Today the sun will set at approximately 6:06pm and there will be civil twilight until 6:36 and then nautical twilight for another half hour after that. At 7pm there will still be some vestiges of sunlight. And then in four days the clocks will change and at 8pm there will be some vestiges of light. This to me is always a bigger marker of spring than the actual day spring starts. Spring to me is a smell in the air. You’re walking one day, maybe in February, maybe in March, and a smell hits your nostrils and you think, That’s spring. That’s when spring arrives. It doesn’t have much to do with the official day.

I see Magnolia off to my right and I long for the island behind me.