Fleeting glimpses of the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington
The Olympic Peninsula looks something like a big thumb stuck off the west coast of Washington, separated from the big city life of Seattle by a series of bridges and ferries that cross a network of waterways. Life on the peninsula even at its harried best is not city. The Pacific on the west coast dumps copious amounts of water there; the Hoh Rain Forest receives ten to twelve FEET of rain a year. But the Olympic Mountains wring the water from the sky, and the further east you go, the dryer the weather. Port Townsend averages only 19 inches of rain a year, thanks to Mt. Olympus who takes the brunt with an average of 220 inches/year (18.33 feet)
I’ve been at this RV Park near Port Townsend, WA for two weeks; I’ll pull out soon, heading to Idaho to meet my friends, Bill & Jan. I met Bill 15 years ago skydiving at the Lost Prairie Boogie in Montana. We became close friends immediately; time and distance have not diminished the relationship. I’ve not seen them since they made the effort and trip to see my new house three years ago.
So what have I been up to? Well, I’ve rested, taken lots of photos, written several poems, and put many miles on my bike. One of my favorite rides was up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park. OMG! Twisties, sweepers, incredible views. But my enthusiasm and speed were tapped down a bit by lots of deer. On the ride up I saw five deer in less than five miles, each standing less than five feet from the road. I hit a deer on my Yamaha FJR north of Durango a few years ago – totaled the bike but was lucky enough to walk away with just enough road rash scars to prove it happened and a gimpy shoulder. The park brochures tout the presence of deer as a good, touristy thing, but one deer-totaled bike is all I really want to experience. I stayed on hyper-alert, kept my speed down, and relished the ride.
Hwy 101 makes a big loop around the Olympic Peninsula. Big as is a 320 mile loop. Obviously I had to ride it and decided on clockwise so the wind and sun would be to my back on the last lap. I headed south on Hwy 101 along the Hood Canal, then west to Aberdeen. By Aberdeen, the ocean winds were blowing the trees, and there was a heavy mist everywhere. I was glad to finally turn north and get out of the traffic and onto the kind of road I’d hoped for. Hwy 101 north from Aberdeen moves alternately through forest and along the Pacific coast line.
One of the joys of being on a motorcycle is that you ride through a kaleidoscope of smells. The smell of the mud flats along the Hood Canal are not the same as those found at low tide in the swamps in the Deep South; this mud is salty; the tidal surge is greater and with the water flush the bottoms, though muddy, seemed fresher, cleaner. Riding through the Hoh Rain Forest, the smell of old growth cedar and spruce was thicker than the ocean mist along the coast.
Another favorite thing about traveling on a bike is I get to feel all of the nuances of the weather. Aberdeen sits on Gray Harbor, which opens to the Pacific. The temperature dropped fast but the bumper-to-bumper traffic didn’t allow the luxury of stopping. As soon as I got out of the bedlam, I pulled over and added a long sleeve shirt and windbreaker under my cordura riding jacket. From there, I ducked in and out of weather – from almost too cold to comfortable as the road wove along the coast line and through forest. There are very few places to stop for gas or food on the west leg of Hwy 101, but the ride is excellent. I added the 30 mile loop into the Hoh Rain Forest – worth every moment, though I was beginning to get concerned about my time. I didn’t get back to the rig until 10:00 pm, which wasn’t a problem; it doesn’t get dark here until about 10:20.
There are many things on the “must-see list” for the Olympic Peninsula – more than I could get done, but I gave it a good try. For example, I went to the Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge, one of the world’s longest sand spits, located on the northern lip of the Olympic Peninsula. The spit is a narrow stretch of beach within sight of Victoria, Canada, and it reaches out five miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Sand eroded from steep bluffs on the mainland adds about 13 feet a year to the length of the spit and an array of driftwood helps secure the narrow coast line. The pictures give a glimmer of the magnitude and majesty of the drift wood. I’ll add it was also very windy and cold. There’s a five mile one-way hike out to the lighthouse, but you can’t start it at low tide. It was low tide and 5 pm when I got there; I was cold and not disappointed when the Ranger explained I couldn’t make the hike that day.
A fellow RV’er gave me directions to a Troll Town between Port Townsend and Sequim. What a magical delight created by an artist with a child’s heart. Dozens and dozens of fence posts carved into various trolls, an enormous dragon or two, a metal Kokopelli that stood at least 15 feet tall.
Port Townsend is a Victorian sea port on the northeastern lip of the Olympic Peninsula – an eclectic place with a long history and modern focus on the arts while scorning big box stores. A ferry runs every 30 minutes between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island – I rode over twice to visit a friend. I was a bit daunted at first with the motorcycle on that metal deck moving through open water, but it was wonderful! Whidbey Island is home to Deception Pass – another must-see place.
KPTZ 91.9 is a local radio station in Port Townsend, one that is as diverse as the community it serves. Marcia Perlstein interviewed me with a focus on my book, Footprints on my Soul – Journal of a Circuit Court Judge. The interview will be edited and then available by both stream and podcast. I’ll let you know the release dates.
One of my greatest treasures from this time on the Olympic Peninsula is a new friendship with an incredible woman named Nancianna, who is a resident at a local nursing home. The Port Townsend Friends (Quaker Meeting) holds a mid-week Meeting in Nancianna’s room, and that’s where we met. Nancianna is only 54 years old but is now a quadriplegic as the result of MS. In her earlier years, she was a professional dancer and dance instructor; now she is Tinkerbell, caught in a cruel jar, unable to even lift her finger to push the call button. Somehow, while living day to day a horrifically unfair life, her eyes remain clear and her mind bright. Her poetry, like her life, doesn’t reek of cocktail talk. I wrote a poem for Nancianna, in a meager attempt to describe/honor her. Let me know at Comments or by email if you’d like to read it. More information about Nancianna is available at http://www.friendsofnancianna.com/ Marcia with KPTZ is going to schedule an interview Nancianna; based on my conversations with Nancianna, the interview will be everything – funny, deep, playful, with lots of straight-in-your-eye reality.
Hurricane Ridge Road in the Olympic Peninsula NP
everyone else thought the deer on Hurricane Ridge road were cute
On Hwy 101 on the western edge of the Peninsula, with the Pacific in the background
the Hoh rain forest on the west/wet side of the Peninsula
the Dungeness spit
a growing land line held together by drift wood
erosion moves sand from cliffs on the mainland to the spit
the magic of an imagination
ferry that runs between Pt. Townsend and Whidbey Island
seals sunning on a dock in Pt. Townsend
enough of that – time to eat
I didn’t know lavender came in white
Nancianna stuck her tongue out at me – because she could ;-)
Nancianna and I, cutting up like two giggly eight-year olds.
bridge at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island
from end of bridge at Deception Pass, Whidbey Island