Pat, my brother Michael and I spent a week on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula. The Port Townsend Jazz Festival was my main objective. We also explored beaches and old bunkers, bicycled and just relaxed.
Bicycling was to be a big part of this trip. Mike and I hadn’t ridden for years. I checked my helmet; the adhesive had failed and it was falling apart. I couldn’t find my bike lock. Mike was missing both; so we bought helmets and locks at Alki Bicycles. I also wanted some bungee cords to hold the bikes steady. But they didn’t have any; instead they gave me some old inner tubes to cut up and use to tie things together.
A couple of weeks before we left, Mike and I practiced mounting the bike rack on the car and putting our bikes on it. The rack was an old Thule someone had given us; it had no instructions, and one of the four cradle latching straps was missing. We figured out reasonable places to hook the straps onto the car, and we hung the bikes on the rack. Now we felt ready for the real thing.
The drive over
Wednesday 7/27: After the car was packed, we mounted the rack and bikes. The inner tubes were a bad idea; knots in them were difficult to untie, and they were so stretchy that they didn’t hold the bikes steady. We’d thought the rack’s bottom hooks went under the bumper; but the edge of the bumper was rubbery and couldn’t hold them. Pat pointed out that the weight of the bikes was pulling the rack’s padded supports away from the car. And she wasn’t happy with how the bikes could swing and shift around. We spent a long time wrestling with heavy, greasy bikes and wimpy inner tubes in the hot sun before we felt ready for a road test.
In Edmonds we stopped at a PCC grocery for ice cream bars to eat in the ferry line. We looked at the bike rack. The straps running from its top to the trunk lid hinges had stretched; the rack had slipped off the bumper and was hanging by them. We reworked it again in the parking lot.
We got on the car ferry to Kingston after a short wait, and drove thru Port Gamble and over the Hood Canal Bridge to Port Hadlock. Our rental apartment turned out to be quite nice; it’s the upper story of a house. It has a big deck, and it’s decorated with an East Indian Buddhist theme. Dinner was at Scampi And Halibut, a popular diner that features seafood. Our table was under a pole lamp with glass fronds shaped like coconut leaves; glass nuts were the shades for its bulbs. I had Hawaiian mahi mahi; it seemed overdone, but the side dishes and dessert were good.
The innkeeper’s booklet that we found in the apartment warned about ants. I had a cup of tea with honey. Tiny sugar ants swarmed all over the jar and my hand. We Windexed them and cleaned everything carefully. They’ll keep us on our toes in the kitchen.
Thursday 7/28: We shopped at the nice Food Coop in Port Townsend, and admired an odd vehicle in the lot; an electric tricycle with a canopy, two seats and pedal-assist. It was an Elf, made by Organic Transit. Solar cells in its roof recharge its battery. Its maximum speed is 20 miles per hour; no license is required to drive it.
In the afternoon, we went to the south end of the Larry Scott Memorial Trail. Mike and I rode the trail seven miles to Port Townsend, and Pat walked four miles. It was a lovely little lane that took us past fields, thru woods and along the beach to a boatyard on the town’s outskirts. While we waited for Pat in the shade of the moorage authority building, we talked to a lady named Cass. She’d grown up on a farm in nearby Beaver Valley. She and her husband had a 160-acre farm for a while. But she’d lost it somehow (I didn’t want to probe); now she lives in an apartment without so much as a planter box.
“Do you ever go back and look at it?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said sadly.
While Pat was making dinner (balsamic mushroom wraps) she discovered that the eggs hadn’t made it into the car in Seattle. So I rode my bike down Irondale Road to “downtown” Port Hadlock to buy some at the QFC grocery. I picked up a box of Borax too, because Pat had heard that it kills ants. As I pedaled I had time to look over our neighborhood. It’s on a low plateau that funnels down to the sea at its east end, where the few shops are located. Some homes are quite nice; others are dilapidated and surrounded by overgrown cars and trailers. Campers, boats and RVs are everywhere, and on some streets I could smell horses. A small church near our house had a little A-frame cabin for a rectory. The north wind bore the rotten-egg aroma of a pulp mill. On my way back home, a pickup with a defective muffler blatted arrogantly past.
Friday 7/29: Pat tried sprinkling borax on the kitchen shelves and counters. The ants walked around it without paying it any mind. I did a brief web search and found out that the ants have to eat the borax to die. They don’t much like it, so it’s necessary to mix it with something sweet like honey. We spread a borax and honey mixture on a piece of cardboard and taped its edges down on a counter. It was very popular; but more ants kept coming. We made a second bait offering and put it in a cupboard next to the dishwasher, whose enclosure is a major thoroughfare for ants. So far it hasn’t seen much action. Maybe the ants are too full of borax already?
Pat took Mike and me into Port Townsend for the evening jazz festival performance in Fort Worden State Park. The fort is on the tip of a peninsula that juts into the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward Canada. We’d arrived early with flashlights and smoked salmon salad sandwiches (salmon from Pat’s sister Gwen). First we walked on the beach and explored the pre-World War I bunkers. The hills facing the water are honeycombed with gun emplacements, pillboxes, tunnels and underground rooms built between 1902 and 1918. The fort never fired in anger; its cannon were moved to more urgent fronts during the world wars, or were scrapped. The bunkers have been cleaned out; only gun pits, creaky iron doors and inky-dark galleries of rooms are left for tourists to explore.
After a picnic supper in the shelter of a mortar emplacement, we strolled down to McCurdy Pavilion, the theater that an arts organization called Centrum uses for the festival. The cement theater with all its flights of stairs reminded us of the bunkers. The bands we heard were:
- JD Allen and Sean Jones
- The Jeff Hamilton Organ Trio
The music was good, tho quite improvisational. While the second band was playing, the electric organ (played by Akiko Tsuruga of New York) conked out. The drummer undertook a long solo to give her time to fix it, to no avail. The band stopped playing. Technicians climbed onto the stage while the audience waited patiently. Then the MC announced that the show was over. The audience gave the band a standing ovation anyway.
Saturday 7/30: Now and then a lone ant scouts the kitchen counter. Our second bait offering has had no business. The innkeeper told us he’d put borax around the house’s foundation.
Pat discovered Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend, and visited with the sea otters. She said that they were sometimes quite close to her. They watched her eyes, and if she looked at them they shied away.
Meanwhile, Mike and I returned to Fort Worden State Park to hear more jazz. There were three bands, all very good, and there were no instrument malfunctions:
- Clayton Brothers Quintet
- Rene Marie, Dee Daniels, Dena Derose
- Woody Herman Tribute Band, led by Jeff Hamilton and Joe LaBarbera
I quite liked the Clayton Brothers playing “Close Enough For Love,” a sad sweet song.
Afterward we walked down to the sandy beach; and then to the military chapel, which is still in use. Unlike Seattle’s Fort Lawton (now Discovery Park), most of whose buildings were removed, Fort Worden’s elegant late 19th century houses and barracks have been preserved. They have deep eaves and comfortable balconies, and are painted creamy white with charcoal trim. Some have been repurposed; others are available to rent. One large structure overlooking the parade ground is now an artillery museum.
Pat made a wonderful marinara shrimp and mushroom dinner. We hurried to the Wheel In Motor Movie, a drive-in theater, to experience this rare 1950s anachronism. But due to an emergency it was closed. We drove up to Port Townsend, but the movies at the Rose Theater had already started and the shops were closed. We window-shopped and strolled out to the viewing pier. The sun had set, and a chilly sea breeze had set in; the sky and the water were spacious and quiet. We watched a square white ferry take on a few cars and shuttle across the empty sea to Whidbey Island. Then we went home to our books and photos.
Sunday 7/31: While Pat and Mike went to a Unitarian church service, I ran laundry and bicycled to nearby Chimacum Creek Beach. I followed a man in an electric wheelchair down the last bit of road to a small parking lot. Another man came in from the beach, unlocked his car and asked me to keep an eye out for his phone; but happily he discovered it in his coat.
Once a mill stood on piles at the mouth of the creek; but I didn’t see any remnant of it. The beach was coarse sand with bits of clamshell, backed by a narrow sandy meadow and forest. A flock of gulls foraged in the seaweed at the mouth of the creek. The creek was placid, reflecting the woods. Gray herons maneuvered on the water, speaking in short, deep croaks. I followed a meadow trail up into the woods, but gave it up when it veered steeply inland. I had a snack on the creek bank under a tree, and got a text from Pat that they were coming home. Since I had the key, I needed to beat them home; so I did.
After lunch, which included a mug of leftover marinara shrimp sauce for everyone, we set out for Marrowstone Island. We crossed a bridge to the south end of securely-fenced Indian Island (a Navy magazine), then continued over a causeway to Marrowstone. We passed a little village on a lovely inlet, tho I think that at low tide it wouldn’t look as nice.
The north end of the island is Fort Flagler State Park, another shore battery fallen into disuse. We drove down a narrow bluff road to visit the lighthouse northeast of the park entrance. In the parking lot, an old man was sitting on the tailgate of his pickup, pulling on hip waders. Pat parked in a smallish spot next to his truck, and we went over to talk to him.
Folk music was pouring out of the cab of his truck. “I don’t know why we fish here. We never catch anything,” he chuckled.
“Is it all right if I park beside you?” Pat asked.
“I’d charge you $10 for it. But that guy over there would make me split it with him,” he said, indicating somebody he probably didn’t know. Proudly he showed us an immense wristwatch; it had a little date dial that was a day slow, and a left-handed stem. He had fifteen watches, many of them monsters like this one. “If I catch a fish, you owe me $5,” he asserted.
“Do I get to keep the fish?” Pat asked with a grin.
“What if I don’t even see you catch it? How will I know there ever was a fish?”
“Okay, $2.50 then.”
We walked up the beach to the little lighthouse. The beach was stones at the top and fine white sand further down; it had a great deal of driftwood. A couple of families were playing on the beach and building a shanty out of driftwood. Several people stood in the water up to their waists, fishing. The lighthouse was just a light on top of a short square building; the old man had warned us not to be depressed when we saw it. It and the surrounding buildings were in a restricted-access compound, signed as a fisheries research station. Beyond it was wetland; and beyond that, forest.
No place to go here; so we retraced our route to the museum near the park entrance. It was closed; but Pat found a map of the park somehow anyway. We walked down to a gun battery that had two small cannon, with racks of (empty) powder cartridges on display. Half a dozen middle-aged men roared up on motorcycles. They stopped to explore the battery and take pictures of each other in front of it.
Mike and I walked the north bluff trail while Pat drove to the sand spit at its west end to meet us. Our way took us past aging cottages and sheds, more empty batteries and remnants of their support structures. One relic was a building near a cliff from which a short length of track ran thru double doors and out thirty feet to a spot overlooking the sea. It had once housed a generator and a searchlight, used before radar was invented to find infiltrating ships. The wide path took us thru forest filled with the sound of waves. We skirted a campground and came out on an isolated road. I got turned around and led us east, away from our meeting point. After a long walk, I realized my mistake. I called Pat, interrupting her quiet meditation on the beach, and she rescued us.
We drove back to Port Hadlock and had dinner at the Ajax Cafe on its little waterfront. The restaurant was heavily decorated with hats and bric-à-brac. We were provided with a box of trivia cards to occupy us while our dinners were cooking. I had a New York steak and key lime pie; very good. We peered thru the windows of a wooden-boat building school, and strolled onto a dock to admire the evening reflections.
Monday 8/1: More ants are patrolling the counter over the dishwasher, even tho we keep it clean. Maybe they’re plotting revenge?
I rode down to town to mail postcards. Irondale Road was busy, so I found my way across it into the next neighborhood and rode on the side-streets. That neighborhood was nicer than ours; I even saw a Mercedes. I relied on Google Maps to bring me to the Post Office. But it turned out to be a VFW “Post.” I found the real Post Office a block away, concealed behind a hedge.
I visited with our innkeepers. They used to live in a beach cottage near Hana, a remote town on Maui. There they would paddle out to sea in their inflatable kayak, and slap the water with their paddles. Whales would come and visit them. “But the energy was so strong there that we couldn’t deal with it; so we had to move,” the woman explained. Besides, land and the cost of living are very expensive in Hawaii.
Pat made a pancake feast for brunch. We drove to Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge, and hiked thru forest to the beach. Pat had forgotten to bring a sweater, and it was cold and windy. So she went back to the car to read her book, while Mike and I walked along the spit. We met lots of people; it’s a popular beach despite the long walk. The tide was high, and big waves were roaring in. To stay dry, we sometimes scrambled over the driftwood or walked along the shore of the lagoon. The beach is mostly sand; large flat stones occur in random patches. Some logs were immense old-growth trees from the Olympic mountains. Our glasses got foggy with salt. We walked back against the gusty west wind and the glare of the lowering sun.
We had dinner in Port Angeles at the Garden Cafe, a seafood and Italian place. I had pan-seared salmon; it was very good.
Port Townsend again
Tuesday 8/2: We drove up to Port Townsend; Michael and I walked from the old Customs House / Post Office on top of the embankment to the waterfront, and then back thru downtown. (Port Townsend is divided by a tall vertical cliff, created to make level land along its waterfront.) A cold north wind gusted thru the town. Although the jazz festival had ended, I saw lots of tourists exploring the waterfront boutiques. Indulgent parents followed a boy who was wearing tall green rubber boots. On the viewing docks, half a dozen teenagers chattered and laughed. A man sat on a bench typing, with the screen of his laptop on his legs and its keyboard on his stomach. The Maritime Center displayed a chart of the intricate Inside Passage to Alaska. Puget Sound is a small appendage of it, and Port Townsend oversees its entrance.
I found the Lively Olive, an oil and vinegar tasting bar we’d visited last year, and picked up a bottle of black currant vinegar for a friend of Pat’s. At Quimper Mercantile I bought a wide-brimmed hat for myself, and a T-shirt for Pat that had an Indian-style bird image. The checker told us that she’d retired and moved here from Wisconsin a few months ago. “A friend and I came here on a fact-finding mission; and I found the fact that I wanted to live here.” She planned to buy a 400 sq. ft. “tiny house” with no animals and no men. She said that “Quimper” is the name of the peninsula on which the town is located.
We found a long wooden stairway to the upper town and rejoined Pat. Pat and I made curried chicken for dinner. Dessert was big bowls of blueberries with coconut milk.
The drive home
Wednesday 8/3: We packed the car and hung the bikes on the back. Each time we used the rack we experimented with a different strap arrangement. On this drive the bottom straps came unhooked from the car, but no harm done.
We stopped in Port Ludlow, a private resort where we’d read that some hiking trails were open to the public. We never found a trailhead sign, or even a public restroom. Pat found a trail near a parking lot and explored it.
We stopped again at Kitsap State Park after crossing the Hood Canal Bridge. Pat and I each have childhood memories of visits to this park. Pat remembers digging up clams and leaving them in a bucket of salt water to spit out their sand. When her family returned, the bucket was empty; crows had stolen them. I remembered running around in a big forest of tall trees with some kids I met there. Pat pointed out a little grove and said that was probably the place. Mike and I walked down the bluff trail to the stony Hood Canal beach.
We made our way around a detour, and reached Kingston in time to drive right onto the ferry to Edmonds. Our adventure was about over. We dropped Michael’s bike off at the Goodenough Community’s center in West Seattle and headed home.