Nick & Sara’s Tour de West – 08

Sat, Sep 12. 2009

6:00 AM comes way too early when you’re on vacation, but what can you do. Since I couldn’t find a ferry off of Whidbey Island last night, and there’s no reservations to be had today, I want to be at the ferry station early to see if I can get standby on a boat over to Port Townsend.

I shouldn’t have worried. When I got the ferry station at 6:30 AM, it was just me and a couple of bikers in line for the 7:15 AM ferry. By the time the ferry arrived, we had been joined by a line of other cars – but there was still room for all of us, plus a few more, on the (small) ferry over to Port T.

We arrived in Port Townsend around 7:45, and headed for the bakery/coffee shop called “Bread and Roses” recommended by a friend. According to my phone, “Bread and Roses,” was located at 230 Quincy St.. There’s Quincy St, and there’s 210 Quincy, and there’s 254 Quincy, and in between.. no Bread and Roses. In it’s place, the “Courtyard Cafe” – after searching a bit I convince myself that the Courtyard Cafe is really 230 Quincy, and decide to give it a go. Turns out it’s the site of the former Bread and Roses, but it’s changed ownership (and names), about a year ago.

Still a nice place, though, in a funky old house. $1.50 for a bottomless cup of coffee, free wireless internet, and an assortment of pastries/quiches to suffice for breakfast – whats not to like?  I grab a cup of coffee, order a piece of quiche, and sit down to do a little email/internet catch up.. and to marvel at the truly wide couple (2 people occupying a 4 person booth, and they needed all the room) scarfing down biscuits and gravy for breakfast.

…and about an hour later I decided I better put away the laptop or I’ll be here until noon. The sun is shining, and it’s a beautiful day, and I decide I’d rather check out Port T for an hour or so before hitting the road in earnest.

Right off the bat, Port Townsend seems like my kinda town – every other store seems to be either a bookstore or a coffee shop – some are both. What else do you need? OK, there’s the occasional outdoor clothing store or gift shop – we can deal with that. The main drag down by the water is full of old victorian buildings (holding bookstores and cofee shops, naturally) and the cries of seabirds from the water front echo in the air.

For 9 in the morning, there’s a lot of people out and about, and they all seem to be heading in one direction – down to the waterfront at one end of the main street. Figuring I’ll find out what’s going on, I’ll follow the crowd – and come across the wooden boat festival. Hundreds of wooden boats – sailing boats, powerboats, even rowboats, crowd the harbor. It costs money to go on the docks and get up close and personal, but from here on shore I can stand and look for free, so that’s what I do. There’s a few handcrafted wooden boats here on shore – a wooden kayak with inlays looks like such a work of art it seems a shame to get it wet. A lot of people like me, too cheap to buy a ticket I presume are milling about. No wonder I couldn’t find a hotel room (or a ferry reservation) over here last night.

After about an hour of wandering around, it’s time for Sara and I to hit the road ourselves. I suspect I could spend a week right here in Port T (a sentiment I’m bound to echo in other towns down the coast), but for now it’s time to roll on.

My destination today is “Cape Flattery,” which is literally the northwesternmost corner of the continental US – having gone as far west and north as Sara and I can go unless Sara learns how to swim, it’ll be time to turn south and see have far south down the coast we can get before turning in for the evening.

So, we’re off. Right off the bat I can tell it’s going to be a relatively slow drive – the road twists and turns this way and that and often goes through small towns and wide-spots-in-the-road – all of which feel obligated to let you know their presence with “speed limit, 25 MPH” signs. Still, the road is  pleasant, and it’s a nice day – the road pretty much hugs the coastline all the way, with glimpses  of the “Strait of Juan de Fuca” here and there. Past Port Angeles, a little coastal town about half way there, the road gets wilder and the towns further apart. It’s a ways to Clallam Bay – the next town of any size, and by the time you get to Neah Bay – the forlorn little town on the Macah Indian Reservation that occupies the northwestern most portion of the continental US – you’re definitely starting to get that “end of the road” feeling – past Neah Bay is another 10 miles or so of twisty, turny road through the woods to the Cape Flattery trail head and parking lot – there’s a surprising number of cars parked in the gravel lot, considering how many cars I’ve seen on the road. I guess I’m not the only one drawn to visit the edges of the map.

The trail down to the cape itself is about ½ mile long, a well maintained boardwalk for most of the ways, with stretches of “stepping stones” made from cedar rounds marking the trail in other parts. Out at the cape, a couple of viewing platforms allow you look out at the wave crashing on rocky cliffs and into sea caves all around, an lighthouse stands on an island a half a mile or so offshore.  A number of people are milling around taking pictures, and I’m recruited (well, actually, I volunteered) to take a group shot so one of the group reciprocates and takes a picture of me with the lighthouse (or what would be the lighthouse, if you can see it through the fog) in the background.

It’s about 3 in the afternoon by now. Heading back to where Sara’s waiting in the parking lot, the weather turns dark, grey, and rainy (fitting for the Olympic Peninsula), so I hop in and we head in a relatively straight shot down south on the Olympic Peninsula, arriving in Aberdeen, WA, sometime just after dark.