Today’s miles: 14.9 (9 hiking, 5.9 by ferry)
Total miles: 291.7
In the backyard of the Happy House, I wake for a 5am phone session with my analyst. The stars are still out as I talk with her from my tent. Though John and Rebecca ask if I want breakfast, I’m ready to walk along the beach, and I also don’t want to take advantage of their incredible generosity. All of the trail angels I’ve met in this section have blown me away with their kindness and warmth.
It’s a short walk on the road from Happy House to the beach. I carefully make my way down across the rocks, and find I am completely alone with Puget Sound. There’s a negative tide this morning, exposing all sorts of rocks that are typically hidden. The beach is extremely rocky and sometimes covered with slippery seaweed, so it’s very slow going, but I enjoy the sound of my feet crunching along the shoreline, set against the rhythmic rolling of the waves. The sun shows itself for a little while.
After a few miles I hike up to a bluff trail that Rebecca recommended. There are a few small groups of people on this trail, out for early morning walks. The views across the sounds are lovely. While I hike this portion, a fog slowly rolls in. I see a small hawk riding the air currents nearby, dipping closer to me with every circle. “Stay on your side,” I tell it, then wonder what I even mean. The side that is not the ground, I suppose.
By the time I descend back to the beach, the fog is thick, making it hard to see anything in the distance. I pass a few people, one by one, who have easels set up and are painting the beach scene. I sneak a look at a few canvases as I pass and am amazed to see bright colors on this grey-blue day. The tide is coming in, and as the waves move over the beach and back out, I can hear it pulling with it the thousands of small smooth stones covering the shoreline. The stones roll out and against each other with every wave. Clink clink clink. It feels like witnessing something secret.
I climb another bluff trail up to Fort Casey State Park, near the southern edge of Whidbey Island. I walk in the general direction of the ferry terminal, which takes me over the top of old U.S. military bunkers and displays of old weaponry. The fort was built in the late 1800s and used through the 1940s. I feel very somber and unsettled, observing how the military fort has been carved directly into the land here, and how the sound has been shaped by—and into—militarized space. It is at odds with but not separate from the feelings of beauty I experienced at the edge of the sea this morning. Kids are running around on the tops of the bunkers and yelling back and forth, and their rambunctiousness is too much for me. I find my way down below, searching for an exit. Along the way I find another painter, tucked into a corner, painting a large door. She shows me the painting in progress, which she has rendered as even creepier and more threatening than this space already looks, and I tell her it matches the emotions I’ve had, walking through these bunkers.
I wait in line for the ferry (which I excitedly note is called the Mukilteo Ferry, so I finally understand where that queercore band name came from!), and am whisked away to Port Townsend, where I will zero before my long, tough section in Olympic National Park.
It’s still hours before I can check into my hotel room, so I go to the food co-op and find I want to eat everything. I buy food from their deli counter (curry tofu salad, collard and cabbage salad), some chips, some fresh cookies from the bakery area, and a bottle of kombucha, then sit at the picnic tables outside for hours, reading and enjoying the day. It is a very co-op vibe here, with lots of people biking up and a guy in the courtyard playing Nirvana songs on his acoustic guitar.
My hotel room has a beautiful view of the sound and the ships. On the morning of my zero day, I walk to the grocery store for my resupply. Careful calculations are necessary here, because I have to bring enough food to sustain me for eight (!) days of tough hiking in the mountains, but eight days of food will be incredibly heavy. I try to strike a balance, and just accept that I’ll be ravenously hungry at the end of this next section no matter what.
I have an excellent breakfast at a diner nearby: veggie omelette, giant sausage pattie, hashbrowns, English muffin with butter and jam, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. My main town food desires on this hike so far have been deli sandwiches and veggie omelettes. For the remainder of the day I rest in my hotel bed, except for an afternoon walk to the post office to mail a few things home and send postcards. It’s soothing to admire the water all day. In the evening I pack most of my things and research the morning bus schedules for tomorrow. (There’s a long, dangerous highway walk out of town that I’ve decided to travel by local bus instead.) For reasons I cannot quite pin down, I feel very nervous about entering the Olympics tomorrow. But I try to relax and trust myself. The only way to really know what the Olympic mountains are like is to just go be with them.