Thursday, August 13, 2009

Port Townsend Area

The ferry ride to Port Townsend.
Around Port Townsend
Birds of Prey
Wildlife on the Dungeness Spit.
Driftwood on the spit. On the right; The lighthouse from afar and up close. Top left; Looking back from the top of the lighthouse.

We took the ferry from Whidbey Island and are now at the Evergreen Coho SKP Coop in Chimacum, WA on the Olympic Peninsula. The ferry was well worth the trip since it saved us over 130 miles of driving through the Seattle metro area. When we arrived Saturday afternoon we found the office closed and a sign to go to the dry camping area, but there were no sites there where our rig would fit. A friendly SKP told us there was a site with hook ups that was empty and he thought we could use it. We set up, went to the store, and found out when we returned he was wrong. We were told we had to move and park across three dry camp sites until Monday at 9AM when we could put our name on a list for a full hook up site. The site we moved from, and others, sat empty until Monday when we did get a site and plan to stay here a couple of weeks. Despite the "rules'' here it is a very nice place with many things to do and see in the area. Just be warned that if you arrive after the office closes on Friday be prepared to dry camp until at least Monday and being prepared means having a full water tank and empty holding tanks because the dump station and potable water are locked. We were happy to see SKP Class of 07 mate Marty Cassidy, who is from the area, was still here. He was able to give us an insiders view about what to do and see as we explore the peninsula over the next three or four weeks.

Nearby Port Townsend is a unique old seaport town where the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman, was filmed. Many buildings were built in the late 1800's during the days of the sailing ships and the town has Victorian houses, old stores, office buildings and hotels that have been preserved in their original state. There are many shops and restaurants to serve the tourists who come by ferry for a day or two visit. We talked to a couple locals about the struggle it has been to maintain the historical district with its locally owned businesses. They even lamented a Hollywood Video store that put two locals out of business. There is a thriving hippie and art community here and they offer live entertainment at several local establishments each day.

We visited Fort Flagler State Park, one of three former forts in the area that are now parks. Along with Forts Casey and Worden they were built in the late 1800's to form a triangle of fire to protect the Strait of Juan de Fuca from enemy ships. They never fired their cannons and were soon made obsolete with the invention of the airplane. As the forts closed after WWII they became state parks and many of the old buildings are now rented out to groups and families for vacations. There was a band camp and a soccer camp when we were there. The old gun batteries are still in place to be explored and the park has great views of the surrounding waters and mountains from its many hiking trails.

The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge near Sequim is an excellent place to see a large variety of wildlife. The five mile sand spit, which is still growing by about 20 feet a year, is one of the longest in the world. We hiked eleven miles on the beach which is covered with thousands of pieces of driftwood from small sticks to huge trees and logs. We got a close up look at many different birds. The spit is home to or visited by over 250 species. There was a seal pup on the beach and adult seals in the water. Near the end of the spit is the New Dungeness Light Station. As a 100 foot lighthouse, it was the first one built along the strait in 1857. In 1927 it was lowered to the present 63 feet because of cracking in the tower. Since 1994, when the Coast Guard withdrew its last keeper, it has been maintained by volunteers who pay to spend a week in the keeper's home while doing tours and helping with upkeep. This was a unique place and is well worth the long walk.

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