DAY ONE: FRIDAY JULY 2
We rise at 4 a.m. Long-Suffering Spouse and various children load the car while I pack up the toiletries and leave last minute notes for the pet caregivers. We hit the road by 5 a.m. just as planned (will wonders never cease). The ten-hour journey is punctuated by some squabbling (all of us), singing (some of us), bathroom stops (La Princessa is 7 ½ months pregnant), and sleeping (Foster Kid). Let me just insert here that the worst part of this journey is going through Tacoma. Traffic in Tacoma majorly sucks, and although this was my third trip through it in the last month, I can’t figure out why the traffic sucks, other than the abysmal design of the highway that allows an on ramp right before an off ramp. What moron came up with that system should be strung up for a week by his gonads.
We make it through Tacoma without killing anyone (not that I didn’t ask God to smite a few rude jerks along the way) and snake our way up Bainbridge Island and, finally, onto the Peninsula.
The day took a momentary turn for the worse when, on impulse, we decide to veer off the 101and onto the road to Neah Bay. We’ve arrived too early to check into the motel, so a “quick jaunt” to Neah Bay to walk the Cape Flattery trail to the lookout (which is at the northern-most point in the United States and an excellent spot to watch for whales during their migration seasons, which we missed) seems like just the thing to kill some time.
Let me disabuse you right now of any notion you might have that there is any such thing as a “quick jaunt” to Cape Flattery unless you’re dropped there by helicopter. The long and winding road didn’t lead to your door, but to a kid suffering motion sickness and a spouse spewing heaps of verbal abuse upon the heads of the Washington Department of Transportation. The “Neah Bay 60 miles” road sign, in my opinion, was not just a lie but a damn lie.
We veer off the road to Neah Bay to make a quick stop in Sekiu—not for anything more important than to use the bathroom. As we pull into town, I notice a couple of black and white birds wheeling in the sky way above us. They dip lower—low enough for me to make out the white-feathered heads and curve of yellow beaks. Two bald eagles, scouting for prey on the ground below. My irritation vanishes in an instant. If you’ve ever seen the majesty of a bald eagle in flight, so close you can nearly make out its individual feathers, you’ll understand how hours of annoyance with traffic and with each other can vanish in a heartbeat when you see one in flight.
At long last we reach the Cape Flattery trailhead, find a parking space, and eye with some trepidation the sign that says the hike down the trail is a quarter of a mile. If this quarter of a mile is anything like the “60 miles to Neah Bay,” we’re in for a long hike. And I’m not wrong. We start down the trail, skirting squishy mud puddles. Great—a Sharon Incident of Epic Proportions is bound to occur. I’m glad I changed into my sneakers. I’ll be even more glad on the way back
SIDE NOTE: there is now some debate amongst family members that the sign said “3/4 mile” rather than “1/4 mile,” since the Makah tribe’s website says the trail is 3/4 of a mile.
Partway down we come to some board-
walks that make travel much easier. The boardwalks are interspersed with wooden rounds cut from felled pines. At one point, crossing a nearly perfect straight line of these, I overhear this conversation between WonderBoy and Long-Suffering Spouse:
WonderBoy: “It was convenient how these all grew in a line like this.”
Long-Suffering Spouse: “Do you think it could be they cut these from a log and placed them here?”
The trail down to the lookout takes an eternity, but I love every minute of the trek through the forest. Bird calls echo through the trees, their background accompaniment the distant surf crashing on the shore. The view that awaits us at the lookout steals my breath and silences the protests of my aching legs, which are already dreading the return climb. A shimmering sea lays before us, glimmering in the sunlight like a precious sapphire. An lighthouse island sits straight ahead, the hills of Vancouver Island to the right where the Strait of Juan de Fuca feeds into the Pacific Ocean. To the left, beyond a couple of seastacks tufted with greenery, lies nothing but ocean. To the right of the lighthouse, sea lions bask on a rock in the sun. Puffins float in the waves directly below us. I take a seat on a bench beside WonderBoy, turn my face to the sun, and close my eyes, the song of the ocean lightening my heart.
The sea’s song is enough to carry me back up the trail, where I collapse in a heap and guzzle water like it will be outlawed tomorrow. I will take this moment to admit that La Princessa, even at seven and a half months pregnant, outwalked me. We get to our motel in Forks, where I collapse, eternally thankful that Long-Suffering Spouse nixed La Princessa’s desire to immediately head to the beach.
SIDE NOTE: I did not fall down. Amazing but true. There were times I wanted to lie down in the mud and sleep, but I did not fall.