Lately I've been craving west coast adventures a little more than normal. I could spew countless stories about my short stint in Washington last winter, but one specific experience resonates with me more significantly than others.
Out of SeaTac, I rented a Chevy Impala and stayed in Seabeck with a guild of basket weavers. My mother was teaching at their conference. On my second day, I left after breakfast and followed the water until I reached Neah Bay, the furthest northwestern point in the contiguous United States. Along the way, I perused beaches for shells, bummed in hole-in-the-wall book stores, and ate salmon wraps at various cafes. The further I traveled, the more sparse the towns became. Most of the gas stations closed relatively early, leaving me in a panic on nearly empty, but going onward nonetheless. Abandoned, algae-coated sprinkled the seaside. An occasional drive-thru coffee joint would pop up along the road, but nothing of the Seattle coffee culture scene. The Olympic Peninsula resembled Michigan's U.P. more than I would've ever guessed, just with bigger trees, more saturated clouds, and an earthy salt scent tangled in the breeze.
Upon arriving in Neah Bay, the streets were empty. The town is located on reservation grounds, serving as home for the last American tribe still legally permitted to hunt whales, according to the basket weavers I had been staying with. The marina, however, was quietly occupied by empty vessels of every color, gently rocking in the natural wake of the Pacific.
The light was fading quickly, so I quickly resumed my mission to reach my ultimate destination: Cape Flattery. The trail began downhill beneath colossal trees. The ground was bare, damp, and earthen brown. But soon the landscape shifted in such a way I found myself navigating through a tunnel of underbrush on an alternating path of tree stumps, planks, and rocks, weathered by the sea air and frequenting rain. Just before the sun tucked beneath the clouds that merged into the vast ocean horizon, the trail opened up to tall, entangled cedar trees at the end of a small peninsula, cliffs surrounding all edges but from where the trail protruded.
For the first time, my eyes beheld the Pacific Northwest dreamscapes I've always yearned to know: the thunderous waves and the islands ofcliff-side outcroppings drifting to the daunting, oceanic abyss. While I was trying to take it all in before my dash back to the rental car at dark, a low, panpipes-like sound resonated through the tree canopy. I decided the whistling must've came as a result of the gusty winds perfectly singing in the fork of a tree, but I felt more as if the experience became spiritual. I stood there along the edge of the cliff until hairs began to prick at the back of my neck. Night was setting in and every snapping twig encouraged my adrenaline levels to rise. I swiftly jogged back through the thick undergrowth, hearing my heart pounding and breath, feeling so incredibly alive.