Friday, November 13, 2020

Day 71: The Race to Port Townsend

August 19: I decided to hit the trail at about 9:00am. I timed it this way for two reasons. First, low tide was a couple of hours away and I wanted to make sure I could finish the long beach walk around low tide since, at high tides, parts would not be passable. And second, I figured that would give me enough time to catch the 2:45pm ferry across Puget Sound to Port Townsend.

So Amanda and I said our goodbyes to Wise Wanderer. This time, we would not be coming back.


And Amanda dropped me off where she had picked me up from the trail the day before. Then Amanda left. She still had time off of work and wanted to continue following me along the trail, but she had an unusual problem: baggage. In this case, the baggage is called a vehicle, and she couldn't take it across Puget Sound on the ferry. The ferry does allow vehicles, but it's a small ferry in which they recommend reservations if you want to take a vehicle on it, but the ferry was already booked full. 

So Amanda had to take a long detour, driving all the way back to Seattle and crossing on the ferry from Seattle to Southworth before driving north back to Port Townsend. As the crow flies, the distance between Oak Harbor and Port Townsend is about 10 miles. The path I followed would cover about 14 miles. But Amanda had to drive 170 miles to make the trip!

This would also give her time to drop by the house in Seattle to pick up mail and run a few errands. I also asked that she bring my nice, fancy camera that I could use while I was slackpacking. She had forgotten to bring it when she drove out to Oak Harbor, but now she had a second chance to pick it up again.

Given the long distance that Amanda had to cover, we weren't actually sure who would get into Port Townsend first, but there was a distinct possibility that I, on foot, could actually beat her there. =)

Anyhow.... she dropped me off at the beach access point and the race was on!

The day's walk was absolutely wonderful! The route just hugged the coastline. No roads to walk on. No roads to even cross! It was a largely undeveloped coastline with plenty of space and solitary thoughts.

I didn't walk as quickly as I had imagined, though, having forgotten how difficult it was to walk quickly on loose sand. And a few areas were covered with slippery rocks that brought my progress to a crawl.

Although the shoreline was influenced by tides and salt water, there weren't really waves to speak of since I was still on Puget Sound and not the open ocean. The biggest 'waves' were only a few inches high.


And there really isn't much to say about the beach walk. It was nice.

Later in the day, the PNT climbed a steep hillside to follow a couple of miles along the edge of a bluff which had commanding views of the area. That was my favorite section of the trail--and the most crowded with a trailhead not far away.

Near the end of the cliff walk, I stopped for a rest at an empty bench when, a minute later, I saw a pod of whales surface directly in front of me. Whales! Whales! OMG! It was amazing!!!

I pulled out camera and cursed that it was a stupid point-and-shoot and not my fancy camera, but I hit the video record button anyhow. The whales had already submerged into the depths of Puget Sound before I was ready, and I didn't even try to take photos. The were on the surface for such a short period of time, I didn't think I could snap a photo quick enough to actually get their photo. I took a video instead and just waited for the whales to surface again. I knew they had to surface eventually!

And they did, but much further away than when I first saw them. Looking in my camera screen, I wasn't even sure if the whales would be visible or more than just black dots on the video and bemoaned the fact that I didn't have my fancy camera with the zoom lens. I should have it by the end of the day, but it wouldn't do me any good then. I'd never had such a good whale sighting from the shore before! And I was totally missing my camera. =(

I had also seen a bald eagle earlier in the day that I had no doubt my zoom lens could have got a fantastic photo, but I got nothing with my point-and-shoot. By the time I got close enough to get a decent photo, it had already flown away.

As I approached Admiralty Head, I saw the ferry boat coming in, and I had fallen behind schedule enough that I feared I probably wouldn't make it to the ferry terminal in time to catch it. It was a one and a half hour wait between ferries. If I missed that 2:45 ride, I couldn't get another ride until 4:15. I tried to pick up my pace, but it seemed kind of hopeless at this point.

I made it to Fort Casey when I heard the ferry boat whistle it's impending departure, then saw the ferry sailing off toward Port Townsend. It was official. I had missed the ferry. And probably not by more than about 5 or 10 minutes. Argh! Now I had to kill an extra hour and a half of time.

Which turned out not to be hard to do at all. I was at Fort Casey SP, one of three sites that defended Puget Sound from enemy attacks until WWII. So I spent some time exploring the old bunkers and guns and the lighthouse, eventually working my way back to the ferry terminal.

One of the guns at Fort Casey

Because of COVID-19, masks were required, so I put on my mask. A vending machine with sodas was inside, so I bought one which I drank on a bench outside. I was the first walk-up person to arrive and a sign next to the bench asked that only one party at a time use it for social distancing, so that meant I had the entire bench to myself. Nobody else could squeeze on next to me! =) Although I realized if someone came along who, perhaps, couldn't stand around long due to age, disability, or whatever the case may be, I might have to give up the bench for someone more in need.

But after walking a dozen miles to get here for about 6 nearly non-stop hours, I was a little tired and needed a good seat. =)

Seated and no longer hiking, I started getting a little cold and put on an extra layer to stay warm.  

I gave Amanda a call to give her an update on my progress--I had missed the first ferry and would now be traveling on the 4:15 one. She had made it home and crossed to the Olympic Peninsula already but was looking for letterboxes and sightseeing on the way to Port Townsend and was running late herself. And, she told me, she forgot my fancy camera again when she had stopped at home. Ah! No! What if I saw a bear later?!

My ferry eventually arrived. We watched the passengers from Port Townsend disembark, then the vehicles followed afterwards. And finally us walk-ups were allowed to board. I took a place at the front of the ship--the better to watch for whales in Puget Sound!

The ferry lingered in port for another 15 minutes while vehicles were loaded and then we were off.

The walk-on passengers board the Salish, our ride across Puget Sound.

The crossing was uneventful, and I saw no whales. 

As the crow flies, the ferry carries us only about 6 miles from the Keystone Ferry Landing to Port Townsend. You can see Port Townsend from Admiralty Head. It's even easy to identify the paper mill in Port Townsend. But it was a huge milestone for me since I was now arriving onto the Olympic Peninsula and the last big stage of the PNT. The end was near!

When the ferry arrived, I disembarked and veered left, following the primary PNT away from the center of Port Townsend.

I only had maybe half mile to reach the Port Townsend Inn, located directly off the PNT, and rented a room, where I called it quits for the day. I called Amanda to tell her where I was--and that I won the race to Port Townsend. ;o)

Overall, though, a very pleasant day of hiking!

My destination for the day at the Port Townsend Inn.

See the crab hidden among the rocks?

While seated at this bench, something magical happened....

I saw whales in Puget Sound!!!!!

Admiralty Head Lighthouse

Deer wandering around Fort Casey

Waiting for the ferry at the ferry terminal.

There's Port Townsend in the distance. The buildings with the smoke coming out of them are the paper mill at the edge of town. And the mountains behind it are the Olympics! The last big obstacle between me and the Pacific Ocean....

Our ferry is arriving in Port Townsend.

It looks like a lighthouse, and it is.... the "Dimick Lighthouse," but this structure was actually built in 1990 as a vacation home is an almost perfect replica of the Mukilteo Lighthouse a little north of Seattle.


Michael Merino said...

I wonder if Ryan regrets that small break at the bench just to miss the ferry by 5 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Let's see...catch the early ferry or watch a pod of whales...I think you made the right choice.

di and her guy