Tuesday, September 7, 2010

From Olympic National Park to Whever I Am Now

Somehow the rain during the middle of the night had failed to make our morning in Olympic National Park any warmer.

Waking up, we took own the tent with practiced ease, tossed it into the trunk, and threw the rest of our gear in the back seat. Today we would not be going far – just one hundred miles around the bend to the western entrance of the park.

The morning was grey, dismal, and nearly depressing. If not for The Traveller (the current book we're reading) the drive would have been a terrible tragedy. With the book it was slightly less terrible. I have a hard time grabbing this text; I think the author might be a little nutty.

We pulled up to Rialto Beach jumping out into the world, only to be met with more rain, and cold. Cold that was not getting any better. I cursed my decision to leave all long sleeves in Florida, where my woolen hats also lay peacefully. Had I either of these two things, I would be fine. To be honest, were it not raining I'd be fine. If we want to get to the heart of the matter, if I would have just stopped being lazy, grabbed my rain coat out of my pack, and put it on all would have been right in the world.

But with the grey fog turning sea stacks into ghostly images of ships lost in the treacherous waters, the cold fit the mood. Sea gulls fluttered in and out of frame adding depth to the haze on the horizon. Asian tourists jumped for pictures, and flashed signs of victory. Further down the beach a shirtless man tossed flat stones, skipping over the ocean's edge.

Once more, I could picture Olympic Park as it might have been. Truly spectacular and beautiful – and while I enjoyed the moody atmosphere captured in my camera's unfeeling single frames, I would have rathered the sun on my face, while in the moment. I could talk about the smooth stone beach, as if made from rocks freshly tumbled in decades old machines – but at the time, I just wanted to get back in the car. For the first time we turned on, not the air conditioner, but the heat.

Leaving the beach we made our way for the third and final landscape of the park. The temperate rain forest of the Pacific North West.

This time I did put on my jacket, wanting to enjoy the short hike more than I otherwise would have.

It was now, with the day barely half over, that I realized we would not need to sleep another night in this park. For that reason we did only one hike through the forest – but after seeing so many trees, all holding their own value, as of late – it was hardly a loss. After all, we still did hike through rain forest today.

And the forest lived up to its name. The rain poured down. Were I not desperately trying to take pictures, it wouldn't have bothered me one bit. As it was, I was caught in a cycle of taking one frame, wiping off the lens with whatever part of my shirt was still dry beneath my somewhat protective rain coat, snapping again, and cleaning once more.

By the end of our hike through the rich, lush, forest some images were recorded. Looking above, I imagined the green hue that would be cast over everything when the suns rays filtered through the emerald canopy.

I tried to live in the moment, but it was difficult. I'd been in forest like this before, four years ago in British Columbia, and this was all the same. And it was rainy. And it was chilly. These were not good combinations. Still, looking back on the images now I edit my memories in post production, and realize that the experience was a fantastic one. One I loved far more than I realized at the time. This seems to be the way with many of my travel experiences.

And I have to wonder – what's better? Living in the moment, or holding the memory that you did live in the moment? One is as fleeting as a beating heart – the other, as eternal as our lives. Where do truth and fiction blend, bend, obscure?

Driving on the bumpy dirt roads to this section of the park we stopped as twelve classic cars drove out. Why they were there, and how they got in was a mystery. On our entrance and exit we worked hard to drive on ridges, trying not to bottom out where ruts had formed, now thick with mud.

Abandoning this Washington park we plugged in our destination into the GPS. I had assumed the drive would take nine hours. After watching the pathing come to light, it was obvious that somewhere along the line I had miscalculated. Fifteen hours. Fifteen hours from Olympic National Park to Glacier National Park. It was good that we were not staying the night. It was good that we could get some of that journey out of the way today.

Gassing up, and filling our bellies to make up a more agreeable couple, we hit the road – it wasn't until I saw a sign claiming the wait for the ferry was two hours that I started to suspect something was wrong.

I checked the route. Curses! I had checked “No toll roads,” and, “no dirt roads.” Somehow No Ferries had escaped my watch. I tried to avoid it by driving south, but another was in my way. It would have been possible to drive three hours to get from where I was to Seattle, or I could just bite the bullet, wait thirty minutes, take the one hour ferry across, and pay my fifteen dollars.

I was not a happy traveller. For some reason these fifteen dollars (five of which would have been spent on extra gas – so really only a ten dollar loss) felt all important to me. Once on board, with car turned off, and us on deck in the comfy chairs, changed my mind. This was relaxation. This is what I had missed. The art of public transportation. I couldn't go anywhere, and I couldn't speed things up. There was nothing to do. There was nothing to see. My best option, sit down, drink a hot chocolate, and read the local paper. My mind, for the first time in ages, was truly at rest.

Those ten dollars didn't seem so bad anymore. Five, really, when split with Kath.

When the Seattle sky line came into view, I felt a tinge of upset, my break was over. But so quickly did my mind snap back into, rush-rush-rush, thinking that I hardly noticed.

Driving through Seattle I thought what a nice place it would have been to visit. A podcast I was listening to was commenting on the Penny Arcade Expo – PAX for short – that just finished yesterday in this very city.

Then I was on the high way – driving, driving, getting lost in Radiolab: The Podcast.

I wondered how the hours would be spend it DeeDub never gave me the data stick with my first few entries into the series, back in Germany. That show has been the soundtrack to the last ten months.

Light spilled ever so gently over the hills, reminding me of our night in Death Valley. This time, however, the casting of the glow was not from the full moon – the one in the sky, new just now, but rather the city in the distance.

A choice was made of how far to push on. Every hour tonight was one less tomorrow. Should I go to Spokane? Should I stop short? And if so where? The Roomsavers showed little in the range of affordable motels.

A sign was past, telling us we were in the nations number one potato growing county. I would have thought that honour to Idaho. Wrong, apparently.

Just outside Moses something... Moses Lake? we exited the highway. I did not want to drive any further. Ten was late enough. Willing to pay the sixty dollars we turned in, but just off the highway a sign displayed the price for the first motel we saw – ten dollars less than what I was about to pay. We changed destinations, recouped the losses from the ferry, and set off to sleep.

Well Katherine set off to sleep. As for me? It's just past two in the morning, and I'm only now posting this entry.

Still – with the next week, potentially spent camping, who knows when I'll have time to blog again. Back logs are unacceptable. And I've neglected emailing too many people for far too long. I'll deal with the repercussions of my lack of sleep when the alarm wakes up in four and a half hours. Gotta get up early – there's still seven hours of driving ahead of us.

Still, I'd not trade this experience for – well it would take a lot. (I just corrected a lot with alot before I realized what I'd done. This being a huge pet peeve of mine, I know it's truly time for sleep. Entry. Over.)

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