My friend Kate and I recently escaped Seattle for a night and headed to Port Angeles. Kate works a day job, organizes several literary events each month featuring women and queer writers, and sells her art every weekend at Georgetown’s Trailer Park Mall. She needed the break. I’m a flailing freelance documentary photographer, emphasis on the flailing. I looked forward to an escape from myself.
Port Angeles is on the beautiful, otherworldly Olympic Peninsula. I’m embarrassed to admit that in the 3+ years I’ve lived in Seattle I’ve only been to the peninsula a few times. It’s an outdoors paradise with an incredible history that I know very little about. I’ve read a few articles about the native Americans who lived in this region. I need to find a good book on their history – any suggestions? I imagine that if a 1500s resident were teleported to the peninsula today, they would still recognize its paths and hunting grounds.
It took us a couple of hours to get there, but the trip is great. Taking a ferry ride is always a good idea. Unless it’s someplace where they load the ferry well past capacity. Don’t ride those ferries. I had a theory for a little while that you could randomly open The New York Times on any day and see a story about a ferry capsizing. That’s a fun little tangent. Washington ferries seem safe, though. Not that I’d really know. Head to the restaurant, grab some Ivar’s clam chowder, have a Rainier, and watch people do puzzles. Don’t really watch them. That’s creepy. And I don’t think I’ve ever actually had the clam chowder on the ferries.
We didn’t book a place to stay. We figured we wouldn’t have much trouble finding a place, and we were right. We drove around a bit and settled on the Port Angeles Inn. I liked that it was on a hill because ever since reading The Big One (on my way to Seattle), I’m always worried that the Cascadia Subduction Zone is about to unleash its seismic fury, which will then lead to catastrophic tsunami. I wonder if it would be good to be on a ferry when that happens. If Mount Rainier blows its lid at the same time, goodbye Amazon, Microsoft, and a big chunk of the Pacific Northwest.
It was a quick trip, but it didn’t feel rushed. We put a respectable dent in the huge container of peanut butter filled pretzels that Kate brought. We didn’t eat many of the ranch or sour cream Cheezits. Those things were nasty. We ducked into the Gateway Tavern for a beer and some pull tabs. We lost. The locals were friendly and entertained my questions about the ferry to Victoria. I’m not sure why, but I love the idea that you can take the ferry to Canada from Port Angeles. I know, it shouldn’t be all that exciting. But I wanted to hop on that ferry. We had dinner close to the water. The woman who served us was great, and my salmon was good, but Kate’s oyster po’boy wasn’t awesome.
We spent the next morning walking around. We went into the Country Aire grocery store, and I fell in love. It’s a perfect grocery store. One of my many “photography won’t pay all the bills” dreams is opening a cool grocery store. It probably wouldn’t go well. But I’ve read several stories the past few years about food deserts. America produces an amazing amount of food, but there are a lot of communities and smaller towns that haven’t got grocery stores. They’ve folded, leaving a void. The articles are interesting – just search on food deserts or disappearing grocery stores.
I think 90% of us would agree that local newspapers, grocery stores, good schools, and doctors are critical pieces of healthy communities. Local newspapers and grocery stores are failing, teachers are working two jobs to pay the bills, and doctors have to go to bigger cities to pay off their student loans. I’m partly to blame. I pay for a New York Times online subscription. I don’t subscribe to any local news. In 2020 I’m subscribing to the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.
I’m on a lot of tangents. Back to Port Angeles. I went with Kate to a cool local bookstore for some artist networking. I mentioned earlier that Kate sells most of her art in Georgetown and online, but bookstores also carry her work. I hope 2020 sees an On the Road with Kate YouTube series or podcast.
I’ll try to wrap this up. I always want to move to places I visit on roadtrips. Or I think about moving there and the people who live there. How did they find Port Angeles? Do they like it? Were they born there, or are they transplants. Kate had to put up with my chats about finding home.
We went into a tinctures/essential oils shop, and Kate struck up a conversation with D, a fellow midwesterner. D left a corporate gig and the white picket fence to move to Seattle with a love interest. The relationship fizzled. D later moved to Port Angeles, moved again to a farm in northern California run by an awesome German woman, and then moved back to Port Angeles when two friends decided to move there. D joked that everything started unraveling with that move to Washington. D likes Port Angeles but is looking to move back to Seattle. I love those discussions and could have them all day. Was Port Angeles just too small? I’ve been thinking about a move to a smaller town, but I won’t lie – I like my anonymity. I think it could be unnerving to always be around people you know or recognize.
D recommended we check out Salt Creek. Never pass up a thoughtful recommendation from a local.
I posted a few Port Angeles photos on Instagram. A friend mentioned that she’d lived in Port Angeles for 10 years. She moved there to be closer to her mom. After her mom passed, my friend moved back to Seattle. I’m paraphrasing here some. It’s a beautiful part of the country. My mom loved it there. It was dark and damp…I was always cold.”