Olympic National Park (south) / Astoria, OR

Trip Start Mar 26, 2006
Trip End Oct 20, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Back in Port Angeles, Washington, we meet up with Harold and Jan, friends and former neighbors of ours from Boulder, who are here checking out places to relocate in the beautiful Northwest. Over the next few days they take us on a driving extravaganza. We take Hwy 112 to Neah Bay, a small seaside Makah Indian fishing village that sits at the furthest northwest tip of the U.S. For an unexpected treat, we stop into an obscure little shack where a local guy smokes 30,000 pounds of fresh caught salmon per year. Inside, sunlight coming in through the open door creates horizontal beams of light in the smoke-filled air, and in the far corner sits a small wood-burning smoker, billowing smoke and flickering with an orange-yellow flame. Just moments after the fish comes out of the smoker we pop steaming, rich, delicious morsels into our mouths until our stomachs are ready to burst. Quite the find.

Our next stop is Ozette, a trailhead at the western edge of Olympic, where we hike 3-1/2 miles along a forested boardwalk and arrive at Cape Alava. It's a bit of a disappointment after the beaches we've seen further south, and the forest scenery gets monotonous, but it's fun to hike with Jan.

On our final day together, we drive to Quinalt Rain Forest at the southwest end of the park, where we gape at the enormous, moss-laden trees, and Jan chirps with delight every time we pass a waterfall.

It's fun to see familiar faces from home for a few days, and we enjoy Harold's never-ending stream of old-timer stories and tidbits about home remedies, politics, and miscellaneous lore. We're sad to go our separate ways and wish them the best on their search for a new home. Sending you guys lots of love!

Next, Todd and I land in Astoria, the oldest American settlement west of the Mississippi, where we explore the many fascinating Lewis and Clark sites and parks, the incredible maritime museum that details the unparalleled danger of the Columbia River Bar (referred to as the "Graveyard of the Pacific") and the amazing work of the Coast Guard Search and Rescue crews, and the other local attractions.

By chance, we come across the annual Washington International Kite Festival in Long Beach, Washington. Hundreds of kites fill the skies along the beach, and teams of people perform synchronized kite acrobatics, competitors perform kite routines to music, and fighter kites dart after one another and try to knock each other from the sky. These aren't the dumb wood and plastic kites from my childhood. Some are carbon reinforced airfoils covered in commercial airline fabric, controlled by four guidelines, that can fly forward and backward, hover a foot off the ground, and flip around in circles. Others are simple but incredibly fast competitive fighter kites that dodge and spin around each other. I'm shocked by the speed and power of some of the kites, the force of their flight so strong that the "driver" has to lean backward to keep from getting pulled over. It's an entire industry and culture of kite-flyers, complete with kite magazines, associations, competitions, and insurance plans for stolen kites (that can cost anywhere from $2 to upwards of $6,000!) and for incidents causing injury or damage! I was sorry to leave without a kite, but with limited room on the road I'll have to keep my new fascination in check until we're home.
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