Visited: July 16, 2019
I write Adventure, when I should really write “Adventure,” the quotation marks being a necessary qualifier to this trip. While there were no overt disasters, there was a snafu or two, the ill-boding omens, the minor upsets.
But for now, let’s talk about the first leg of our journey around the Olympic Peninsula, a pit stop for lunch at Griffiths-Priday State Park. Picture it: Hot, middle of the day, a small grassy expanse covered in prickly things, which immediately got stuck in Gambit’s paws. Our Blue Heeler cousin has notoriously delicate feet, and he isn’t at all thrilled to have them handled. He would rather stand outside in a hurricane than endure the requisite paw-drying required to come inside on rainy days.
Griffiths-Priday is a short drive north of Aberdeen, and while it doesn’t boast a lot of amenities (beside a woman’s restroom where someone had thrown up in BOTH of the sinks. Both!), it’s an easy enough walk to the beach.
Upon exiting our vehicle, we were immediately greeted by the chittering of Eagles, which Dallas with her super vision immediately spotted, the pair perched high in a tree.
Due to the amazing communication skills of our family, we split up with the dogs and Dallas and me going one way, walking all the way around where the Copalis River bends to reach the beach, while everyone else went the opposite direction, where there’s a bridge and apparently some otters.
We took the brushy, less-traveled path, and were rewarded with the sight of two Great Blue Herons wading in the bend of the Copalis river.
There was something qualitatively different about this beach than the others I’ve visited before at Long Beach and Twin Harbors. More diverse wildlife, clear warm water that glittered with grains of sand. A perfect cloudless day.
Let me repeat: A perfect cloudless day. Spoiler alert, but this was to be the last we would see of the sun for the rest of the trip.
I think of arriving at the Pacific Ocean as approaching another world. The sea as a different country, a different planet, even, forbidding, foreign, not a world made for my unwebbed feet and oxygen-loving lungs. It is a far cry from my world of land. Even though that land is webbed with rivers and spotted with lakes. they always offer, usually within sight, the guarantee of solid ground, the shore.
The beach is a kind of limbo between these worlds, the terrestrial and the aquatic. This liminal space is the place where boundaries blur, where Shore Pine and scrub grass surrender to sand and bleached driftwood, shorebirds and sand dollars. Crabs molt and throw their detritus up on the land; we, in carelessness, throw much worse back.
The beach is a kind of truce between riptides and trash, between the fume laden breath of cities and the merciless salt breeze. The ocean can only think of us as a species come to plunder and pollute, while we keep a wary eye on the trespasses of the sea, the foam-white tsunamis and brewing hurricanes.
The beach is the place where, if we are willing, we can listen to the song of the ocean, we can discourse with its secrets.
We didn’t spend very long at the beach, but its wonders were not lost. We approached a carcass in the sand where crows were feeding. A lone eagle stood sentry nearby on a piece of driftwood. While I immediately took the body for some sea monster, my sister reasonably pointed out that it was a seal, long picked over, white ribs gleaming.
The eagle flew off and landed on a far sign, which turned out to be the direction we needed to take to return to our car. Like some sort of mystic guide, it stayed perched on the sign until we were too close for comfort before flying off for good.
I eagerly scanned the river for otters, but none were visible. We returned to our car, avoiding the field of prickles, and set off for the next part of our journey.
Next ON: Wherein we learn “The Rainforest” is the most literal name in the book.