Life rolls on here on Orcas . . . if a little slower than most other places. Since I last wrote a lot has happened. We’ve managed to worm our way into some circles of cool people. Of course, this always makes us happy as we’re both pretty social beings. That being said, it wasn’t terribly difficult. People on the island are remarkably friendly and seemingly always open to making new friends. What is perhaps a bit surprising is the amount of folks that live here whose ages and experiences are roughly congruent with our own. We’ve also routinized our workout schedule and managed to make a foray out to parts unknown (or unknown to me, anyway). But work always calls and there’s always more to do.
Running the Lakes
When we initially arrived on the island we were going to try and run five days a week. That doesn’t sound terribly ambitious when you don’t have to go in to work each day . . . but we found it somewhat onerous. Or, perhaps, I should say that it was a bit too much. Rachel also heaped 1.5 hours of yoga on top of the 1 hour run each day while I read the morning news and consumed my requisite mason quart jar of coffee. So, in an attempt to reach a happy medium, we settled on three days a week running, two days a week yoga, and the weekends off. Of course, I wasn’t too terribly put out with this new schedule as it allowed me two days a week for uninterrupted news-reading-in-the-morning time (my favorite time).
When we first started running we took the trail around Cascade Lake. It’s a 2.7 mile loop that is moderately hilly – nothing crazy like the 1000 foot swells we encountered while hiking around Rainier in August. The trail was great and after a couple of weeks we managed to get around it in about 30 minutes – perhaps a bit less. But it wasn’t enough. We heard tale of another lake in the vicinity that might provide a bit more rigor and better sightseeing . . . so we ventured to Mountain Lake. Mountain Lake proved to be the perfect run; about four miles, lots of great scenery and some pretty sweet spots to swim (well, before October arrived, anyway). I particularly love running it in the morning. We usually arrive at the trailhead around 8 or 8:30 and set off. As the seasons have shifted over the past couple of weeks, the swimming is out of the question but the run
is getting a lot cooler. In fact, this week after our first soaking rains of the season there has been a remarkable amount of foggy mist that blows this way and that off the water. I’ve really enjoyed running it first thing in the morning – it feels a lot like I’m running through some amazing version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow set in the Pacific NW. Pretty sweet. Anyhow, the running is good for the psyche and helps me keep from feeling too fidgety when the work days go long. Not really getting super fit at 15 miles a week . . . but definitely feeling the better for it.
Island Hoppin’ Brews & Bands
When we moved to Orcas I remember thinking, “Why doesn’t an amazing island like this have its own brewery? Seems like a perfect place to brew and consume beer!”. Well, that is now a reality. Rachel and I headed down a few weeks back to the grand opening of
Island Hoppin’ Brewery. We’d been looking forward to the event as we both figured it’d be a good chance to meet some of the local beer drinking young folk and might even be a place to see a decent band or two. We were definitely correct. The brewery is run by three 30-somethings that are really great folks. Becca and Jim pulled the taps all night for a CRAZY BIG crowd (I had no idea this many people lived here, much less could be found in one place), offering tasty glasses of Madrona Red as well as a very nice IPA (HOORAY). Rachel and I returned a week or so later and found that the kind folks from our local Maple Rock Farm brought their pizza truck out and were baking pizzas on-site. A great time was had by all (as is evidenced by Rachel’s sweet dance moves!)
The first night at Island Hoppin’ was also where I made my first island friend . . . but more on that later.
The Haunted Mansion (or not)
The night after the Island Hoppin’ brewery grand opening there was a party at what Rachel and I thought was a grand haunted mansion. We’d actually been invited a couple of weeks before when we went out to dinner at Allium for our one year dating anniversary. Our server had mentioned that we should come out to a party at “the mansion” on XXX beach road. The only “XXX beach” road that Rachel and I knew of is the small one that heads in to Eastsound. On that road is a really creepy, somewhat
dilapidated house that we were pretty excited to go and poke around – especially with Autumn coming on. So, we went into town first to get some cash for the beer that was putatively on tap at the party. Luckily we stopped to fill the growler at the Island Hoppin’ brewery and discovered that the place we first intended on going was certainly not having a party; rather, the party was located on another road that ended in “beach” (shocking, I know, when you live on an island). We parked the car at the dog park and walked down to discover a rather formal, but terribly festive, shindig replete with bands, some free beer, and food from the kind folks at Fire BBQ. After watching a band or two (kinda jazzy/bluesy stuff I wasn’t terribly keen on) we went into the house to see another band. That band was my friend Wally’s quasi-postrock outfit. Wally played the tuba in the place of the bass and Matthew
played on the drums. We really enjoyed the show and left remarking about the rather impressive amount of cultural goings-on Orcas had most weekends. I think what surprised us most was that in that single weekend in September we went to more shows, met more people, and had more really interesting conversations that over the course of a couple of months in the ‘Cuse. Now, of course, some of that is the pressure of an active life in graduate school balancing teaching, coursework, projects, committee work, etc.,; however, Orcas obviously had a lot more lively a late 20s/early 30s scene than we had anticipated. I can’t even begin to remember all the folks that I met that night, but I did collect contact information from Wally and a fellow named Eric (who I subsequently learned is the bar manager at the lovely eco-resort called Doe Bay that is just down the way). All and all we were a bit put out that the party wasn’t located at the amazingly decrepit place on the way into town . . . but we had a great time nevertheless and met some cool folks that are quickly developing into good friends.
They Ain’t Called the Olympics for Nuthin’
The Duwamish peoples called the large mountains that extend out onto Washington’s westernmost reaches “Sun-a-do”, which translates to something like “thunderbird.” The regions first English explorer John Mears thought the range looked fit for the gods and gave the name “Mount Olympus” to the entire range (a misnomer to be sure as Mount Olympus stands at the center of the range and is one among many impressive peaks in the region). Whatever the name, the area that occupy the Northwestern corner of Washington is simply stunning.
Rachel and I managed a trip over to see the Olympics the first week of October as we were already heading down to Seattle to see Dirty Three play a show in Capitol Hill. I was tangentially familiar with the band through some of the music that Rachel had given me in the past year but was totally unprepared for the show itself. The violinist and lead Warren
Ellis was a riotous guide through our sonic journey . . . but the drummer Jim White was ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS. In all, the show was one of the best I’d seen in years and, despite Rachel noting that they weren’t necessarily super tight throughout their set (she has a much more trained ear for the band than I), I thought we certainly got our money’s worth.
Anyhow, after seeing the show and doing our monthly shopping down in Seattle for October we let out for the wilds of the Olympics. After travelling through Aberdeen (birthplace of Kurt Cobain) we headed north, eventually stopping to stay the night on Kalaloch Beach. We settled in, drank a few beers, and enjoyed the soft rhythm of the ocean waves as we drifted off to sleep. The next day was a real adventure. First, we stopped at the largest cedar tree I’ve ever seen in my life. Next we travelled up to the Makah Nation so we could see the most Northwestern point in the contiguous United States. Cape Flattery was a wonder – sitting right at the very mouth of the Straight of Juan de Fuca and mirrored on the Northern side by Vancouver Island, Canada, the cape is carved out of solid stone and looks out onto a breathtaking little island with a rather picturesque lighthouse. After visiting the cape we headed down to the border of the Makah nation and hiked in to Shi Shi Beach. Shi Shi was perhaps the most magical place I’ve ever camped in my entire life. The beach extends three miles, unbroken, until it reaches Point of Arches. Rachel and I were lucky that such a lengthy dry spell had settled in over the Northwest as we were able to gather and burn a large bonfire on the beach that evening. Before the sun set Rachel made a really great rendering of Gandalf the Wizard in the sand while I collected driftwood for an evening’s warmth. We had a small dinner and listed to the waves crash while talking some pretty heady stuff (I remember conversations about the cosmos, life on mars, etc.). We also stargazed a lot and were able to clearly see the Milky Way. All and all it was one of the most magical days and nights I’ve ever spent outside.
On Day 3 we got up and made our way to Sol Duc hot springs. We were (unsurprisingly) not impressed by the concreted in spot where folks paid 14 bucks to crowd in with the shirtless masses. After having a rather uninspiring dinner at the lodge we turned in. On Day Four we awoke, went on a pretty great hike through the rain forest around Lake Crescent and headed back to Seattle. I can’t wait until we have the opportunity to get over to the peninsula again – truly magical and a wonder . . . next time I want to return after it has rained a bit and the vegetation is plump with the moisture it so craves and is accustomed to receiving. You can check out the trip pics here:
Will You Quest Again?
I mentioned earlier that Rachel and I were beginning to meet some local folks on the island that we can hang out with from time to time. My friend Wally had a house party at his (soon-to-be-vacated) cabin last weekend and we were lucky enough to be invited. At the soirée we were lucky enough to meet a lot of new folks . . . which is all to the good; however, I am probably most excited about the plan that I was invited to be a part of for the Winter.
Obviously, there are long periods of the off-season here on island that are pretty quiet. The tourists leave, the weather makes a change for the wetter & colder, and the sun shines a little less. If you’re a (likely but not always) man of a certain age, this makes for the perfect evironment for gaming. Yeah, I said it, gaming. Wally had mentioned to me that he was interested in getting a game night going sometime soon and I was thrilled to learn that we wouldn’t be playing Risk or Monopoly; rather, as of this week, it looks like there will be an active Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign going over the Winter here on island. I know, you might role your eyes and paint me as a uber dork (Rachel recently asked, playfully, “What’s happening to you? Are you going to turn into a really overweight guy with long stringy hair, a black t-shirt, who listens to death metal and plays D&D all day long?), but I was really excited to learn that there are at least 5 or so dedicated players who are interested in cooperating over the Winter on a fantasy adventure. Of course, since graduate school started I haven’t really been able to game much but I’m thrilled at the opportunity. In all honesty, I felt a lot like my favorite Youtube personality boogie2988. My feeling for this new campaign is roughly analogous to his reaction to the recent WoW expansion:
Who Needs Work, Anyway? (this guy)
Well, that’s about it for this installment. I’m still desperately looking for work next year; hopefully here in the Northwest. If you know of any sweet rhet/comp jobs, shoot me a line. I’m returning to the dissertation this week after spending two weeks reworking an article for submission. It is sent . . . so now it’s time to go back to work. 🙂