A Day on the island, part 2

Posted by Ken Campbell August 7, 2008 0 Comment 583 views

There is only one way into the interior of Destruction Island, and it lies across the Bridge of Death. The last time I was here, our group climbed up the dirt cliffs and tried to find a way through the impenetrable underbrush, wich turned out to be impossible. This time, John and I approached the bottom of the old rail bridge on the rocks in the cove, hoping that it hasn’t decayed to the point that it will be unsafe to cross. (The “Bridge of Death” might be a bit too Hollywood, but there is definitely a hint of Indiana Jones in the air… all we need now is a crystal skull and a platoon of Nazis, and we’d have it all.)

The bridge, although it looks like it’s about to fall, is actually quite solid. The air beneath us grows as we climb to the island crest, but there is no swaying or any ominous cracking noises. When we get to the top, we have to scramble along the rusty tracks below the overhanging bushes. After twenty feet or so, we can stop crawling and proceed on two feet. There are little burrows in the dirt at one point, nesting sites that have been tagged by Fish and Wildlife personnel as part of a study. We pass by without disturbing them and soon we are standing on what was once the lawn in front of the lighthouse.

There is still grass here, but it has been a long time since the last mowing. Native shrubs and plants are reclaiming the space, but there is instantly a sense of how busy a place this must have once been. There are three large outbuildings in addition to the light itself. The circular tower that holds the light is an imposing structure, worn and in need of a new coat of paint, but still strong and tall. Overbuilt. But it would have to be that way out here.

We walk down the overgrown concrete pathway to the spot where the keeper’s quarters once stood. All that remains now are the twin concrete steps that used to lead to the main floor and a hole in the ground filled with rubble. The iron mat helipad is just to the side of the house site, rusting quietly into the island soil. There is a sense that everything that is still standing will eventually go the way of the house, and in time, the island will revert to the way it was before all the “improvements.”

We don’t stay long and we’re careful not to disturb the birds. Nesting season is over for most of them and there aren’t many to be heard here compared to the cacophany on the waters below. At a couple of points on our walk, we come across the decomposing remains of otter pups, little fur-clad skeletons the size of cats, that have been brought to the interior by eagles and eaten. There are parts of birds – wings, feather piles peppered with tiny bones – that bear testament to the fact that for some, Destruction Island lives up to its name.

We survive another traverse of the Bridge of Death and before long we are back at the boats again, gearing up to return to Ruby Beach. The cloud cover has lifted to the point that we can see the mainland, but it is still solid and gray overhead as we make our way back. Through the otter beds once more, then across open water to the beach. As we approach, we play among the last remaining offshore rock gardens, timing our strokes to catch swells that propel us through the gaps in the rocks, scooting past bony protrusions that look like they will stave in our kayaks, only to shoot past us harmlessly as we ride the power of the waves. We surf into the gravel beach and, just like that, it is over.

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