Old places

Posted by Ken Campbell May 31, 2008 0 Comment 756 views

I have heard it said that it is not possible to step in the same stream twice. Meaning, as far as I can tell, that regardless how many times you do a certain thing or visit a certain place, it will always be new in some elemental way. You have changed; the stream has continued to flow. Time is a river. Whatever.

I am leaving tomorrow for Cape Flattery and the Olympic coast. I’m planning on a night at the cape, then moving further south for a two-night backpacking trip through the Ozette Triangle. I have never been to the ancient village site at the mouth of the Ozette River… I would like to see that.

It is always difficult to know what to expect. At least, when you travel somewhere you’ve never been before, there is a logic to that lack of insight. You can hardly be expected to know what lies around the corner if it’s a never-before-seen corner. Sometimes, however, it’s just as hard to predict what will happen in a situation with which you have some familiarity.

I have paddled the cape many times before. The little beach where I am planning on spending the night is a place I’ve stopped for years on day trips and overnight outings. Although the height of the tide has a lot to do with which of the caves will be accessible, I have been in all of them at some point. It is still thrilling to me, and the sheer beauty and perfection of the Cape Flattery coastline is reason enough to visit, but it is not like a step into the void. I’ve been here before. I wonder what will seem different to me this time.

Likewise, I’ve been to Cape Alava almost a dozen times now. At different times of the year, in sunshine and in storm, but always by kayak. Hiking in from Lake Ozette, on the boardwalk above Ahlstrom’s Prairie, following the beach paths between Cape Alava and Sand Point… this will be different. The tide will be low during the middle of the day while I’m there, so tidepooling and beachcombing may distract me at times. The rocky shore seems to stretch for miles near Cape Alava and Ozette Island. There is a lot to see. Wedding Rocks, the petroglyphs: I look forward to finally getting close to these. Their location is hard to pinpoint from a kayak, especially when the tide is low.

Every time I’ve been here it has been a very different experience. I have been to Cape Flattery with fifteen other kayakers, and I have paddled there solo. I have been ill on that little beach, alone, waking up on a clear sunny morning in March with a high fever. Packing my boat in a haze of pain, my head pounding and my breathing labored.

I have played with gray whales in the close-shore waters just south of the cape. Young whales that swim past my kayak quickly; older, more mature adults who spiral around my hull, pectoral fins waving in the air as they circle.

I have waited out a winter storm on Cape Alava. I remember one day, when the weather closed in and winds commenced to roaring through the tall firs and over the violent, seething water. There would be no kayaking on that day. Instead, I hiked the three-mile trail to the Ozette Ranger Station. Most of it is boardwalk – at least, that’s how I remember it – and it felt very strange to me to make the transition between wild Pacific coast and sheltered, quiet lake shore in such a quick and civilized fashion.

I’ve camped at Sand Point as well. Years ago. I remember when I stepped right over a Japanese glass fishnet float multiple times on my way between the campsite and the kayak. I never saw it, but my tracks went right past it. Jon, one of the other paddlers on the trip, saw it sitting among the kelp and jetsam and he was on it in a flash. He’d always wanted to find one too. I am still waiting to find mine. When I get back to Sand Point, I will look the beach over very carefully.

Even though I’ve been to these places before, I still don’t really know what to expect. Which is probably why I keep going back.

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