We have nothing but time on our hands. It’s an odd predicament after owning a farm the past 14 years. We aren’t accustomed to this kind of idleness and since we’re still waiting to move into our new house (T minus three weeks and counting), the situation can sometimes be a little vexing, particularly for Former Farmer John. Without a farm to work or a garden to putter around in, unless we make some sort of plans otherwise, he tends to mostly wander the house with a pained expression on his face.
The happy consequence of our current dilemma is that it has forced us to explore. While we would have checked out the local attractions regardless of our housing situation, doing so wouldn’t have held the same urgency if we’d been busying ourselves with the chore of unpacking. As impatient as we are to move to the new house, at least we’ve had more opportunity to experience some of the beauty this area has to offer.
And oh my, it offers a lot.
After hiking through some truly lovely state parks nearby, we’ve recently branched out a tad farther, both to the Olympic National Forest (one hour away) and the Olympic National Park (an hour-and-a-half). It sometimes seems as if each hike is more astounding than the next, until we look back on a prior adventure and recall how it took our breaths away, as well. It’s a bit overwhelming. In fact, during our latest hike along Lake Crescent in the Olympic National Park, after we’d begun our ritual oohing and aahing over the magnificence of it all, John declared he almost couldn’t stand any more beauty. He claimed he needed something to ground him, to bring him back to reality.
“I think I need to go visit a landfill,” he sighed.
Soon after, we rounded a bend leading to a clearing with a foot bridge connecting either side of the trail. It was plenty enough to make John forget what he’d just said. Rather than complain about too much grandeur, he snapped a picture instead.
As difficult as it was to leave that spot, we continued on for a while until we felt it prudent to turn around and trek back to the car. When we once again encountered this bridge, we were alarmed to come upon two empty beer cans — one floating in the water out of arm’s reach, the other wedged against the metal railing. John picked that one up, crushed it and stowed it in our cooler bag.
We were horrified. And adding insult to injury was the brand of beer: Coors Light. No personal affront to any Coors Light fans out there, but c’mon, really? The Pacific Northwest is famous for its craft beers. (Not that two discarded empty bottles of Elysian would have been any better, but still.) Then to make matters worse, a few more paces past the bridge I spotted a smoldering cigarette butt.
The grisly discovery of these items was John’s landfill, of course.
He quickly realized he hadn’t wanted to see something so ugly after all. And although we never ran across the perpetrators of this heinous crime against nature (apparently they walked only far enough to down their beers at the bridge and casually toss aside the remains before turning back), I despised them more and more as John and I trudged back to the trailhead. I have a tenuous relationship with my overall opinion of mankind as it is. This event just about put me over the edge for good.
Fortunately, the Rhody Festival was right around the corner. Rhododendrons are the Washington state flower, and right now they’re at their peak. We stopped at a nursery specializing in Rhody varieties not long ago and John was kind enough to model with one of my faves.
It’s no wonder Port Townsend devotes an entire week to honoring the flower. The first event we attended was the Pet Parade,
after which we wandered down to Memorial Field for opening day of the Funtastic Carnival.
Later that evening, the server at our favorite restaurant confessed that she doesn’t bother with this carnival. Too small for her taste. (“It’s not nearly as nice as the one in Puyallup!”) We found it adorable, however. From the smattering of rides to the barkers coaxing people over to a handful of games with chintzy stuffed animal prizes, it was so reminiscent of the small-town carnivals we’d each grown up with. Ditto the four pre-teen boys bopping each other with giant inflatable sledgehammers while stealing furtive glances at a group of middle school girls standing close by, worrying over their hair and outfits.
The culmination of the festivities was Saturday afternoon’s Rhody Parade. John, along with hundreds of others, had set up a couple chairs on the sidewalk earlier that morning to hold our spot. Once seated for the procession, we weren’t disappointed. For almost two hours, we were treated to multiple high school marching bands, as well as the Shiners, classic cars, bicyclists, acrobats, bagpipe players in full Scottish regalia and, of course, the floats, beginning with the one carrying this year’s Rhody Queen and her Court.
Even the Port Townsend steam punks made their way down the parade route.
And as if that wasn’t sufficient celebration for one day, immediately following the parade was the free Cake Picnic down by the waterfront.
They’d made enough cake to treat 1600 hundred people to a slice. One of the local farms donated 300 eggs for the event, which also included a volunteer DJ who played music for the crowd. Almost everyone was dancing.
Imagine someone coming up with the idea: “What can we do as an after-party once the parade is finished?”
“How about giving everybody free cake?”
Cake. I thought it was brilliant and charming and wonderful. Pretty tasty, too.
As we walked home, we spotted the bagpipe band playing some tunes at a street corner. I have to admit it: I love bagpipes. We crossed over to listen, and stood transfixed.
They ended their free impromptu concert with a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, a song when performed with bagpipes nearly always brings a tear to my eye. It was no different that evening.
Maybe most of mankind isn’t so bad after all.