Dungeness Spit to Dungeness Lighthouse

I didn’t know where the Dungeness Spit led to when I started walking it. I was just taking a weekend to explore Sequim, staying at the Seqium Bay Lodge (which is remarkably spacious and clean for the price, by the way).

On my second day in town, I cruised the back-country roads aimlessly for a while, got some books at the Seqium Library book sale, and  happened upon the Dungeness Spit.

I parked, paid a whopping three dollars, and started walking…and walking…and walking…

It turns out that the Dungness Spit is five-miles long. You get a good view of the spit as you descend down to the coastline, but (for me, anyway) it was hard to gage how long it actually was.

Stack of rounded stones in foreground with Mount Baker in background.
Some people complain about these rock stacks in natural places, but I find them pretty cool. Here they made for a neat visual.

The grade of the Dungness Spit is level but made a bit more challenging than a typical five-mile-walk by the sand and cobbles, which shift under your feet as you go. I hiked back during high tide and there was still plenty of room to walk, though the angle of the walk becomes more extreme as you’re forced towards the middle of the spit.

I have no idea, however, if it’s always safe to hike at high tide, and anyone going there should check that out for themselves. There are some enormous pieces of driftwood on the spit, and I imagine it’d be a bad day to get caught out there when one of them slammed into you.

There weren’t a great deal of people on the Dungeness Spit as I hiked. I’m not sure if that’s normal, or if it’s because I was there in October when the weather normally isn’t suitable for a long walk. I got lucky, because the weather was perfect.

Things to Do at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

As it turns out, the Dungeness Spit leads to the Dungeness Lighthouse. The lighthouse and its grounds are maintained in their originals state as a historical site, but the lighthouse is also still functional. Volunteers stay in the guest quarters and give free tours. They’ll take you to the top of the lighthouse tower.

One thing I’d want to say as a heads up to anyone thinking of making the trip is to remember that the Dungeness Spit is completely exposed to the elements. I imagine the walk would be somewhat miserable on a blustery day, unless you’re the sort of person who enjoys getting blasted by the elements that way (and if you are shoot me a line because we’d get along just fine).

This is definitely a trip I plan on doing again. It’s a nice walk with some beautiful views. You’ve got Sound and mountains surrounding you in a circle as you go.

It’s one of those experiences that makes me love the Pacific Northwest. The Dungeness Lighthouse joins Point Robinson Light as my favorite lighthouses in the state of Washington.

Ducks: Nature’s Great Generalists

Walking around Olympia’s Capitol Lake, blissfully unaware that less than half-a-mile away police were launching canisters of tear gas at protesters, I found myself watching a file of ducks standing on a fallen tree. As I studied them, heads tucked slightly under their wings to shelter from the wind, it occurred to me what utterly odd animals they are.

They look like footballs with heads. Their only defense is their rounded little beaks. Their stubby legs are comically insufficient. In the air, they’re nowhere near as fast or agile as hawks, eagles, or owls. Their swimming is woefully sub-par compared to seals, otters, and, of course, fish.

Aberdeen, Washington: Not the Lying-Down Kind

Yet, somehow, some way, ducks are a fantastically successful species. They’re everywhere, and in large numbers. That’s when it occurred to me that ducks are nature’s great generalists. They aren’t great anywhere, but they’re pretty good everywhere.

Ducks can swim pretty good. They can fly pretty good. They can handle the land pretty good. The only thing they’re really great at is being ducks. This is their real super-power: they’re pretty good everywhere.

As a fan of generalization, and as a man who isn’t fond of the hyper-specialization that is favored in modern society, my respect for the duck elevated tremendously as I realized the true wonder of their success.

Mallard duck swimming in water.

If you were to line up every animal species in the world and show them to a blind panel of judges who had never encountered Earth life before, no one would pick the duck to thrive the way it has.

The only reason we don’t realize how ridiculous ducks look is because they’re so dang successful that they are ubiquitous. We’ve been seeing them consistently since we were kids. They’re just part of the background noise at this point.

But, seriously, look at them…really sit down and look at them. They’re absurd, like one of creation’s inside jokes.

That’s part of the reason they’re so lovable, I believe, and why they amuse us so much when we take the time to observe them. They’re strange accidents of the animal world. They’re also wildly successful despite their supposed absurdity.

I texted this observation to my brother, who got a laugh out of it. So, I figured maybe it’d be an entertaining thought to share with you all, as well. That’s all.

Keep Northwesting, friends.

Hidden Treasures of Tumwater Historical Park

Music History Done Right: Peter Blecha and Sonic Boom

Any second-rate hack can mash a group of facts together into a book. Fortunately, Peter Blecha is no such hack, and Sonic Boom is no such book.

Blecha’s Sonic Boom: The History of Northwest Rock, from “Louis Louie” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit daisy-chains the stories together into one cohesive narrative. From Richard Berry to grunge, Blecha shows how each artist and each artist’s era flowed into the next, borrowed from the past, and built something brand new.

I read music history books on the regular. Glancing over to my bookshelf right now I see Waging Heavy Peace (Neil Young), Songs in the Key of Z, Bruce (Springsteen), and Testimony (Robbie Robertson)…among others.

As someone with such an absurd number of music books, I can say that Blecha’s Sonic Boom is one of my very favorites, and not just because I live in the Northwest, nor because I came of age in the grunge era. It’s just a damn good book.

After reading Sonic Boom, I realized that Nirvana and grunge didn’t erupt out of a vacuum. The Northwest music scene has always been categorized by a gritty individualism. It’s got a garage-rock heart, and it’s always had a garage-rock heart.

Aberdeen, Washington: Not the Lying-Down Kind

Now, when I listen to Louie Louie, I hear its premonitions of Smells Like Teen Spirit, and when I listen to Smells Like Teen Spirit, I hear the ghost-strings of Louie Louie. As a lover of history, that is the thing that I most appreciate about Blecha’s work.

In examining the Northwest musical currents, Blecha reveals the heart of the whole region. It’s this glowering, laughing thing in wet overalls covered in wood chips. It’s got a brilliant smile full of missing teeth. It’s carved out of granite and fog and sewn together with train rails.

You can’t get what the book’s got to give simply by looking up the individual parts on Wikipedia. I sound like a car salesman but I don’t know Blecha and this isn’t content marketing. It’s just how I feel.

Blecha’s a real writer in an age of hacks (this includes me). Read his book. It’s a good one.

Northwest Nuggets: Nirvana Becomes Nirvana at the Tacoma Community World Theater

On March 19, 1988, Nirvana played under the name Nirvana for the very first time. This historic moment didn’t happen in Seattle, nor even in Aberdeen—it went down at the Community World Theater in Tacoma.

Before going by their new name, Nirvana went by Ted Ed Fred, Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew, and Bliss (which is intriguingly similar to the term “nirvana”). You can see all these names listed on the poster promoting the event.

Thankfully, the Community World Theater event was recorded—a feat that wasn’t nearly as ubiquitous in 1988 as it is today. You can hear the whole show on the Youtube video below.

For a whopping five dollars, people were given the privilege of participating in music history—even if they didn’t realize it at the time. Who could have known that grunge was about to explode out of the then-remote Pacific Northwest?

The Community World Theater recording has the best “Big Cheese” version I’ve ever heard—EVER. In these pre-Grohl days, the band sounded fantastic. It may be my imagination, but in some ways they sound tighter in this early show than they did after they went Big Time.

The band they opened for was named Lush (if anyone out there has more info on this band, I would LOVE to hear it). There were also other “special guests to be announced.”

The Community World Theater was located at 5441 South “M” Street, from 1987 to 1988. I’m working on finding people who were there. If any of you happen upon this blog, please do contact me.

I’ve found good coverage of the Community World Theater at Nirvana Legacy. The best resource I know of, though, is at Mike Ziegler’s site.

I’m a freelance music journalist, and I would be sincerely grateful and interested to talk to anyone who was at this particular show or even just the Community World Theater in general. So, if you, dear reader, happen to be such a person, please do let me know.

Thanks, friends. Keep Northwesting.

Nomad

Getting High With Pacific Parasail

No, not that kind of high, you heathens. Weed may be legal in Washington state for the time being, but that’s not the Northwest Nomad’s thing. The kind of high I’m talking is 1,000 feet above the Puget Sound with the excellent folks at Pacific Parasail.

On a beautiful September day we boated out from the Ruston Way Ram and onto the open water of the Puget Sound. Half the fun of the Pacific Parasail trip, by the way, is the boat ride. You get fantastic views of the Ruston waterfront (I was unable to spot the terrible, mysterious bike, however), Point Defiance, and the area about Thea’s Park.

Parasail lifting up behind a boat on the Puget Sound.

There were six of us in the boat, which I believe is maximum capacity for each trip. Going up by ones or by twos, we took turns spending about 10–15 minutes in the parasail.

You can opt for 600 (roughly as high up as the Seattle Space Needle) or 1,000 feet high. I opted for 1,000. It’s only ten dollars more, and I figured if I’m going to do it then I might as well do it all the way.

The boat moves fast, but you feel almost stationary up in the parachute. Only when we were first going out from the boat and then when we were nearly back on it did I  feel like we were moving quickly.

Tacoma Budget Trip: Point Defiance Park

The views from up high are incredible. I also enjoyed just chilling out in the boat while the others went up. All in all, it’s about an hour on the water, though I assume that’s dependent on how many people are in the boat.

The two guys running the boat were funny and entertaining.

I’m not sure if the experience was the sort of thing I’d want to do again, but I’m glad I did it once. It’s a chance to see Tacoma in a whole new light, and it’s invigorating.

I’ve parachuted many times, and while I wouldn’t say this experience was anywhere that much of a thrill, it definitely gets the blood going. The adrenaline rush is almost certainly dependent on the previous life experiences of each person. One of the women on the boat had never done anything of this sort and was ecstatic when she came down.

If you’re looking for a new experience in Tacoma, give Pacific Parasail a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.

(All Northwest Nomad posts are honest accounts of the Northwest Nomad’s experiences. I’m not affiliated with Pacific Parasail in any way. I paid for my trip like any other customer.)