Travel is Wonder, and Wonder is Free

I grew up in a family that didn’t have much money, where everyone was constantly telling me that it was too expensive to go anywhere or do anything. Only when I got older did I realize what a bunch of bullshit that was, and only after that did I begin to see how many people around me were feeding their own heads with that exact same bullshit.

Look, I’m fully aware of how stressful being poor is. I’ve been there. But I’m even more acutely mindful of the fact that stress will just keep you locked in those stressful circumstances you are if you let it. It’ll become your epitaph. Your prison sentence. And that, my friends, is the ultimate bullshit.

There are many ways to get out of stress, but the one I want to talk about today is one that doesn’t get a lot of press: the act of cultivating a sense of wonder.

It’s tough to rationally explain how much this topic has me pumped up and pissed off right now. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with this post in my head. I scribbled it down right in the dark in the notebook I keep at my bedside. I realized in that moment that this is what Northwest Nomad was always supposed to be. It’s not just a travel blog. It’s a fucking mission to get people off their asses and out into the world with a fresh sense of life’s possibility, beauty, depth, and inspiration, because I remember what it felt like to have none of those things in my life.

I can’t stand all those travel blogs full of privileged pretties trumpeting the spiritual epiphanies they’re having in foreign locales and 10,000-star restaurants and bla bla bla. Those things piss me off because they make travel, wonder, and adventure seem like some inaccessible fantasy that the vast majority of people can’t hope to experience. That’s not what I’m about, and that’s not what Nomad is about.

Listen, I do big things like climb Mount Rainier and party in downtown Seattle, but that’s such a small part of life. For me, the adventure is out there every goddamn day, right on the streets and trails around me, just like it’s all around YOU if you’d just LOOK.

Do you realize that no morning is ever the same? Not even close. To say days are “foggy” doesn’t capture the totality of any given foggy day. Not if you’re really paying attention. There are different kinds of fog. Each one hugs the landscape just a little differently and smells a little differently and feels differently on your skin. No two rains are ever exactly the same. No two sunshines. No two breezes or snows. Every day is a once-ever-in-existence phenomenon, and that’s a fact.

Some part of you knows this, but you fight it or you deny it as something trivial. I’m writing this to tell you that it’s not trivial. To be washed over with wonder is to step outside yourself, outside your stress and fears. It’s goddamn transformational. It puts you in a state of expectation and optimism.

Wonder is what we really mean when we talk about travel. The trip is just the vehicle to get to wonder. And those big exotic trips are awesome, and I fully encourage everyone to go after them. But, in the meantime, finances should never be a reason to live separated from wonder and amazement.

That country road down the way; the road right outside your house; the train tracks and the marina; all of it, everything, is potentially wondrous if you’re willing to bring a sense of wonder to it.

I’m going to end up repeating myself, so just let me say, in this late-night-passion-borne post, that travel is just another word for wonder, and wonder is free.

Let me say that again more simply: travel is wonder, and wonder it free.

So get out there. Open that heart again. Open those eyes. See the moments and the spaces around you for the miracle they are feel how incredibly privileged you are to witness them. There’s beauty out there. There’s a world of wonder swimming in a sea of never-ending transformation.

Join it. Swim with it. Get out and drop the bullshit, my friends. That’s all I want to say. Get out there and take a deep breath, and take in that world around you and marvel at it.

Travel is wonder, and wonder is free, so drop the excuses and get travelling.

New Maury Island Incident Film Sheds New Light on an Old Legend

For me, one of the highlights of the UFO/Paranormal Conference at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino was their showing of The Maury Island Incident.

The film, now being shown on select dates around the Pacific Northwest, dramatizes one of the most fascinating events in Washington state history, and one of the most significant UFO events (or hoaxes, depending on where you stand on the issue) ever.

That event is known as the Maury Island Incident, and it just happened to be the event that spawned the “Men in Black” myth.

The event took place on June 21, 1947, just off the shore of Maury Island (same location as Point Robinson Lighthouse), which is just off Vashon Island, which itself is a short ferry ride from Tacoma‘s shore.

During the event that would come to be called the Maury Island Incident, Fred Crisman and Harold Dahl were working on a harbor patrol boat when six UFOs appeared in the sky.

One of the doughnut-shaped objects emitted a lava-like substance onto the boat. The impact of the substance killed the dog on board and broke a man’s arm. The men initially spoke about the event, but eventually the official story became that it was all a simple hoax cooked up to win the pair a spot in Fantasy magazine.

The new Maury Island Incident film, however, uses newly declassified FBI documents to make the case that the hoax claim was a lie made out of fear after Dahl and Crisman were harassed by unidentified men wearing black suits.

These “men in black” appeared to be unrelated to the FBI or the Air Force personnel also sent to investigate the situation. No one’s really sure who they represented.

If they were real, though, they managed to frighten two hardy Pacific Northwesterners enough that they destroyed their own reputations and said they’d been hoaxing everyone the whole time.

My purpose in this post isn’t to give away the new information contained in the film nor to fully recap the whole Maury Island Incident story, but instead to encourage readers to check out the film and the rest of the story.

The film is half-an-hour long and very well made, so much so that it can be enjoyed purely as a fictional movie, if the reader is not a UFO believer at all.

In the short space of 30 minutes, the movies packs in a whole lot of intrigue and emotion. I felt connected to the characters despite the relative brevity of the film and the broad scope of the events packed into that short time frame.

It’s well worth checking out, whether you’re a devout believer, a devout non-believer, or just someone interested in one of the most fascinating, iconic events in Washington state history.

 

A Visit to Point Robinson Light

Point Robinson is the Kind of Place People Call Cute

Listen, friends, I do not use the word “cute.” As far as I’m concerned, such a word has no place in any self-respecting nomad’s vocabulary. However, as I visited Point Robinson on Maury Island, I was fully aware it was the kind of place that many people, most of them women, would happily call “cute.”

That’s fine and good, by the way. Nothing wrong with “cute.” It’s just not a word I’d use, so I’m saying it through saying what other people would say. Dig?

Point Robinson: it’s cute…but I’m not the one who said it.

For my two cents, Point Robinson is interesting and relaxing. This is an easy trip and an opportunity to see a lighthouse up close, as well as to learn a little history.

Point Robinson: Providing Light Since 1885

Point Robinson has been operating since 1885. It’s located on the east shore of Maury Island, which is itself located just off Vashon Island, which can be accessed by ferry at Point Defiance Park. You drive from Vashon onto Maury, so no further ferrying is required.

In addition the “cute” (as others would call it, not me) lighthouse itself, Point Robinson has hiking trails, a long and walkable sandy beach, saltwater marsh (for the bird lovers), and woods. This also happens to be the spot at which I witnessed some of the biggest banana slugs I’ve ever seen.

A short walk from the lighthouse are the Keeper’s Quarters, which is basically the house in which the lighthouse keeper used to live (the lighthouse was fully automated in 1978). You can also rent boating supplies there.

According to Point Robinson website, they give ours mid-May to mid-September. I have never taken those tours myself and so can’t offer any personal information to you, dear readers. However, I can also say that I see no reason to doubt their proficiency!

I’m embedding a Google Map to lead you to the site if you choose to check it out. Robinson is a nice little day trip, and a good addition to any visit to Vashon Island, which is a place so charming that it’s unofficial motto is “Keep Vashon Weird.”

Weird…I can deal with that. “Cute,” on the other hand, I’ll leave to the good graces of others.

UFO/Paranormal Summit at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino

On my way out of the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino after day 1 of the 2018 UFO/Paranormal summit, a young casino employee jokingly warned me to be careful. “Don’t get abducted on the way to the car,” he said with a snicker and a wink at his coworker.

I didn’t take the mockery personally, because I was there as a tourist of the UFO/Paranormal world, not a true member. It was a taste, however, of what “experiencers” (the name used to designate those that have directly experienced UFO contact) and general paranormal enthusiasts alike have to put up. And you know what? It’s a bunch of crap. Those UFO/Paranormal “nutters” are some of the best people you’ll ever meet.

The truth of the matter is that I went to the summit hoping to see a bunch of weird, eccentric people. The truth is also that this article would be sure to get more “likes” and “claps” and shares if I pretended that was the case and exaggerated the people I met and made fun of them. I’m not going to write that, though, not only because it’s not true but also because, after hearing what they had to say, I’m one of them, damn it.

The people I met at the UFO/Paranormal summit were some of the friendliest, most curious, down-to-Earth (pun intended) people I’ve ever met. It was a pleasure to share the conference room with them.

UFO Summit menu, with picture of alien wearing a chef's hat.

I didn’t meet any fanatics. Really, considering the current political climate, where formerly rational people fly off the handle at anyone who slightly disagrees with them, these people were refreshingly open-minded and moderate in their views.

They also were unafraid to laugh at themselves. Stuffed aliens, a big cardboard cutout where you could put your face in the face of an alien in a disco suit, and funny images such as the one seen to the left were all over the conference room. These people know damn well how they’re perceived by the outside world, and they accept it. In fact, I’d say most of them seemed proud to have the courage to explore outside the mainstream. That’s the kind of folks I met.

The lectures and presentations were fun and fascinating. Wildlife biologist Joe Hauser, who also runs the Montana House of Mystery, was my personal favorite presenter. He discussed energy vortexes and the possible connection they may have to paranormal phenomenon, of which UFOs are now widely considered to be another part of. It’s a view that was also supported by Portland, Oregon science teacher and bigfoot researcher Thom Powell.

This is complex stuff that is too complicated to go into at length here, but I strongly recommend that anyone interested check out the fellows mentioned above, as well as physicist Jacques Vallee. The general idea they all play with is that there are porous spaces in the fabric of reality in certain places around the world, and the things we call “paranormal” come through these porous spaces occasionally.

If that hypothesis is right, then UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts, fairies, and all the myriad of other things we call “paranormal” are all actually part of the same phenomenon.

Some of the other presenters stuck with subjects that were more nuts-and-bolts types of things–the kind of simple “grey biological beings in metal spaceship” stuff you see in the X-Files.

Maureen Morgan, Washington state’s MUFON director, presented a very well-researched case to challenge the legitimacy of the recent government UFO disclosures. Morgan was passionately erudite in her presentation, slinging out referenced facts and biographies at breakneck speed. She practically had to be dragged off the stage, so caught up was she with this urgent need to get out what she had to get out.

Watching her, I decided that (1) she did indeed present some compelling information, and (2) she was the kind of person I wanted to hang out with, no matter if he ideas were right. She had real, earnest passion for her subject. How often nowadays do you find somebody like that? It was inspiring, to say the least.

So, I’m not going to give an extensive recap of the whole event here as it would take a few thousand words to do so. What I will say is that I had a great time at the UFO/Paranormal Summit, and I really look forward to hanging out with that crowd again.

In the meantime, I’ve got some research to catch up on. There be Bigfoot in them there hills, and the Northwest Nomad intends to find them.

Attack of the Giant Banana Slug!

There are few things in Washington state more majestic than the glorious banana slug. And yet…and yet…there are also few things more terrifying than that very same gigantic banana slug bearing down on you very, very, VERY slowly! Such is life, I suppose, a study in contrasts. A paradox, if you will. The very same slugs that inspire us to greater heights in life can also paralyze us with terror. It all depends on the context.

It’s kind of a Jacob’s Ladder deal. The angels are demons and the demons are angels all depending on how you view life. If you’re still reading, then truly I applaud your tolerance for weirdness.

Close up picture of the Pacific banana slug.
It’s coming to get you, Martha.

The Washington banana slug is more properly called the Pacific banana slug, which is more scientifically known as the Ariolimax columbianus. 

You can see these marvelously slimy creatures in many places in Washington state, but the majority of my sightings have come at various spots around the Olympic Peninsula, particularly in the Lake Quinault and the Hoh Rain Forest. Yes, those areas are veritable slime beds of these wondrous creatures.

The spot where I saw the monster you see in these photos, though, was on the trail to Point Robinson on Maury Island, just off Vashon Island.

A slug with a 3.5 inch long knife beside it. The slug is twice the length of the knife.
The knife next to this slug is 3.5 inches long.

It’s hard to capture the true scale of these animals on camera, but I’ve taken a picture with one stretched out next to my 3.5-inch-long (when folded) pocket knife. The specimen in the photo is actually not the biggest one I’ve seen (that’s what she said…sorry can’t resist).

Banana slugs aren’t always bright  yellow (as you can see here). Sometimes they are brown/green, and sometimes they even have black specks that can be pretty thick.

Obviously I’ve had a little fun with the giant slug thing here, but truthfully, these things are quite a sight if you happen upon one in the outdoors. They are HUGE. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated that such slow, harmless creatures can be so successful in an evolutionary sense. These things seem to be doing just fine in the Olympic rain forests.

Incredibly, there have actually been people who have eaten these things. The Yurok Indians and 19th/20th century German immigrants dined on them. While I have a fondness for the banana slug, you won’t catch me trying to find out how they taste. This much I can promise you.

Double Breasted Cormorants on a Rock in the Ocean Just off the Coast of Neah Bay

I caught sight of some double breasted cormorants hanging out on a rock in the savage waters of the inappropriately named “Pacific” Ocean. I found the image to be rather striking and fascinating in some aesthetic way that I can’t fully explain.

So, I then took pictures of the double breasted cormorants perched there on the rock out in the raging sea.

I’m arrogantly proud of those pictures…oh so arrogant, and oh so proud! And here I show those pictures off in all my arrogance and haughty, Godless pride! Look upon the visual grandeur with me, and wonder and awe!

Awe and wonder, my friends! Awe and wonder at this savage, tender world! Ha!

Three double breasted cormorants perched on a rock in the Pacific Ocean. Three double breasted cormorants perched on a rock in the Pacific Ocean. Three double breasted cormorants perched on a rock in the Pacific Ocean. Three double breasted cormorants perched on a rock in the Pacific Ocean.