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Physical State of Matt #1: WASHINGTON

I started my trip in the easiest state - the one I was already living in. Despite having lived in Vancouver, WA for six months, I hadn’t explored the state much. Washington felt like a good place to start in February. Maybe it’s residual Stockholm Syndrome from growing up in Ithaca, but I love the Pacific Northwest in winter - it’s damp, moody, and lush. 


My first stop was Snoqualmie, where they shot Twin Peaks back in the early 90’s. Twin Peaks was the first TV Drama that I truly connected with. It was intriguing, surreal, and starred a host of stunning young women - Sherilynn Fenn, Laura Flynn Boyle, Sheryl Lee, Joan Chen, Madchen Ameck, and later Heather Graham. Sue me, I was fourteen. 

Visiting Snoqualmie had been a fucket list item since moving to the PNW, and I’m glad I finally did it. I saw the iconic waterfall with The Great Northern Hotel (Snoqualmie Falls & Salish Lodge & Spa) the Sheriff’s Station and Sawmill (now DirtFish, a rally car company), the R&R Diner (Twede's Cafe)and Ronette’s Bridge (now a paved over bicycle path).  For more on the personal significance of Twin Peaks, see my other post


I stopped the first night in Port Angeles, which is just across the Salish Sea from Canada, and one of the entry points into the Olympic National Park. Trying to be budget-conscious, I got a room at the Super 8 Motel along the 101, which smelled like a wet dog.

I departed first thing in the morning with Sol Duc Falls & Hot Springs my first destinations, just a short 30 minutes away. Within the first few minutes of the drive, I had to slam on my brakes to allow a herd of about 40 elk cross the road in front of me. Just a short way further up the road, a bald eagle burst out of the brush alongside the road. It's amazing how big they are in person.

Sol Duc means “sparkling water” in Quileute. Turning down Sol Duc Road, I found the park entrance closed. A passing ranger informed me that the road & the springs were closed for the season, but if I wanted to see the falls I could bike the 14 miles up the road.

Daunted, but not defeated, I parked my car and took my bike off its rack - this was why I brought it! I hadn’t budgeted the time for a 28 mile bike ride in the rain, but I figured I’d “Yes, and…” the situation and go for it. Roughly a mile in, I was already soaked to the bone and my hands were going numb. For whatever inane reason, I had decided not to pack my rain gear on this trip. Deciding against hypothermia, I pedaled back to the car. Sol Duc would have to wait for a future trip. 

It turns out no amount of adventurous spirit can overcome not having the right equipment. I pulled into the first outdoor outfitters I saw in Forks and got some new rain gear. 


I love mosses - not in a curious, nerdy way like I read all about them, but aesthetically. There is something comforting about a thick blanket of dank moss. Weird, I know - maybe it’s my Welsh roots. 

For a moss lover, the Hoh Rainforest is a mecca. It’s one of the largest temperate rainforests in the US, which has earned its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and one of the 7 wonders of Washington State. 

The Trail of Mosses is less than a mile long, but it showcases one of the most incredible collections of epiphytes (plants growing on plants) you can see. Half a dozen trees have fallen across the path. Most of these had been cut by rangers to allow people to pass, but one had fallen so recently I had to clamber over it to complete the hike. Another fallen tree along the path had a root ball more than 12 feet wide. 

Atop all of these fallen giants grew mosses, ferns, lichens, all manner of lush greenery - the forest was reclaiming its dead. 

It was like walking through a green fairy wonderland. The falling rain made a soft patter all around, and the small streams that crossed the path burbled gently, but other than that the forest was silent - all sound absorbed by these lush surfaces.


Continuing my drive around the park, I suddenly emerged from the forest to find a vast expanse of gray, tempestuous ocean along the horizon ahead. I pulled the first right into a parking lot, following a sign that said Ruby Beach. 

A short, winding path took me down to the shoreline, which was covered in massive pieces of driftwood - entire tree trunks strewn and stacked across the beach like a giant toddler’s discarded set of Lincoln Logs. Huge basalt formations rose from the roiling sea, frothy waves crashing against them.

As someone who lived in Southern California for over two decades, I can tell you with certainty - this was my kind of beach. After some exploration and quiet contemplation, I got back in the car on the way Olympia. 


I completed my circuit around Olympic National Park, stopping on the Quinault Indian Reservation for a late lunch during the Super Bowl, and arrived in Olympia after dark. 

Why did I pick Olympia? Apart from being the state capital, Olympia has ties to the American punk scene. It developed a grassroots punk movement in the 80s and 90s when it hosted the International Pop Underground Convention in 1991, and the first Yoyo a Go-Go festival in 1994.

Olympia birthed the Riot Grrl feminist punk movement in the early 90s which gave us such bands as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Jack Off Jill. Personally, my familiarity with it was from the Rancid song “Olympia, WA”, which came out in my late teens and has since been covered by dozens of artists. 

The punk & goth spirit lives on in pockets of Olympia like The Crypt Bar. The decor strikes a fine balance between demonic bordello and cult slasher film. The main room of the bar has an altar to a horned demon and a vintage autopsy table along the wall.

They host live bands, karaoke, and every Monday they do “Wonky Tonk”, an open jam session for any instrument and skill level. I was told that during the summer they get as many as 30 people playing at once. 

Being winter, Olympia was pretty dead in the evenings. Wednesday night I treated myself to a fancy Valentine’s Day dinner of surf and turf after which, suddenly and unexpectedly, the skies opened up and hit us with one of the wettest snow storms I’ve ever experienced. Giant, soggy flakes tumbled down and instantly melted when they hit the ground. The ground finally cooled overnight and two inches had accumulated by morning.


Tuesday afternoon I drove up to see the High Steel Bridge. Constructed in 1929 to transport logs out of the forest, it is the tallest railroad bridge constructed in the US, perched 365 feet above the Skokomish River. The bridge has since been paved over and is still used by logging trucks. The views were absolutely dazzling, and I managed to get there right at sunset on one of the few days I spent in Washington when the sun came out.

In our modern litigious society, it’s rare to see something that hasn’t been dummy-proofed to the nth degree, and the prospect of pitching right off the edge of the High Steel Bridge is very real. The side with the walking path has a railing about 4 feet high, but on the road side, which you can walk on, the railing only came up to my knees. It's a good thing I’m not afraid of heights.

After the bridge, I drove directly to Seattle for drinks with coworkers and dinner with my cousin, Scotty. In the handful of times I’ve visited Seattle I’ve never vibed with it, though I couldn't explain why. That said, It was great to commiserate with colleagues on the state of our company post-acquisition.

I always enjoy time with Scotty and joke with friends that he is my “Mini-Me”. Despite having different parents and upbringings, he is without a doubt my brother from another mother. We enjoyed a dinner of Hama Hama oysters at The Walrus & Carpenter, and caught up for the first time in months. 

Wednesday I trekked up to see Rocky Brook Falls, which had been highly recommended, coincidentally driving past the Hama Hama Oyster Farm.

I have always loved waterfalls, so growing up where the slogan is “Ithaca is Gorges” must have made a mark. Rocky Brook Falls did not disappoint. I sat for a while listening to water roar down into a pool that looked like it would be great for swimming in the summer. 

Friday morning I started packing up the Airbnb for an early Saturday departure. In an idiotic display of peak irony, while lifting the weight set I had brought to strengthen my back and keep it limber, I tweaked my back...

My visit to Washington was a full and exciting week. I got the chance to see many wondrous natural beauties, visit with friends and family, and kick this trip off with a great first state. My time was very full, but in some of the calm moments toward the end of the week I got my first taste of the quiet loneliness I'm sure I will get much more of as the weeks & states go by.

Yes, and...



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