Hawaii’s West Kohala coast

Hawaii has lots of shore but not much beach. If you recall that the island is made of volcanoes, you can understand why sand is uncommon. It has to wash in from somewhere else, or form from the waves grinding up rock–a slow process. Usually a “beach” is rocky shore with a place to swim and snorkel. Some marked spots along the shore have parking areas, some have restrooms and picnic tables, and a few have patches of sand.

We are located at the northern tip of the Big Island in the center of the Kohala region. The west side of the island (leeward) is dry, and the east (windward) side gets most of the rain. In this post, I am going north to south along the west side of the island as I talk about our visits. There are so many places to stop and look at the shore that in almost a month, we haven’t gotten as far south as Kona. All the stops I mention here are in Kohala.

The beach at the end of Old Coast Guard Rd. is the closest to our house.

Old Coast Guard beach is all rocks.

There are similar rocky places along the coast marked “Shore Access.” Some, like Old Coast Guard beach, are merely a place where it is possible to clamber over rocks into the water. At Kapa’a Beach park, the next stop to the south, it’s not too difficult to get over the rocks and into the water, but slippery to get out.

At Mahukona Beach Park, the shore is rocky. This park has a large concrete slab and a ladder into the water; it’s my favorite snorkeling. There are lots of fish of different types and sizes. Amanda and Jim spotted an octopus and watched it change color from the dark of the rocks to the pale tan of the sand.

This is me snorkeling at Mahukona Beach Park
Partially devoured, but still big, shave ice.

There is a gap of several miles to Spencer Beach. We spent a day on the sand at Spencer Beach, snorkeling along the section of reef just offshore. We didn’t get to walking the path through the adjacent Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic site (traditional Hawaiian monuments from the era of King Kamehameha) until another day. Fortunately, just north of the beach is Kawaihae and the tiny strip mall with Anuenue Shave Ice and Ice Cream. It’s a tiny window with excellent ice cream (chocolate macnut anyone?), and shave ice of myriad flavors and colors. You can get a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center of your shave ice, and a snowcap of sweetened condensed milk on top. It’s a huge shot of sugar–there are no small sizes.

In the resort area of Waikoloa we tried for a parking spot in the public access area for Mauna Kea beach. Mauna Kea is a sprawling resort, some say the best along this part of the coast. Though the resort is required to provide public access, it is allowed to limit the number of cars that can park, and a guard turns away visitors when no spaces are left. Perhaps we’ll try another day. Hapuna Beach Park is nearby and has a sandy beach along with rocks.

Still in the resort area, we found 49 Black Sand Beach, where the parking was free and the snorkeling was excellent. Amanda found us a sea turtle to watch as it browsed along the bottom, hanging on to coral with one flipper and pushing its head in among the formations to nibble on green things.

49 Black Sand Beach is the southernmost we’ve visited for swimming and snorkeling, on the day Amanda and Jim were leaving. We stopped at Snorkel Bob’s Mauna Lani store to return their rented gear, and got poke bowls for lunch from the Foodland opposite.

School of yellow tang, Kealakokua Bay, Hawaii (Wikimedia photo)

There are even more “beaches” all along the west coast of the Big Island, and we could spend a lot longer than a month visiting them. For now, we’re pretty happy to find a beach with good snorkeling an eight minute drive from our house. The photo at the top of this post shows a large group of yellow tang (fish) just under the surface at Mahukona Beach Park. The internet photo here shows yellow tang fish with an underwater camera.

Around the Volcano: Kilauea

Volcanoes National Park is on the must-see list of every visitor to the Big Island, though since early 2021, there has been no red lava to be seen, not even a red glow after dark. Still, everyone wants to see a massive volcano. Our visit was a big expedition because we are staying at the opposite end of the island. It would be difficult to find a place farther from the park than Hawi.

Everyone knew it would be a long ride. We drove the Saddle Road that cuts across the Big Island, where vast tracts of dry ranchland turn into vast areas of green grassland as the climate shifts from the dry leeward side of the island where we are located to the wetter windward side.

At the Visitors Center we confirmed our route along the edge of the crater, starting at the overlook of Kilauea, then on to the new overlook at the Halema’uma’u crater. We saw the white tailed tropicbirds that live inside the Kilauea crater soaring across a background of black lava. It is difficult to comprehend the size of the volcano. Only the now-abandoned museum sitting on the edge of a cliff that was once many yards from the edge shows how unexpected were the effects of the 2018 eruption, despite the fact that the volcano had been active constantly since 1983. The past year is unusual in having NO red lava for visitors to observe.

The steam vents were the most entertaining part of the day once I determined that the steam comes from rainwater and not volcanic vents. That is, the steam doesn’t contain sulfuric acid, as volcanic vapors do. When Jonathan decided to stand in the steam I could stay calm.

Down the path from the steam vents, sulfur-bearing steam condenses on the hillside, creating sulfur crystals. This is steam to be avoided! A tiny whiff gives you the sulfur/rotten egg smell that we humans recoil from. A larger breath can damage your lungs because of the acid content. The sulfur crystals are bright yellow and on rare occasions have tempted people to step off the path toward them. The results are horrible, as the ground appears solid, but is just a crust over steaming acid. It’s a deceptive landscape.

A giant cave, the Thurston lava tube, is another popular stop, and often short of parking spaces. We visited in the mid-afternoon and found parking. The walk down to the mouth of the tube is steep, but manageable. The section of this lava tube that is open for visitors is not long, but turns just enough that you cannot see the exit when you enter, making your first steps a bit eerie. The tube is very dark, illuminated by some lights along the walls during the day. The park is open 24 hours a day, but after 5 pm visitors must bring their own flashlights to see inside the lava tube.

It’s a bit like walking down a dark hallway or subway passage. A veil of roots hangs in the dark overhead. These threadlike strings have made their way through the lava from the surface. Much of the inner surface of the lava tube is covered with small bumps of mineral that has accumulated from water that seeps through the rock. Technically stalactites, hanging from the ceiling, what I saw looked more like goose bumps of whitish rock and less like the long hanging crystalline deposits I imagine from the word “stalactite.”

Once out the far side of the tube and back up the stairs to the parking lot, we had spent all the time we had available. There is lots more to see at Volcanoes National Park. Not far from the lava tube is the start of Devastation Trail, an easy walk through a desolate lava landscape. Just beyond that trailhead is the start of Chain of Craters Road, that heads toward the coast, passing a number of different volcanic formations. Toward the far end of the road is an area of petroglyphs that would be worth a visit. Sampling these stops would take an additional half day, and there are many other trails and hikes around the crater.

Outside the park there is more to see. Another hour of driving gets you to the town of Pahoa, where you can drive through Leilani Estates, a housing development that was partially destroyed by lava from Kileaua in 2018. I have read that the community rapidly tired of “disaster tourism,” visitors who came to gawk, parked haphazardly and climbed on the lava that was clearly labeled off-limits. Still, it’s a dose of reality to see that even today, no one can stop Mother Nature. (I looked at Leilani Estates on Google Earth. You can see the path of the lava right into the neighborhood.)

We had a good visit. I enjoyed the Volcano Art Gallery by the Visitor’s Center, where many local artists are represented. The Visitors Center has useful information, all outdoors at the present. The drive home was a long one, and we were grateful to have a swimming pool to fall into at the end of the day. I’m not entirely sure what attracts us to a big, dark, distant, rocky hole, but we were there. I’d only go again if there was really red lava visible. But then, I’d complain about the traffic.

Volcano Visitors!

Shopping & eating come first

We arrived at our new house in Hawi, at the north end of the Big Island (Hawaii, the island, not to be confused with Hawaii, the entire state). Hawi is best known as the finish line in the Hawaii Ironman competition, which has been postponed from October 2021 to March 2022, based on current Covid conditions. All of Hawaii is suffering from a high caseload, primarily from infection of unvaccinated individuals. Visitors are welcome if they are vaccinated or can show a recent negative Covid test. Everyone wears masks indoors and at crowded outdoor venues like the farmers market.

Garden fruit

Not surprising for us, the farmers market was our first stop on Saturday, the day after we arrived. The market is small here, with booths alternating spaces rather than side by side. One very nice thing about this market was the freshness of the locally grown items for sale. We bought a pineapple, a couple of passionfruit, and a few other items. Jonathan picked out a length of ginger root that was fresh and pinkish, easy to peel. Usually, the outside of ginger is papery and brown and has to be carved off. We plan to return to the farmers market for more to make crystallized ginger.

Our bananas

Bananas grow in many people’s backyard and are stubbier than the Cavendish, grocery store variety. They taste the same. We found a stalk of bananas hung up by our host and ripening. Every day we trim off a few more to eat and keep in the refrigerator. Trees in the orchard behind our house give us limes, oranges, and mangos. We may even get a drinking coconut or two. Jonathan finds this heavenly. (The banner photo at the start of this post shows our orchard.)

A visit to Costco, where everyone in Hawaii shops, was next. Having done his homework on the price of macadamia nuts, Jonathan stocked up. We don’t usually have a membership, and the immensity of Costco was daunting, but we managed to fill a shopping cart.

Hale I’a fish market

On the way home, we stopped at the fish market using directions from Amanda’s list, seconded by our host. You’d drive right past it without directions. It is virtually unmarked, and when we pulled in, we had that “Are we in the right place?” moment. The tiny shop presently serves one customer at a time, so we were glad the parking lot was not full. It took me a couple of visits to find their sign and figure out the name of the place (Hale I’a). On subsequent drives past, we noticed there was usually a socially distanced line coming down the steps, especially around mid-day. We bought opah-opah, a kind of snapper. We ate it sauteed, with shishito peppers that evening. At the same time, we selected a poke bowl to share for lunch. These are really delicious, and health food! (Poke bowl: Your choice of freshly cooked white or brown rice topped with your choice of poke–cubes of raw tuna or other fish, marinated in soy sauce, hot chili, wasabi, ginger or some combination. Fresh as sushi, and delicious). It was enough for lunch a second day.

With a kitchen full of ingredients, I started baking. Maybe I am fending off nerves while we await our family visitors, but I had a lot of energy to try things. First came the macadamia biscotti. If I had crystallized ginger to add, they would be even better. Next, I needed a breakfast bite, and oatmeal/macadamia/ginger scones seemed just right. I used some grated fresh ginger along with powdered ginger. The result is just the thing with my morning cup of (what else) Kona coffee.

Butter mochi

Last, but not least, I read about mochi, the Hawaiian treat made with glutinous sweet rice flour. I found a box in about the fourth store I looked in and used a simple recipe for butter mochi. “Regular” mochi have a sweet layer wrapped around a filling, most often red bean paste. Not having been raised in a family where red bean paste is a treat, I went for the unfilled butter mochi, using coconut milk and adding a handful of dried coconut that floated to the top and made a toasty, coconutty flavored crusty top.

Mochi aren’t for everyone, as the recipe yields a soft, slightly rubbery substance that looks a bit like a blondie and tastes like sweet Cream of Wheat. I can see making them with stronger coconut flavor, ginger, chocolate or even peanut butter. I can also imagine that they might not all disappear from a buffet table in the Midwest. Mochi may be a Hawaiian treat best eaten in Hawaii.

Next stop in Hawaii is the great outdoors.

Getting to the Big Island, 2021

It’s a short taxi ride to the SFO airport from the El Rancho Inn, but a bit farther to get on the plane to Hawaii in this age of Covid. When we made our plans to visit Hawaii, Covid was abating in the US, and our Moderna vaccinations were believed to keep us from serious illness. That’s still the case, but infection rates are soaring among people who have held back from getting vaccinated. Since some of those people travel, airlines are becoming sensitive to an individual’s vaccination status. The state of Hawaii sees a lot of coming and going, and has instituted requirements for visitors to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test.  

After a smooth check-in for our direct flight on United, we went to the Hawaii Pre-Screening area, gate F15-16. We showed our age at the pre-screening stop. Our goal was a wristband that would let us pass the Covid screening upon arrival in Kona. We had our vaccine cards and our IDs, and we had filled out the information as required on travel.hawaii.gov—all we needed was the QR code that they send passengers on the day of their flight. We hadn’t received our codes. To try and find them, we had to go to the website via our phones (we usually do this on a laptop) and log in. Who remembers their password? I sat near a very patient gate agent resetting my password to travel.hawaii.gov and misspelling my email address several times in the process. As the minutes ticked by and our boarding time approached, I finally logged in to a page, but saw no code. In desperation, I passed my phone to the agent who clicked a few more options and found it. After scanning the holy grail of QR, she passed my phone back to me, suggesting I save a screenshot of the code. I had to look up how to take a screenshot, as I mostly save them accidentally. However, Success! Our wristbands attached, we headed for our nearby gate, noticing that the line for pre-screening was now much, much longer than when we arrived. Our pre-screening worked, if not smoothly, and we arrived at our gate with a few minutes before the start of boarding.

View of Maui as we descended to land in Kona, Hawaii

I have only flown through Honolulu on one trip, but that was enough. Our direct flight from San Francisco to Kona was an easy five hours in the air. With three hours of time change between the west coat and Hawaii, we arrived only two hours after we took off. Our wristbands allowed us to go straight to baggage claim. Jonathan’s bag was just about the last item off the plane, but it appeared, and we caught a shuttle to the car rental area and picked up our gigantic Chevy Tahoe. It will hold all our visitors in the coming weeks.

An hour later we were at the Kohala Grown Market getting a few items for dinner and breakfast. Our host advised us to stop in before getting to the house, because all the stores close at 6 pm and we could get stranded without supplies. It was good advice, as we pulled in to the store at 5:45 pm. Shortly thereafter, we met our hosts Tom and Samarra, got a tour of the basics and settled down to have a bite to eat after an extended day.

The house is large and comfortable, with a view of the ocean in the distance across pastures of young animals. We’re on the dry side of the island, full of cattle ranches.

We went out by the pool to look at the stars, and even on a partially cloudy evening, the view was remarkable.

The house has lots of recliners in the TV room, a long lap pool, and an orchard with mango, lime, orange, and avocado trees. It’s going to be a good month.

It’s windy this week, which keeps the humidity at bay. With all the screen doors open, we’re comfortable, and can hear the doves and sand grouse calling in the morning. Aloha!

Bainbridge Island, WA to San Francisco

We set out for a new spot, this time the Big Island of Hawaii. We took three days to drive from Bainbridge Island, WA to San Francisco. The first day was full of tree-covered hills and interspersed with valleys of browned grass. We admired the feats of engineering that put a highway along this coast, carving huge roadcuts and constructing bridges across the Willamette, the Rogue, and other rivers. I chatted with my sister Paula as we passed through her home turf in Portland, and we ended Day 1 in Eugene, OR.

I managed a dip in the hotel’s tiny pool, and we got takeout dinner from The Taste of India on Villard St., a return visit. We enjoyed our food from this restaurant so much on our drive north a month ago, that we decided we wanted a second helping. It was as delicious as the previous visit.

Smoke from forest fires southern OR and northern CA

We got an early start on the stretch from Eugene, OR to Eureka, CA. The drive was another day of hills and valleys, curves and dips, as we wound our way down the coast, thorugh a light haze of smoke from forest fires. We picnicked beside the beach south of Crescent City, CA, then entered Redwood Country, passing the Mystery Trees attraction with it’s statue of Paul Bunyan towering alongside the road. We admired the redwoods but didn’t stop at any of the named groves. We’ve visited a few, and wanted to reach Eureka. The Red Lion Inn is ordinary, but not too far from where Amanda and Jim live, and that was our destination.

With barbecue from the Humboldt Smokehouse, we went over for a visit. They were our final stop before the airport, and we off-loaded more boxes of things that we can live without, that Lily and Neil will collect when they drive from California to Illinois next month. After figuring out where to put the not entirely welcome boxes, we settled down to pet the dogs, have dinner and watch some LA Dodgers baseball. It was a relaxing evening.

Jitterbean is our morning coffee spot in Eureka, but they don’t serve food, so we made one last detour before leaving Eureka to Ramone’s Bakery and Café. We’re shifting our morning loyalties to Ramone’s now, as their croissant was the best we’ve eaten in a long time. Driving around the downtown area, I realized that we spent a month in Eureka last October when most businesses were closed. I appear to have missed out on a lot of interesting shopping, antique shops, and the Many Hands gallery. Now it would be fun to spend another month in Eureka, looking at all the places we missed during lockdown.

Near the San Francisco airport (Harvey Milk International Airport), the El Rancho Inn (Millbrae, CA) is a sprawling motel with a special twist—they offer a parking package. We can leave the car for a week for each night we stay, or 2 weeks for a night at each end of our travels. In this way, we can leave our Prius to be picked up by Lily and Neil on Sept. 20. They will take it on their California travels and then back to the Midwest. We will collect our boxes from them next month. We were happy to have a quiet evening of last minute rearranging. Tomorrow Hawaii!

In Search of the Shore

From the activities I described in my previous post, you might think Bainbridge Island is one big village full of performance spaces. Not at all. What has surprised us most is how heavily forested the island is. Where I think there will be grassy space, even near the beach, tall trees and undergrowth thick with ferns crowd right down to the shore. The topography is irregular, with lots of challenging hills for the ever-present cyclists. Many roads make unexpected turns to go around a few deep inlets that pull the shore into the woods. As much as we enjoy walking in the woods and the trails in the Bloedel Reserve, it is the shore that captivates us. We set out to see as much of the island’s edge as we could. Ah, but there’s the rub!

1: Most of Bainbridge Island’s shore is private, fenced, and posted. There are often few or no parking spaces near the very small number of shore access points, and we just cannot walk a long way anymore. To see the island best, you need lots of friends with beachfront homes.

During our infusion of culture, we learned our way up and down the island, but the time soon came when we wanted to visit a beach beyond the spot just down the hill from our house. I’ve been swimming there a few times. The shore is shallow and muddy when the tide is out, and ankle deep at high tide, but I can wade out and swim. The water doesn’t seem as cold as in Monterey, though I usually wear my wetsuit. There is a map of Bainbridge Island that shows other shore access points, and I decided we should visit all of them and see whether there are other access points unmarked on the map.

As we visited places marked “shore access,” we found there are some beaches with parking spaces for visitors, but most places that have signs indicating “shore access,” follow this immediately with No Parking signs. Occasionally, there is a sign noting where to park, up to a half mile from the access point. For us this is problematic. If we walked from the legal parking area to the shore, it would be time to turn back. Often, we couldn’t tell what the shore would be like without visiting. We parked illegally (though briefly) to walk down one path with a shore access marker. The narrow passage was bordered by No Trespassing signs. Though there were stairs to the shore at the end, the water’s edge was choked with seaweed. Maybe it’s nicer at low tide. We found this more than once. Access is carefully controlled by those whose houses face the shore.

A few shore access points in parks (Fay Bainbridge Park is the banner image for this post) have nice beaches, pebbly, sandy, and piled with driftwood and sea shells. On our walks, we’ve found people on Bainbridge to be friendly and enjoyable. We’ve chatted about their pets, beachcombing, and life on the island. We’ve been invited to see a nearby garden, or studio. Why then is it difficult to get to the shore in more than a very few places, as though visitors were not wanted? I believe this shows the conflict between landowners and visitors. Washington is not California, Oregon, Connecticut, or other states where the shore up to the high tide line is considered a public trust. In a number of places, the space between the high tide line and the nearest vegetation, the dry sand beach, allows right of common use as well.

Federal law indicates that the shore cannot be owned below the high tide mark, but individual states, like Washington, can interpret whether shore frontage must be shared. Most of Bainbridge Island’s waterfront is privately owned and the state does not demand that access be maintained as occurs elsewhere. We saw a home built so that the shoreside corner was well under water at high tide, preventing anyone on foot from passing. Some stretches of shore can be accessed by watercraft, there are some public beaches, and the “shore access” points, but most of the island’s shore is carefully posted and kept unavailable to visitors because the owners have never had to live with a shared shore. Having just moved here from California, it’s been a difficult adjustment.

2: Who Cares? We are not the usual kind of visitor to this island.

Having commented on the difficulty of trying to circumnavigate Bainbridge Island on foot, it seems only fair to ask why anyone would want to do that. Other visitors don’t complain about shore access. Notice I don’t say beach access because most of the shore is pebbly or rocky, with some sandy areas where people go clamming.

We had good outings looking for and walking on the island’s shore, and in a few places we were able to do some beachcombing. There is a lot of driftwood, and seashells in many spots. If you needed a soap dish or a small plate, you could go hunting for sea-washed oyster shells. We saw examples up to eight inches long. There was some beach glass, and we saw some sea creatures, like the occasional seal or sea lion swimming by.

Why fuss about shore access when we spent a full month exploring and did not run out of places to visit? (We even occasionally went off the island.) Personally, I believe that shore access should be free to all, and not at the nearest landowner’s pleasure. Landowners should not be required to construct trails and bridges, or to make cliffs accessible. Nor should landowners be liable for twisted ankles or other accidents that might occur on the waterside margin of their land no matter how steep, but if a patch of shore is walkable, anyone should be allowed to walk or beachcomb. I don’t own any waterfront property, and I could be accused of wanting something for nothing, but I believe we should all be taught from an early age to respect and share the amazing resource that is the space between land and sea.

3: Other natural pleasures of Bainbridge Island

August was a month of nature. There were a few seagull species we hadn’t seen before, and a lot of familiar birds on the bird feeder at the house. This is a region where black-capped chickadees and chestnut-backed chickadees are present in equal numbers. They squabbled with each other and the red-chested nuthatches for domination of the feeder. Birds on a feeder are an embodiment of “the smaller the stakes, the more bitter the battle.”

In our backyard, we had a wild rabbit and a black rabbit that could have originally been a pet. Regular squirrels and tiny Douglas squirrels came out to take peanuts off the porch railing and wave their tails frantically.

We have explored a bit beyond the island, but at one point we looked at visiting a park an hour’s drive away and realized that it would take us to a place directly opposite the shore we’ve visited on Bainbridge. Why go when you can stay?

Visiting Port Townsend made a lovely day. We started with the trail to the “glass beach”, but we weren’t up to walking three miles each way. The beach was good for a long walk and yielded a few pieces of beach glass. Our stop at the old water tower with its fire bell still in place gave a view over the downtown area. There are lots of stores and restaurants waiting for visitors.

When my sister Paula and her partner Wayne were with us, we made the journey to Dungeness Spit, a wonderful long walk along the shore. Again, we didn’t make the trip to the lighthouse, said to be five or size miles each way, and enjoyed the gorgeous day. Our bonus was finding Salty Girls for lunch in nearby Sequim (pronounced “Squim”). Steamed clams and a crab melt really hit the spot, and none of us envied Jonathan the drive home. When she was a graduate student at the University of Washington, Paula thought she might retire to Sequim. I can see her point.

Dungeness Spit

Last but not least, we took a day trip to Marrowstone Island, a narrow island that is relatively small in terms of Puget Sound. From the Ft. Flagler park we looked across to the cliffs of Whidby Island, and strolled the shore. On the way to Marrowstone is Indian Island, but it cannot be explored despite the intriguing name. The entire island is a naval facility that stores ordnance, and is fenced and razor-wired to an impressive extent. The waters of Puget Sound off Marrowstone are busy with commercial sea traffic moving in and out of the port of Seattle. We saw container ships, tankers, a dredge piled high with sand towed by a tugboat at the end of the longest tow line I’ve ever seen. On the margins of the sea lanes, sailboats and motor craft cruised up and down. The shore is dotted with fishermen, a couple of whom showed off the salmon they’d caught. It was a lively day.

What with all the walking, beachcombing, clam-eating, wine-tasting, and bird-watching, the month flew by. Tomorrow we embark in our trusty Prius for points south (Eugene, OR; Eureka, CA; San Francisco, CA) and points west (Kona, HI). I’ll see you there.

Below are a few photos that don’t fit neatly into any category other than Bainbridge Island and environs.

Clockwise from upper left: plants at the Bloedel Reserve; the “Sea Glass Quilt” sidewalk art in downtown Winslow; Pickleball was invented by a group of Bainbridge Island residents; a rustic bus shelter; a frog sitting on a ferry–I don’t know why; a vintage auto bumper in the woods near Gazzam Lake.

A perfect summer day in Seattle

We didn’t know it was going to be the best day of the summer when we left for the ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. The sun was bright and the day was warm. I carried a jacket with me, the only sensible thing to do, but I never needed it. We parked in a lot near the ferry landing ($13.50), not full at all, and walked down to the waiting area, also not full, and onto the boat after a short wait. There is no charge for passage from Bainbridge to Seattle, though there is on the return trip ($4.75 each for seniors).

We sat near the front, so that we could watch the city in the distance. From the front deck just beyond, the city approached, tall buildings blue and misty in the distance, then towering over us as we landed. Waterfront construction gives way to piers, restaurants, a giant Ferris wheel, and small park areas. A crosswalk and signs directed us toward the Pike Street market. After following a trail through a parking garage we found an elevator up to the market level.

Is there someone who has been to Seattle and not visited this market? It was thronged with masked visitors making their way down the single very long market hall. The fish-sellers are the highlight, mostly hidden behind the counter and a table full of ice and fish. On this visit, the icy table held a whole monkfish staring out at the crowd, its huge mouth a sagging cavern, open in a half-hearted snap at the passers-by. Until salespersons changed its name to be palatable to consumers, this was often called frog fish or sea devil, a fish you were advised to eat without seeing the pictures.

Every half hour or so, a man wearing wader/overalls comes out from behind the counter. He starts with some sales patter and then picks up a good sized fish (5 lb+) and throws it over the counter where a colleague catches it. The guys shout, the crowd cheers and is urged to cheer louder. More fish fly back and forth, more shouting, more cheering, then it’s over until next time. Employees have to be sideshow barkers as well as fishmongers. Fish is the highlight of the market, and on our way home we stopped and bought Dungeness crab and halibut cheeks, delicate and delicious.

One tour up and down the market and it was time for lunch. We went up a floor to look at a restaurant where table service would allow us to sit and rest while we ate. It was mobbed. I recalled a place that looked empty as we came into the market, and sure enough, when we arrived at the Pike Place Bar and Grill, we were immediately seated in a booth by an open window. On this sunny day, it was perfect. We could see out over the rooftops and have a breather. We ate Manila clams steamed in a buttery, garlicky broth, and a smoked salmon club sandwich that consisted of a large chunk of smoked salmon and the usual blt items. Both were very good. I had a glass of wine because I wanted to try a white Roussanne wine on the menu.

The Cliffs at Étretat, 1885, Claude Monet

Our lunch stop was the perfect break, and newly reenergized, we took a brief look in Northwest Tribal Art, then headed for the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and their current headline show, “Monet at Étretat.” Tickets were available to enter immediately, and in we went, transported to the Atlantic coast of France where dramatic steep cliffs and offshore stacks have intrigued many painters. The exhibit opens with a spectacular view of the cliffs by Louis-Eugene Boudin,

Etretat The Upstream Cliff.

As we continued, I wished we were on the coast at Étretat beach combing in the bright sun or standing in the waves. Impressionist paintings generally show the weather as perfect, blue skies with a few puffy clouds passing overhead, casting momentary shadows on the ground that race by and disappear. The notes on the walls of the exhibit describe Monet trying to paint when it poured rain, finding an upstairs space with a window that allowed him to look out and paint even when the weather made it impossible to venture outdoors.

After Monet, we were almost out of steam, and though we had a quick look at the adjacent exhibits, there’s a lot to see on our next visit. We retraced our steps to the market, bought our fish, and wound around to the ferry landing. Naturally, the previous ferry had departed ten minutes earlier, but the wait was less than an hour, and there were places to sit. I was happy to have lugged my backpack all around, as we had our water bottle, chapstik, eye drops, ibuprofen, and coffee candies, all the little things a person wants at the end of an odyssey.

I took more photos as we left the wharf, getting a view from the Space Needle to the docks. The ferry ride is only 35 minutes, and in no time we were back on Bainbridge Island and heading home, full of the day.

Busy on Bainbridge

Whatever is going on in the rest of the world, people are visiting Bainbridge Island in droves. Yes, once again people wear their mask indoors, and we, personally, haven’t had an indoor restaurant meal since arriving, but there are lots of events, mostly outdoors, and well-attended.

“Fertility” temporary installation, Winslow, WA

Thanks to Jonathan’s internet research, we jumped right in. We arrived on a Sunday, shopped and unpacked on Monday, and got involved immediately. There was a concert in a nearby park the evening after we arrived, a Van Morrison tribute band, Backstreet Jellyroll (See the post’s banner photo). This was their first live performance in a year and a half and the group was energized by the crowd. Concerts continue with a different group every week while we’re here. The next night was another concert downtown, in Winslow. Friday night, was “First Friday,” with merchants open late, new public art pieces being installed, galleries offering wine, and restaurants doing a booming business, even with everyone wearing masks indoors.

Grave of Sealth (Chief Seattle), Suquamish, WA

We visited the Suquamish Museum, a gem of a tribal museum, just across the Agate Passage that separates Bainbridge Island from the mainland. Suquamish is a well-documented community that hosted the first European visitors to the region, including the eventual founders of Seattle. Treated badly, as many native groups were, the survivors managed to cling to a spot in Suquamish near the original location of the chief’s house. The museum has a relatively plain exterior, but the exhibits inside are impressive, and we spent quite a while reading and looking.

Suquamish Veterans Memorial

From the museum, we strolled toward the shore and visited Chief Seattle’s (Sealth) grave. It’s a peaceful spot overlooking the water. We continued to the shore and found ourselves outside the community house with the sounds of basketball coming from inside, and kids playing outside. Walking uphill to the car, we stopped for a breather at the Veteran’s Memorial flanked by large male and female-featured carved posts.

Himalayan blackberries, scourge of gardeners, source of pie

The two farmer’s markets, in Winslow, and just over the bridge in Poulsbo, are both held on Saturdays from 10am-2pm, and we hit both of them on our first Saturday in town. The peaches were perfect, along with lots of other delicious things. We’ve visited the Safeway and the Town and Country Market, “T&C” to those in the know. We bought halibut at a fish store, and picked wild blackberries to make both blackberry crumble and seedless blackberry jam. We won’t go hungry.

Sunday, we visited the Bainbridge Island Art Museum and I was impressed with the quality of the works exhibited. A lot of the objects were created by artists from the immediate area and the Pacific Northwest. The contemporary works were imaginative and inspiring. It’s an excellent small museum. Their summer art show and sale was on, and we browsed the booths outside the museum.

Bainbridge Studio Tour

August is the month of local fairs and festivals. Every weekend a different group has an open house or art fair. We spent our second weekend visiting the five artist studios part of this summer’s Bainbridge Island Studio Tour (There’s another one in December.) At each studio, a number of artists set up their work, for a total of thirty-six artists in all. It was a lot to take in, and included some truly creative, interesting, inventive things. I stopped to chat with a woman about how she makes items out of metal clay that become solid metal after being baked in a kiln. Everyone was happy to talk about what they made and how they made it. Flocks of women my age fluttered around racks of colorful summer weight jackets and wraps, or admiring the soft scarves of merino/silk felt.

Capping off the first day of the artist studio visits was the periodic oyster night at the Eleven winery. We sat in the shade and tasted wines, sharing a dozen oysters. There were three kinds (Agate, Bayside, and ?). The oysters were harvested earlier in the day and had that perfect flavor of the sea.

There are a few more cultural stops to make, and we’ll continue to keep our eyes open for more activities, but we’ve now attended more fairs and concerts in two weeks than we have in the past two years, so for the moment we are content to slow the pace a bit.

Monterey, CA to Bainbridge Island, WA

Time to move on; the car was packed and we were out of our driveway in Monterey by 10 am with the goal of reaching Eureka, CA in time to have dinner with Amanda and Jim. We stopped in Mountain View to drop off a few more things with Lyra, exchange hugs, and pet Pandora, then blasted off for Northern CA. We saw a lot of beautiful trees, which is what the northern part of the state has to offer. Arrived at our hotel at around 6:30 pm, having stopped for gas a couple of times. We connected with Amanda, stopped by Siam Orchid to collect our Thai dinner, and settled in for a family evening. I admired home improvements and the recently acquired “rodeo fish,” Quentin McWhorter, named after the winning cowboy at the recent rodeo in Fortuna. The evening passed quickly as we ate dinner together, chatted, and watched the Olympics.

We returned the next morning to share hugs and pet the dogs before setting out for Cowhorn Vineyard and Gardens outside Jacksonville, OR. This meant heading inland from Eureka and across the Oregon border, driving through miles of pine forest, beautifully green on this sunny day. Our substantial detour was an adventure to pick up wine for my sister and have a wine tasting in beautiful surroundings. It was a perfect half-way stop. Cowhorn is best known for viogniers, though it produces rose, grenache, and syrah. The tasting room looks out over sun-heated meadows and mountains–we were happy to sit in the A/C, taste, sip, and spit for a little while. Courtney was the host for our visit, friendly and helpful.

It was a few more hours drive to our motel in Eugene, but there is an advantage to stopping overnight in a major university town. (U of Oregon is in Eugene.) Good food. Our dinner came from The Taste of India, near the campus. Our shrimp korma and lamb tikka masala each came in delicious preparations.

Coffee from Cafe Roma the next morning got us on the road, with Bainbridge Island in our sights. We did not drive into Seattle and take the ferry. Though scenic, it would make the day a couple of hours longer, so we opted to turn north at Tacoma and loop around to the north end of the island and across a short bridge over the Agate Passage. Our house this month is toward the north end of the island, and it was convenient to arrive this way. We had no trouble finding the house or getting in. Our host emailed us the code to the door lock a day or two back, and we walked right in. Such a pleasure to arrive easily.

Two nights on the road, stops with family and tasting wine, and now we are at our destination, settling in for the month. Our house is mid-century, with an effort to match the decor to the architecture in the public areas. Colorful, comfortable, surrounded by woods; so far so good.

Here’s the complete view from our living room windows.

Transformed: -1 house, +2 suitcases

I am grateful that our packing is as uncomplicated as it is, but it still takes me several days to organize all the things I want to take to the next stop as we try and get back into two suitcases mode. After eight months in one house, the nooks and crannies have started to fill with “stuff,” and paring down is not my favorite activity.

The studio is the area I pack first. Sorting my materials, findings, finished pieces of jewelry, and tools before I pack anything else, makes it easier to unpack at the next stop. We accumulated a surprising quantity of sea glass over the months, and we’ll deal with that, too.

My tables full of materials and projects condensed into two small boxes, a bag of tools and two packets of findings.

Rather than throw our beach-combing treasures and extra beach glass straight into the ocean, we took it back to the beach and built a little shrine on the low tide line. We hope the waves will wash it all back into the ocean and that other people will have a chance to find some of these interesting things once again.

Once my projects have been packed, I move on to the house. We have purchased household goods that we won’t use after this stop. Fortunately, our daughters expressed interest in adopting most of our unneeded items. Also helpful, Lily and Neil will be coming west to pick up our car and drive it to Champaign, IL. That will let them take a box or two of our things back to the midwest, where I’ll be able to sort them again and swap a few things before we leave for Peru for the winter.

Piles in the living room became piles of boxes in the car. Crammed in were a dozen plants. I enjoyed growing herbs and sprouting succulents, and am delighted that Amanda is willing to add them to her own collection.

Once we dropped off the carload of “gifts” at Lyra’s, to be picked up/dropped off to the other sisters at a later time, we had the rest of the house to pack. This interim phase is the biggest mess, when everything is out waiting to be put in boxes, and nothing is in its final location. Not to worry, 48 hours later everything was packed.

I completed restoring the upstairs to its arrival-date condition, minus the linens that are now in the closet.

Finally, on the day we left, I took photos of the entire house just in case any issues arise after we leave. California has lots of protections for renters, and I’m confident we’ll get our deposit returned minus the cleaning fee. (We were happy to let someone else take care of the final cleaning.) I always take photos, both to remember the house and just in case.

During our stay, we rearranged the living area so that the most comfortable seating was in front of the TV, rather than in front of the fireplace. We switched the dining table for a table that was intended as a desk, because the “desk” was larger. It all worked very well, and we easily rearranged everything before we left. This was a comfortable house that we’ll remember fondly as the place we rode out most of the pandemic.

Last but not least, a few photos that didn’t fit any particular theme.

Clockwise from upper left: Neighborly buck stops by to look in the window and say goodbye; Carmel Mission with my favorite bird-of-paradise flowers; “boot” of charred wood, Sand City beach; Flowers along Malpaso Creek trail; Jellyfish, Monterey Coast Guard pier; Historic Casa Soberanes garden path lined with old bottles; Cormorants and a sea lion in Monterey Bay;

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