Maybe I'm getting old, or perhaps all those years of volleyball finally are catching up to me.
My knees are getting creaky.
It takes a couple of days to recover from a long run or hike, not a couple of hours.
I'm getting quite familiar with the major (and minor) painkillers available to me.
I hurt, I suppose, would be the main bullet point of this diatribe, a kind of qualification leading into why I was looking for an "un-hike," something short, close to home, not requiring a set of maps or long drives deep into the forest, and perhaps near some service areas and/or restaurants and/or massage therapy businesses - just in case.
I picked a medium-pace stroll at a few spots along the Port Angeles waterfront, a prime spot to stay close to nature and still be within earshot of folks who might be willing to send for a rescue team, if my hiking partner Patsene, my wife, was unable do the job.
First stop was Morse Creek. According to a new book I've been thumbing through ("Gods and Goblins: A Field Guide to Place Names of Olympic National Park," by Smitty Parratt), Morse Creek originally was called Chambers Creek and was renamed to honor a pair of homesteaders, Eben Gay Morse and his brother Davis W. Morse.
In my mind, Morse Creek is the place where I really want to die about eight miles into the North Olympic Discovery half-marathon. Really. I usually want to throw myself over the railing into the gurgling creek water and let it carry me into oblivion. But usually, I just keep plodding along.
This visit: much better for my spirits. We found the dusty parking lot half full. Patsene and I took a leisurely stroll across the well-shaded bridge that spans the creek, then took the well-worn dirt pedestrian path underneath the trestle. It quickly reminded us of Railroad Bridge Park, with the looming walkway overhead, the sunlight filtering through the trees, the din of swiftly moving waters headed from the mountains to the sea.
Of course, the waters here, at times revealed in mesmerizing aqua blues and greens in the deep parts (likely about four feet deep at the most) were mostly crystal clear, revealing scrambled patterns of river rock and downed trees.
A few trails led to and fro beside the creek, just a stone's throw north or south, but mostly it's a shady spot apropos for a lazy summer afternoon; in other words, a perfect spot for a quick picnic.
We moved on to the Port Angeles waterfront. It's another spot we more commonly see surrounded by sweaty runners, racing banners and half-eaten orange wedges. Instead, the city pier and Hollywood beach on a late Sunday afternoon looked perfectly inviting, with a smattering of dawdling beach walkers and what I suspect were Canadian tourists staying over one more day before sailing back to Victoria in the morning.
We made our way along the pier to the lookout tower. I recall making this same climb as a preteen during my family's semi-annual visits to this fair city. As a youth, I was queasy by the lookout's height and unimpressed with the view it offers. Now, I'm much more content to lean on the railing and watch a sunset, watch a pair of leviathan-like cruise ships wend their way westward toward the Pacific and consider the weather, the wind, life in general.
And then the wind got going and made the lookout shudder, and that was enough.
We ambled back toward the parking lot and hit the Discovery Trail heading eastward, toward home. I suppose we could have simply walked the four-plus miles from Morse Creek to here and back, but it was Sunday, and I felt a little lazy. This part of the trail is, on one hand, one of my favorites; I enjoy reading messages set beside park benches posthumously dedicated to semi-famous or simply well-loved community members. Also, the cool breeze coming off the strait that bites in the winter is welcome on these rare 70 degree-plus days.
But this section is also the part of the trail that can be quite infuriating during, say, a half marathon, where runners lumbering eastward can see the finish line for more than four miles but it seems no closer, minute after minute.
I've got some issues with that, I suppose.
There isn't much wildlife along the waterfront trail to speak of beyond the gulls, although we saw plenty of pooches in various modes of transport. Lonely black labs seemed to be the breed of the day.
We left the trail for Francis Street Park. Again, I thought: what a perfect little spot for a picnic, with a mostly wind-protected seating area and flat surfaces for lounging and blankets-turned-tables. (This is the part of the "hike" where I started to get hungry.)
Instead of taking the same route back, we circled around by way of Georgiana Street, spying some of Port Angeles' smaller but certainly distinguished residences along the bluffs.
The third stretch of our four-part P.A. tour was a small drive away along Ediz Hook. Again, I could have/should have made it a point to simply hike or bike the next few miles to reach the windswept spit, but, as I mentioned before, it was Sunday and I'm lazy.
All I remember about the hook was a story my mother told me once about driving out and back along the hook as a teen and the headlights going out on the family car and how she was freaking out trying to make it back home (she did). At 7 p.m. on a summer evening, however, we didn't run into such bad luck.
We did run into a common problem on Ediz Hook, and that, of course, is the wind. Wind on the Dungeness Spit can be pretty harsh but it's really nothing compared to the blunt force of easterlies that slap wave after wave against this three and a-half mile-long stretch of rock and driftwood logs.
On the north side of the hook are plenty of rocks and wood just waiting to turn an ankle or two. On the harbor side, there's a place to put in kayaks and other seagoing crafts, plus picnic tables and a picturesque view of what Port Angeles and the Olympics look like from an otter's perspective. Sweet.
Part four: dinner at Frugals. 'Nuff said.
All told, the walking "hike" was less than two-and-a-half hours. Parking was free. Crowds were negligible. Cost was nothing, save the pulled pork sandwiches and seasoned fries ($8.42 with tax). We didn't need a National Forest permit. Or a National Park permit. Or a Washington State Department of Natural Resources Single-Day Forest and/or Reserved Lands/Trails Permit (OK, I made that one up).
Perhaps I can complete the P.A. waterfront experience sans anything motorized, going green for at least a day. Maybe next time.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How long: Varies
How hard: easy
How to get there: Take U.S. Highway 101 west toward Port Angeles about 13 miles from downtown Sequim. Turn right on Strait View Drive. Morse Creek parking lot is on right, about one-eighth of a mile from the highway.
To Port Angeles City Pier, take U.S. Highway 101 into downtown Port Angeles. Road turns into First Street, then Front Street. Turn right on Lincoln Street. Parking lot is northeast from Lincoln Street-East Railroad Avenue intersection.
To Ediz Hook, take Railroad Avenue west, then right on Front Street, which turns into Marine Drive. Follow Marine Drive through Nippon Paper plant three miles to parking spots along Ediz Hook.