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Memory Trail

Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember. - Joan Didion

Thursday, 06 July 2023, in transition

While I lived in Washington State in 2009-2013, I visited Olympic NP on four occasions. That doesn't qualify me as a 'regular', but it did implant memories firmly in my grey matter.

Those memories included Second Beach. The moment I set foot on the 0.7 miles trail through the rainforest, mental images of that visit flooded back - the gradual rise from the parking lot, the mystical-looking trees in the forest,

the steep staircase down to the beach. I didn't however, remember the root ball next to the steps where someone (or many someones) decorated the roots with carefully placed rocks.

Just like my previous visit, a heavy fog cloaked the beach. Thie beach is renowned for the beauty of its sea stacks, but most of them stayed hidden this morning.

I did not remember seeing tents on the beach before; a dozen nestled behind the driftwood today.

This beach had a flatter slope than Rialto, making for a broader beach at low tide - a good quarter mile from the driftwood to the surf. The water drained more slowly, leaving puddles across more of the sand.

I checked a few close-by pools, but couldn't see any movement. Back and forth I wandered, taking pictures. Some collections of rocks and pools looked so well-formed, I likened them to tiny kingdoms, little green-rock-water worlds unto themselves, like something Disney might create.

When I saw a gaggle of people walking, I wondered who gathered them together.

I soon had the answer: a ranger-led beach walk. As they got closer, I heard him explaining about the tidepools. I joined his followers.

"Everything in the tidepool is alive! The starfish, the anemones, the kelp. We have 65 species of kelp - seaweed - in Olympic. Everything in the pool is alive, but they may not move much."

He pointed out the different anemones. I'd noticed several green ones yesterday.

"If they're underwater, they'll open up, and the tentacles will help water flow through, from which it gets nutrients. When the water recedes and it's high and dry, they close up." He also pointed out pink anemones. "Those are aggregating anemones."

Yesterday I had noticed rocks in shades of pink. Now I heard why. "The pink comes from bryozoans. Coral can't survive in Olympic - they have very brittle shells, and the waves would shatter them. Instead, we have Bryozoans, which have more supple shells which can flex with the waves."

A tiny crab had wandered over to hear the ranger speak, settling in at his feet. When the ranger stepped away, the crab skittered back to safety.

The group wandered over to the large nearby sea stack, now attached to the beach. "You can look at the rock to see how far the sea rises. Do you see that line of there the highest barnacles are stuck on the rock? That's the highest tide line. If this were high tide now, you'd be five feet under water."

His next bon mot blew me away. "If you go to a mountain park like Mt. Rainier, the grizzly bear is the apex predator, the top of the food chain. Know what occupies that spot in the tidepools? The starfish!!

The starfish feasts on the barnacles and the mussels that cling to the rocks. Think of a mussel - it has that shell that it closes tight. The starfish will sit on top of a mussel, but it would take too much energy to fully open the shell to get at the animal inside. Instead, it pries open a small crack in the shell, then it extrudes its stomach into the mussel shell. Its digestive juices will decompose the animal, and the stomach absorbs the nutrients. It then retracts its stomach, and waits for the tide to carry it to its next meal." Wow - that's the wildest science fact I've heard since Hawaii and the small fish that climbs 440' waterfalls.

I eventually left the group and wandered about the sea stack.

The clock had passed the low-tide time of 9:30, and the waves crept in. (A time lapse attests to their power.)

I ambled north toward the impassable headland.

After three hours, time to move on. As I returned on the mossy forest trail, I slowed down, drinking in the sights, smells, sounds, surfaces - engaging in forest bathing again. The moss felt a bit dry. New trees shoots erupted from decaying stumps.

The decaying duff had a soft, earthy quality to it. The pattern of veins in a leaf resembled those left by retreating tides on Rialto Beach yesterday.

Alas, time to leave this nature paradise behind. I stopped for one more burger lunch in Forks, where the vampire threat level was still high. On the drive north, I detoured onto the north shore of Lake Crescent. No development here like on the south side! The road turns quickly into a narrow, sandy lane - not a drive I could recommend. Still, the beauty abounded.

US101 next went through Port Angeles. Memories of that town popped into my mind, and it didn't look like much had changed. I stopped at Goodwill to pick up a warn jacket for backpacking (I couldn't remember everything when packing!).

When I reached Port Townsend in mid-afternoon, I discovered I should have reserved a ticket on the ferry. The 5:00 sailing was full, and "there's a slight chance you could get on standby for the 6:45. Otherwise you can go on the 8:30."

I parked the car and kept my fingers crossed. To pass the time, I went through emails (amazing how quickly the spam accumulates while you're out having a life!) and read a book. Luckily, the 6:45 had room.

I recalled Whidbey Island - the ferry terminal far from town, the businesses in Oak Harbor (where I grabbed a quick bite for dinner). I had forgotten that this road crossed over Deception Pass. Good timing - it was almost sunset! A picture from these scenic spot was well worth a stop.

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