puget sound silhouette

This is my personal favorite view in Discovery Park, the forest shelves very neatly here above the Sound, a case could be made the vista has changed imperceptibly over the years through the course of weather and natural succession but this season it occurred to me the window has opened noticeably wider: The filtered, southerly perspective has grown spacious as the bluff succumbs ever more willingly to wind, rain and the resulting erosion (the record rains this month carved a two foot trench at the top of the south bluff where the kids like to go down for bonfires). Presently, when we descended the woods to the beach with the boys I couldn’t help reminisce about seven or eight years ago during a fierce windstorm when I blanched on the run at the swaying of a hundred widowmakers, it was scary but inspiring in a John Muir sort of way.  In another fifteen years, perhaps this view will be a steep lane of grassy meadow.  On the other hand, there’s a better than-even-chance a major slide will take place and part of the forest will fall into the water and what’s left over will include plenty of Scot’s broom, horsetail (infuriating but lovable native) and Himalayan blackberry.

The nearer, darker-appearing landform to the right in the distance beyond the trees is very small Blake Island. Over to the left is Vashon Island. Gigantic ferry boats constantly ply this waterscape, bound for destinations like Vashon, Bremerton and Bainbridge Island. I was a tad disappointed to not capture a big boat in the glint of the sun but I had to keep up with the boys and my mom (it’s almost not worth pointing out but if you look hard you can see a faraway tug on the left and there’s a ferry at the Vashon dock). Maybe this is better: A reminder of what it was like before white people and Puget Sound City. I’ve always stopped to document the light and shadows in here, hoping I could set the bar higher for myself. Wintertime enhances the feel. It’s one of those spots where I like to imagine I could make something really special happen through the viewfinder if only everything were just right. The bar probably didn’t move up all that high this time but it did a tiny bit.

During our ascent through these woods, two humongous Bald eagles majestically swooped and screeched in the canopy above us. They love the treetops, here. I’ll never forget several years ago when I brought a friend to the park and we watched as a giant eagle in the forest below us took the most enormous bird-shit I’ve ever seen, it looked like a bag of liquefied flour pouring out as the eagle perched like a small brown shrub in the green of the forest. And then we got down to the beach and my friend must have been a little surprised by the park’s little wart, a sewage treatment plant on the north side of the point. I’m always self-conscious when I bring someone new here and I wondered between that eagle taking a monumental dump on the main stage and the industrial-looking West Point Treatment Plant, if she wasn’t just a tad disappointed.

The treatment plant didn’t exist more than fifty years ago but if you think it was somehow nicer down here you’d be wrong because a long time ago the city’s engineer (the R.H. Thomson guy) decided this would be the perfect place to extend a pipe which sent sewage streaming into the Sound and hopefully hitching a ride with the currents that took it far away as possible. It’s hard to believe that in 1965, raw sewage was still being discharged into Puget Sound (an artistic, Rorschach-like plume of turds was often visible from above). The same beach that supplies my ongoing collection of faux sea glass was hideously blackened and it was not the kind of place you stood in the water to cool your tootsies off (those were not Tootsie Rolls you saw floating in the water). An extensive rehabilitation took place here. The land for the treatment plant was given over to the City by the military after a history that included amphibious vehicle landings (evidently those things take a little practice) and the larger portion of two hundred plus acres of Discovery Park were eventually carved out of old Fort Lawton (not as easy as I make it sound).  Interestingly enough, I don’t think I’ve gotten a bad whiff on the beach going on several years. Even if the wind isn’t in your favor, the smell from the plant isn’t revoltingly bad. Everything is enclosed nowadays. A lot of vegetation has grown up even the past twenty years, sometimes I barely notice the treatment plant and what’s more the incoming tide drowns out the humongous trucks rumbling out of the park every so often in order to deliver worked-over sludge to farms or forests on the other side of the mountains.

As far as we’ve come, it’s still 1965 up north. Puget Sound, one of the unique marine ecosystems on the planet earth, is in mortal peril but the lovely town of Victoria on Vancouver Island continues to blithely drink tea and flush the contents of its toilet bowls straight into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. So if you’re beach-combing in the north and find an interesting piece of marbled, dark-brown driftwood it’s best to exercise caution because it could be a big Canadian turd and everyone’s shit smells, I don’t care how polite and inoffensive they are up there.

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