When Elizabeth woke up on the morning of January 15, I had the lights in Michael’s apartment set to a dim purple and I was nearing the one-hour mark of using his massage chair.
That’s easily the best massage chair I’ve ever used, fyi. It got to all sorts of places (including your wrists!). I didn’t want Elizabeth to wake up.
But it’s probably a good thing that she did, since this was going to be the day of our trip where we had the big adventure planned. Chris and Chanelle had joined a boat club up in Seattle as one normally does. Apparently they rent boats a lot of up there. In this case, we were going to join them on a ride across the Puget Sound to Blake Island State Park, an undeveloped island maybe 20 minutes away by sea.
First we needed to wake Michael and Irene. They keep the same apartment lock code that I will not divulge (think Fibonacci sequences, though) so we kind of could just barge in to wake them up. Oakley was every bit as excited to see us on day 2 as he was on Saturday. Dogs are nice like that.
We made a pit stop on the way to the Freedom Boat Club of Seattle to get some breakfast and coffee. As a non-coffee-drinker, I chose to go with Michael and order breakfast burritos for myself and Elizabeth while she handled her own caffeine fix with Irene. Let me tell you something – I’m probably never going back to Rachel’s Bagels and Burritos even if I get back to Seattle anytime in the near future. That place was *expensive*. I got a one-pound breakfast burrito for Elizabeth and a bagel sandwich for myself, plus a single brownie bite for us to split. It came out to a whopping $37! How do people in Seattle put up with that kind of cost of living?
Michael and I walked back to the car, where Elizabeth was complaining about the cost of the coffees she and Irene had gotten. Middle America dies hard inside of us. We decided to take the breakfasts up to the boat club in Irene’s old Subaru so that we could potentially eat them outside somewhere without Oakley salivating in our laps. Alas, the famed rains of Seattle had begun to fall this morning. Instead of a beautiful picnic along the water, I ate my sandwich in the back right seat of the car with a dog in between me and Elizabeth. And I spilled chorizo from the leftovers of Elizabeth’s burrito all over myself. It was a shambolic performance all the way around.
Chris and Chanelle arrived as fashionably late as they ever do with a friend of theirs in tow (I am ashamed to say Elizabeth and I both forgot his name). The dock workers are the boat club knew them by name; they knew which boat they wanted; they knew enough to not get in Michael and Irene’s way when they said they wanted to bring a dog with them on the boat. The Hardings knew how to do the rest once they’d been handed the keys; they bustled around the cabin of the little boat while Elizabeth and I sat down and enjoyed a beautiful rainy Seattle Sunday.
The biggest issue with the boat – beyond the spray – was that there was some sort of engine issue that didn’t let it rev all the way up to go 20 knots or whatever it could manage on open-ish water. Chris was reduced to a cycle of re-starting the engine, getting some initial juice out of it, then having to re-start the engine when it started to slow down again. I was a sort of self-appointed first mate of the boat, navigating us toward the Blake Island marina by somebody’s phone. We all pitched in to avoid the driftwood that took up a weirdly dense residence in parts of the Sound. It took a lot longer than it should have, but the boat made its halting, bucking way to Blake Island where Chanelle tied it up on the dock.
Not sure what I was expecting from Blake Island. Maybe a bit more built-up? Maybe built-up at all? I guess that’s silly from a literal State Park, but it was still surprising to land at the main “village” of Blake Island and see that beyond the docks there was really just a bathroom and a shelter with a fire pit in the middle of it. Otherwise, it was just an island with some rain forest. And I could really find myself liking that.
If you hike all the way around Blake Island, it’s about a 4-mile loop. We started off clockwise. Within minutes, I found myself daydreaming about living out here. For someone who loves rain and hydrology as much as I do, why do I live in the middle of a semi-arid climate? Water seeped down the trail in little rivulets that diverted out to bigger streams. Water fell out of the sky. Water fell out of the ferns. Water fell out of the huge trees where it had been collecting 100 feet above my head. It was just *water* everywhere, as far as we could see on this gently sloping seaside path.
I squelched along happily behind every other human and dog. Elizabeth knew enough to know that I was in my element and would return to the group when I needed to. There’s this book that she rented recently from the library a few weeks ago. It’s a “personal topography of our national parks”. As the description implies, a lot of it is narcissistic bullshit. But there’s something about being on these hikes that makes you want to peddle your own narcissistic bullshit.
Take the cedar trees. Cedar trees are just trees, right? Not a Washington giant cedar.
Take a view out into the Sound from up on a bluff.
Take the little bluffs down by the water where you could boost yourself off a five-foot ledge and find the trickles that disappear into the ground, only to reappear in tiny cave waterfalls.
Yeah, Blake Island is a place where I could stretch a hammock underneath some sort of tarp and spend an entire day enjoying myself. Although it was a little bit chilly for that, I suppose.
We didn’t hike a whole 4 miles around the island. I would have been willing to do so, but the person who was literally due with her first child that week said that we should probably cut back through one of the trails through the interior of the island. Given the whole “Chanelle due any day now” thing, I know Elizabeth was every bit as stressed as I was when the trail was blocked by downed trees that we had to scale individually. But somehow, there was no incident as we climbed the small prominence in the center of the island. Then it was a much clearer shot down a well-marked path back to where we came from. Along the way, I got one last very artistic photo of Elizabeth walking through this wonderland.
I know her pretty well, but it wasn’t hard to read Elizabeth’s thoughts. She was thinking “how can I never leave?”
Back near the marina, we all gathered in the picnic hut just as the rain intensified from a sturdy mist to a bona fide steady rain shower. It was perfect timing. I braved the rain to head back to the boat and get our pack of firewood. The Hardings had everything we needed for S’mores including Andes mints if you’d rather have those than Hershey’s. The one thing we didn’t have was any way to keep the fire sustained. A can of lighter fluid was good for making flames go whoosh, but after that the wood didn’t really want to stay lit. Michael and Chris fiddled and diddled, but they weren’t really able to get a fire going with any sort of staying power to it. We could get something burning just long enough to roast a marshy if you were willing to have it taste a little bit like lighter fluid. When I say it like that, maybe it makes me think I shouldn’t have had 4 s’mores. Spoiler alert: instead of lunch, I had 4 s’mores.
Meanwhile, Michael tried to get the mud off of Oakley by bringing him down through the squishy shoreline to the water and giving him a saltwater bath. This predictably did not end well. The dog got even muddier than he’d started, AND he shed even more than he already would have all over the cabin of the boat. Irene was unthrilled. I think Chris and Chanelle were unthrilled. The boat club employees were certainly unthrilled to see the hairy boat when we returned it in the middle of a downpour. On the other hand, I wasn’t unhappy – the boat had a cushioned compartment all the way in the front that made the halting ride back comfortable; cozy, even.
Michael and Irene needed to have some time to hash out their whole dog discussion and I had no real desire to be there for that. Chris and Chanelle offered a safe harbor of sorts by offering to take Elizabeth and me to a local chain restaurant called Taco Chukis. The name implies that the tacos they make are excellent. The name is not false advertising. My only issue was that they were teeny tiny little tacos, and I only got 2 when I should have gotten 4. Apparently there are zero pictures of them. Instead of a picture, I will leave the reader with my firm and unreserved recommendation: go to Taco Chuki’s if you’re in Seattle.
Things had cooled off rather significantly by the time we got back to the building where Michael and Irene live together (but officially, separately). In fact, they’d cooled a lot. A blanket sounded really nice. Not doing anything sounded actually pretty nice. It’s weird because this blog post is comparatively short, but everything we’d done so far during the day had taken us all the way to late afternoon already. Maybe it was the early Saturday morning, or maybe it was just the long previous day, but there was a good stretch of Sunday afternoon where none of the four of us could get off the bed (or the massage chair). It was a trancelike state that only comes when you’re having a great weekend.
But still. The dumpling meme felt like it had another day to go in it. Maybe Michael and Irene had already had dumplings that week, but there’s another Seattle chain called “Dough Zone” where they bring you dumplings upon dumplings upon dumplings. It took a short drive there. My mood was lifted considerably along the way by news from the NFL playoffs, where Joe Burrow scored a rushing touchdown to make me a lot of money. I wasn’t necessarily betting hard that weekend, but it never hurts, right?
Dough Zone was a lot more intense than I thought. I sort of felt like maybe we ordered a basket of 60 dumplings to share as a group with 4 plates. No. The menu basically comes in a way that you mark up all the different dumplings types you want and then give it to the waiter. Different dumpling types? How many different dumplings types could there be? Turns out there’s a lot. Fried, boiled, steamed, big ones filled with soup, veggie, meatcakes (not good), pork, chicken, etc… The Dough Zone staff kept them going until my stomach was groaningly full. By then, the four of us had a massive pile of baskets in front of us. I think the ability to just go and order over one hundred dollars worth of dumplings qualifies Michael as a man of leisure, and I’d like to be a man of leisure someday.
Even if our stomachs were achingly full, we had one last food adventure to wrap up Elizabeth and my extremely short Seattle vacation. There’s an ice cream location called Molly Moon’s not far from their apartment building that makes some delicious ice cream. Elizabeth and I couldn’t decide what to get, but the person working the counter solved the dilemma by suggesting a flight. What I maybe didn’t get until too late: a flight gives you a scoop of everything on the menu. Everything. Suddenly, we were staring at 15 scoops of ice cream.
There were some amazing flavors in there. I would eat so much of Molly Moon’s sweet cream. Their coffee flavor was also surprisingly good. There were some interesting flavors as well. The salted caramel tasted like it had been rolled around in the Dead Sea Salt Flats for a bit before it was served to us. But I have a simple principle: if there’s ice cream, I eat it.
Like I said, this blog post seems shorter by several thousand words than I expected. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a busy day. We were up early, getting to the marina, and we stayed out for ice cream until it was bedtime. In between, the adventures were memorable. I found myself wanting to visit the rainy Pacific Northwest again and preferably soon. Our flight back to OKC was early the next morning, but not so early that we couldn’t stop for one last adventure.