Olympic Peninsula Redux

Last June I spent a few days driving around the Olympic Peninsula. I made it up to Hurricane Ridge, to the Hoh Rainforest, and the beaches, and even though the weather wasn’t always great, I enjoyed it immensely.

Later, relaying the details of the trip to my Dad on the phone, I mentioned that it would be a good place for us to go exploring and hiking for a few days. Dad and I have made plenty of similar trips before– in 2003, we went hiking in Wales, and in 2008, we spent a week together in Europe, taking the train from London to Berlin and stopping in Normandy for a few days to pay our respects at the D-Day sites. Not to mention all the trips we took when I was growing up.

Dad and I don’t get to see each other much these days– we live in opposite corners of America, and Dad’s work and travel schedule have kept him busy. So last Friday, May 3, when we met up to go exploring the Olympic Peninsula, it was the first time we’d actually seen each other in over 2 years. Not due to avoidance or anything…. just due to life. (Side note: one really shouldn’t let life do that.)

Anyway, our trip consisted of lots of driving, lots of hiking through the woods (and in snow, and over sand), lots of eating in greasy spoons, lots of talking and catching up, and (perhaps most surprisingly for the Olympic Peninsula) lots of sunlight. There were snow-capped mountaintops, clear views across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and deep into Canada, vibrant sunsets over the Pacific, and warm sunlit beaches bearing more resemblance to the South Pacific than Washington state– at least until you stuck your foot in the water.

I’m really pleased with the entire set of photos I got from the trip (the full set can be seen here on Flickr), but here’s a few of my favorites:

Looking from the Dungeness Spit across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with Mt. Baker in the distance:

Seagulls nesting on a rocky stack off Cape Flattery, at the very Northwest corner of the United States:

A Coast Guard cutter crossing La Push Harbor at sunset:

The Visitor Center at Hurricane Ridge:

Deer along the road near Hurricane Ridge:

The stacks at Rialto Beach (with my Dad in the foreground for comparison), with the famous hole-in-the-wall in the distance:

A sea anemone surrounded by pink lichen:

Starfish in the intertidal zone:

Ferns (and a spider) in the Hoh Rainforest:

An oceanside waterfall, at Third Beach near La Push:

Looking south from Third Beach toward The Giants’ Graveyard:

Marymere Falls:

A bald eagle high up in a treetop, overlooking the beach:

Looking from Port Angeles toward the Olympic Mountains:

I’m sorry, did I say “a few?” I meant fourteen. It’s just that the number of environments and ecosystems we crossed was so huge– from the ocean (above and below the water), to the coastal forest, to the inland rainforest, to the snow-capped mountaintops and everything in between– that it’s difficult to capture the range of what we saw in just a few pictures. And we had perfect weather the whole way, which is pretty extraordinary, given that most of the Olympic Peninsula is absolutely inundated with rain (the Hoh rainforest gets 140 inches a year).

And to get to spend four days catching up with Dad in the midst of all this cool wildlife and weather and scenery? Made it just about the best trip ever.

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A Brief Note and Well Wishes to Jay Lake

Jay Lake, one of the most liked and well-respected members of the sci-fi/fantasy writing community, received a terminal diagnosis yesterday after battling Stage 4 cancer for years. I highly recommend reading his blog post on the matter.

I’ve only gotten to interact with Jay a few times, most memorably at World Jay Day (seen right), organized by Diana Sherman at WorldCon 2011, and at Norwescon 2012, when he critiqued one of my short stories for the Fairwood Writers’ Workshop. His critique was thoughtful and detailed, with broad observations and line-by-line notes typed up, printed out, and ready to go. It was a great experience, and both before and after, I’ve always tried to say hi when I see him, though he’s usually so surrounded by friends and colleagues that it’s difficult to say more than a brief hello.

It’s been both interesting and sad to watch the parallel courses of Jay’s cancer and my Mom’s, to see the differences and similarities with which two people and their families respond to an increasingly dismal series of diagnoses. Throughout, I’ve been both impressed and uplifted by the openness with which Jay shares his emotions, his treatment decisions, and his thought processes. In Jay’s own words, from his blog post linked above: Telling this story is one of the few good things I can derive from cancer. I cannot cheat death, but I can cheat the terror of the disease a little by easing it for others.

Which is, I think, possibly the best reason for writing that I’ve ever heard.

Through it all, Jay’s done some amazing things, including using crowdfunding to help pay for DNA testing, which unfortunately did not bear useful fruit. He’s fought the cancer tooth-and-nail every step of the way, in a way that’s been an inspiration for me, even after my Mom passed away from her own cancer in February. When I wrote Mom’s obituary, I wrote that in each of her roles in life, she left a legacy of love and friendship, and I see Jay doing the same thing every time I see him.

So in closing: Best wishes to Jay, his daughter, and his family. With luck, he has many months yet left– but cancer is a fickle thing.

Also, cancer really sucks. Have I mentioned cancer sucks? Because goddamn, it fucking sucks.