Sunday, August 8, 2010

Priest Point Park in the rain

In America, with all of its evils and faults, you can still reach through the forest and see the sun. But we don't know yet whether that sun is rising or setting for our country. -- Dick Gregory

Priest Point Park is a stone's throw from downtown Olympia but all signs of city disappeared as I pulled into the park. A rose garden is the first thing that greeted me but there was a wedding about to start and since a summer rain was already pelting the men decked out in tuxes, I decided not to add to their stress by intervening in their reserved spot.

The forest encompasses 314 acres and offers the Woodsy Wonder Trail for those who want to stroll among the trees and ferns. This land was once inhabited by missionaries
of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1848. They set up shop here - building the garden, a chapel and school to teach boys from nearby Indian tribes. (The mission closed in 1960).

I crossed a wooden bridge and found myself at an immediate crossroad in the dirt path. Veering right, I could see several fallen trees in the forest that now had tiny trees and vines growing out of them. The trail almost immediately came upon what looked to be a natural recycling area for the city. Piles of top soil, wood and other items were neatly stacked and labeled. I kept to the right of every trail intersection and marveled at how luminescent the green leaves were in contrast to the shadowy darkness of towering moss-covered tree trunks.

After dashing across East Bay Drive (yes, the wilderness found a way to intersect with modern roads), I started the trek to Ellis Cove. The hike follows windy, hard-packed dirt paths with smoothly carved wooden handrails for those who need stability or a
rest making it up the semi-steep trail. It was during one of these rests that I happened to look up and see a black bear that someone had carved out of wood and attached to a tree.

After a half hour or so of climbing up a hill, the trees open up just enough to catch a glimpse of murky brown water between
the bare branches. The water is stagnant and still, the only movement coming from a handful of ducks who were nesting on the saltwater shoreline. There are fallen logs bordering the water and patches of wetland grass on the edges.

After pushing through another uphill path, the trail evens out
and stumbles across a pebble-covered beach with views of the Port of Olympia and the Capitol Building. The weather was rainy, overcast and foggy so I couldn't see more than vague outlines and impressions of the boats and buildings. Curious how chilly the water was, I dipped my big left toe in the cloudy water and then noticed the sign warning of contamination and telling those who come in contact with the water to immediately shower. So much for untouched nature!

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