A poetic approach to the wonders of Hood Canal

Kitsap Sun photo (Click to view fullsize.)

Marc Ramirez of the Seattle Times seems to have discovered Hood Canal for the first time, or maybe he just took a fresh look at it. He begins his travel piece with a colorful and fitting description:

It’s one of Washington’s hidden jewels, a fishhook-shaped natural fjord dividing the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas. It’s a deep breath, a moment of silence. That place you want to run to, to get away from it all? It’s the Hood Canal.

But while it’s no secret to locals, who cite the glacially carved waterway’s natural features — mountains, forest, wildlife, sunsets, water — as their reasons for living here, what might stand out to visitors is something else entirely: A sense of utter calm.

Jan Newton, a University of Washington oceanographer known for her studies of the canal’s low-oxygen condition, offered her own colorful observation, removed from the usual scientific objectivity:

“Any time humans are in a landscape where there’s a strong scale of the land and you feel very little, you feel really special. It’s like being in a theater — you see so much in front of you.”

For those of us familiar with Hood Canal and it’s many features, Ramirez’ piece offers an opportunity to step back and see the waterway with a newcomer’s eye.

Would anyone care to offer a personal observation about Hood Canal, maybe mentioning a favorite place or a special memory? I would love to see some comments on this.

If you’re interested in my writing about Hood Canal, here are the opening lines from the book “Hood Canal: Splendor At Risk”:

A great blue heron, its broad wings spread to the wind, dips out of an overcast sky and glides into the marsh. Extending its legs, the large bird lands gracefully among tall reeds near the water. The tweet-tweet-tweetering of songbirds creates an agreeable chorus, though each bird sings its own distinct song.
Untold numbers of wild birds share this place on Hood Canal, just outside of Belfair on the North Shore. River otter slink along the shore at sunset. Mink, beaver and muskrat mind their own ways, thanks to what remains of this ancient swamp.
Human visitors may find themselves refreshed by the wildness here, as in other natural environs. Some people describe a warm feeling of enthrallment, a kind of mild hypnotic state.
It’s as if the human heart yearns for a more primitive experience, away from the cluttered pattern of modern life, says Celia Parrot, caretaker of the property.
“The reason I go out two or three times a day is not just to walk the dogs,” she says. “It’s like a refueling. I go out to get another dose of that intimate feeling.”

2 thoughts on “A poetic approach to the wonders of Hood Canal

  1. I too saw this article in The Seattle Times this morning. Nice piece and I can relate as I recently drove my motorcycle from Port Townsend down Hwy 101 to Shelton on the way back to Seattle. It was like driving through 1950. You feel like you have entered some portal and gone back in time. Mom and Pop everything..stores, motels, resorts, businesses. Next time I will seek out the top of Mt Walker and hope it is a very clear day. My favorite stop was at Hama Hama Oyster Company for a late afternoon garlic smoked oyster snack from their retail shop.


    BTW, “Hood Canal: Splendor At Risk” has graced the bookshelf at our Hood Canal cabin for many years.

  2. “…Would anyone care to offer a personal observation about Hood Canal, maybe mentioning a favorite place or a special memory?…”

    I remember a girl who fished in the canal for the first and last time when she was ten.

    The girl lived on the north shore of Hood Canal and every summer she swam, dived, and played in the water. Sometimes she was in the water so long she shivered and her skin puckered.

    She read about troll fishing and wanted to try it and so early one summer morning she pulled the old heavy Sandy rowboat off the top of the bulkhead and down the beach into the water.

    She waded in until the boat floated and pulled herself into the boat.
    The oars slipped into the oarlocks and she pushed off into the quiet of the early morning.

    She rowed a couple hundred yards out from shore before she stopped rowing, pulled the oars in and assembled the fishing pole.

    She tied a string around the end of the slim tree limb, squeezed small round sinkers down toward the bottom of the string, and attached the hook on the end.

    When it weighed enough to sink the string, she slipped her fingers into the small smelly jar of salmon eggs and pulled out two she speared on the hook until the eggs covered the tiny hook.

    The girl lowered the string until she hit bottom and the string slackened. She propped the end of the makeshift pole between the edge of the back seat and the back of the boat and began to row.

    The girl rowed down the canal until she was across from Alderbrook her turns around spot…and rowed back and forth for hours until her mother called her in for lunch.

    She occasionally pulled the string out of the water to check the hook, found the eggs gone and added more. She imagined a smart fish had nibbled the eggs off around the hook as she nibbled dripping ice cream around the top of an ice cream cone.

    She rowed and watched for a tug on the pole, ready to grab it if a salmon bit and pulled the pole over the side.
    The boat floated, oars slack in the water as she paused to pull up the string before rowing to shore and lunch.

    As the sinkers came up alongside the boat, she spotted a dark shape just below the sinkers and dangling off her hook – a dead fish.

    Her heart thumped with excitement as she stared at her fish. Moreover, she saw a new kind of fish – a flat fish.

    She carefully placed the fish in the bottom of the boat and rowed hard for shore. The bow crunched up on the rocks, she threw the anchor, and the rope spun out until the concrete filled coffee can landed high on the beach.

    The girl carefully pulled the fish off the bottom of the boat, ran up to the house the fish bobbing off the end of the string, and handed the prize to her mother.

    “Here’s dinner, mom!”

    The girl watched her mother take small scissors out of her green plaid apron pocket, cut the string and throw the fish in the garbage.

    “I don’t want to clean it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Please enter the word MILK here: