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A Kitty Chicken Lives in Port Townsend

Port Townsend felt like home, like Santa Cruz and like a place Ali and I could settle into. The main drag in town, Water Street, ran along the waterfront, aptly enough, and had a proper mix of restaurants, ice cream shops, galleries and funky gift stores. The rest of town shot straight up a hillside so that all the Victorian houses and their ginger-breaded balconies and pointy dormer windows had a stunning view of the Pacific. At the wharf the lines ting-tinged on their mast poles all day long where boats of all sizes bobbed lazily catching a suntan. Farmer’s market, fresh baked bread, flowers, flowers, flowers, a 10-yr old street cellist, hand-crafted outriggers made of rich golden wood, and the sounds of the sea. Mmm, that was fun to close my eyes and be back there for a minute.

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Port Townsend is smaller than Santa Cruz. It also lacks the consistency of temperate weather which we kept having to remind ourselves of, since sunshine, warmth and just the right amount of clouds to add interest to the sky dominated our stay there. It might be small, but it’s well located. Vancouver Island and its jewel of a city, Victoria are actually in sight to the north across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, just a ferry ride away. Seattle is a mere hour drive south and in a couple of hours to the west you can find yourself high in the crests of the Olympic National Park. Long cold rainy winters, that’s the only blemish.

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Our campground for the week was at Point Hudson Marina, right on the water. The bed and breakfast next door to the marina had the most amazing garden and we could walk right out to the beach and along the shore for a mile in either direction. Our outdoor chairs provided a front row seat to the “boat show” in the morning and the sunsets in the evening. Biking and walking into town was easy except for that hillside I mentioned, but nothing we couldn’t handle with a little huffing and puffing.

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Our first evening in town we took our happy hour to the beach for a walk. When we passed by some locals, we asked about restaurants for dinner and they steered us to the Fountain Cafe. (Featured on the Discovery Channel as the “Best in State”.) Phenomenal food! It was a tiny place with maybe only 9 or 10 tables, but since we were there early in the evening, the wait wasn’t long. An hour later when we left, there was an entire turn of the restaurant waiting out on the sidewalk to be seated. Our table was at the front window so we’d been watching them all milling about. When we left we felt compelled to offer up some encouragement. We scanned the crowd and when we met hungry eyes, we told them how good the food was. You absolutely must eat here if you go to Port Townsend.

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Since downtown is fairly small, easily seen in an afternoon, we decided to spend our next day afield. We wanted to find out more about the surrounding towns and a brochure of the local cider makers had made it into Ali’s hands… so enough said. We drove a big circle down into the farmlands to visit Eaglemount and Finnriver. Eaglemount was lovely and we came away with several bottles of tasty meads, ciders and wines, but it was Finnriver that really captured our hearts and imaginations.

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This 2-family-owned organic farm is set back a few miles from the main road in the Chimacum Valley. Under their care, the river than runs through it, is gradually recovering its salmon population. In addition to making artisan ciders, they keep honey bees, raise chickens, goats and pigs, grow blueberries, heirloom apples, strawberries, black currants, wild flowers and all sorts of vegetables on 33 acres, all with no chemicals.

I stole this picture from their web site.  It doesn't quite show her face, but you get the sense of her.

I stole this picture from their web site. It doesn’t quite show her face, but you get the sense of her.

Their tasting room was hosted by the most genuinely beautiful young woman – no make up, her brown hair up and spilling out in places, wearing a worn out plaid flannel shirt and a permanent smile that cut two comma-shaped dimples into her cheeks. The stories she told about each of the bottles we tasted revealed that she was an insider, not part of the family by blood maybe, but certainly by sweat and passion for the farm. Later we found out that she and her husband started as interns with Finnriver a couple of years before, but fell in love with it and stayed. They are trying to buy their own piece of land soon to start their own farm.

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As we sipped on a blueberry brandy we were told a story about an insect infestation that happened one year in their blueberry field. Their organic solution to the problem was to bring in a flock of ducks and set them loose to live in the field and munch on the bugs. Not only did the ducks do a proper job controlling the pests, but the entire farm family and staff got to eat duck eggs while and the duck poop turned out to be a miracle fertilizer. They had the biggest, juiciest crop of blueberries the following year, the size of grapes she said.

After the tasting we were invited to stroll along a mile loop path that winds through the farm, it crossed the river and pulled us out through waist high grass. We stopped and talked to the chickens who were all out in their yard scurrying around. There was one chicken in particular that was the EXACT butterscotch color of our Kitty, who seemed to prance and peck with a special enthusiasm. We called it Kitty Chicken. Several plaques along the way explained the history of the land or the farm’s mission and the methods they were using. Ali and I talked non-stop about it all as we pursued a mini-mission of our own – we had to see the pigs.

Two potential new farm interns!

Two potential new farm interns!

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Farmland, ocean waves, quaint downtown, delicious food – the only thing left on the list was to head up to the mountains. The hour drive west to Port Angeles was a lot of freeway before arriving at the visitors center at the entrance to the Olympic National Park. From there, the road up to Hurricane Ridge was a 45 minute steep climb of switchbacks through pine forest. Soon enough, the trees thinned out in places to reveal jaw-dropping views of the valley below and the icy white tops of Mt. Olympus, Mt. Deception, Mt. Constance and others that make up the range.

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I imagine Hurricane Ridge came by its name easily. The wind whipped across the top of that hill like nobody’s business. We did our best to hang onto our napkins and plastic utensils as we lunched on the patio outside the visitors center. Even our Tupperware container full of couscous salad could have flown like a kite in that wind. Winter coats and hats didn’t do much to keep us from getting very chilled while we ate, almost enough to scare Ali off our hiking plan. I cinched up her hood real tight around her face and promised that walking would warm us. What I didn’t realize was that all of our trail options would be covered in snow.

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We made our way to the edge of the ridge on the first trail only to find it blocked by a huge snow drift. As I was picking my way out onto it for a picture, I startled a young deer in the trees nearby. So cool! Not to be discouraged, we continued around to the other side of the hill and found a half-visible trail and I could see hikers up on top of a ridge above us. Ali was reluctant, but I was so excited that I was able to talk her into just trying. “We can always turn around if it gets impossible”, I said.

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When the trail disappeared and all that remained were some faint foot impressions stretching across a seriously steep, snow-covered slope, we paused. I eventually started out again, slamming my heels or the sides of my soles into the snow pack to give myself better traction and got half-way across. Ali followed, but it only took one slip of her outside foot toward the 5,000 foot drop to meet her definition of “impossible”. I skidded back over to where she’d stopped. We waited a bit for her heart to start beating normally again and then we headed back down the hill. It was SO hard for me to let go of my desire to keep climbing, but when weighed against the real chance of falling to our death, or at the very least to a broken body requiring helicopter rescue, I was able to move on. (I did pout for 2 minutes though.)

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As intriguing as Port Townsend was, Finnriver internships would have to wait for our possible return. Oh Canada was calling.