Darth Vader doesn’t drink juice with his gloves on
Adam said “Darth Vader doesn’t drink juice with his gloves on” Sunday morning while we were having breakfast in our campsite at Cape Alava, standing under the boughs of the big spruces in our camp so we could stay out of the pouring rain while we ate cinnamon bread and toaster pastries (no toaster, though). I handed him a bottle of orange juice I brought specially for him. It was Adam’s first backpack! To call it a backpack for him is probably being generous since all he carried in his REI kiddie daypack was a roll of toilet paper and a few of his extra layers. On the other hand, a lot of five years olds in this day-and-age turn whiny and miserable after they’ve walked around the block. So believe me, I’m proud of him for doing the upper part of the Ozette Triangle, 6.2 miles total (3.1 miles each way). The hike from Ozette Lake (Ka’houk, the Makah name for the lake) out to the ocean on this northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula is spectacular for the route through mossy cedar bogs that drip and ooze and you tend to spot mushrooms that are weird colors like purple and dark green. A lot of the walking is over rustic wooden planks that bring wood sprites or skunk cabbage fairies to mind. The boardwalk sections of the walk can be perilously slippery: Adam had one tumble, it shook me because he narrowly missed slamming the back of his head on the wooden step he Charlie Browned. Ironically, he fell on the day it was dry. At any rate, we dusted him off…er, we scraped the moss off him- and continued on in good spirits but with a lot of extra caution. Various interesting things ensued en route to the coast itself, but at any rate, for the time being- when we finally reached the place in the forest that gives way to the gentle wooded bluffs with filtered views through to Ozette Island, our breaths were taken away. It was low tide and I think at first Adam was pleasantly surprised but puzzled to behold the martianscape of rock between the sliver of beach below us and Ozette Island, instead of crashing waves. It’s indeed an unusual sight for the Cape Alava first-timer, let alone a five year old.
This picture I took of Cannonball Island just off Cape Alava is a couple years old but I wanted to share it because the island figured prominently in various discussions between Adam and I over the weekend. He was intrigued by the native name for the island (Tskawahyah) which I was having trouble fully recalling, all I could remember was it was Tskaw-something-or-rather. We talked about how it’s interesting to have a word that starts out with a T and an S together. Adam is learning how to spell and he spent various times on the hike pronouncing letter sounds and asking me to quiz him with easy words.
Where you finally emerge onto the coast from the woods via the northern segment of the Ozette trail, your attention is naturally drawn toward sprawling Ozette Island- whereas Tskawahyah is a short distance north and not immediately visible. You can reach the base of Tskawahyah at low tide but hiking up and onto the island (colloquially known as Cannonball Island because of the piles of round sandstone at its base) is considered a major taboo. Despite the abandoned World War II Coast Guard cabin on top (which as far as I can tell is not visible, let alone standing) it’s a sacred site for Native Americans in the area.
For this visit, we didn’t venture north along the beach to Tskawahyah. It would have been easy enough Saturday night but Adam was less enthralled with the massive exposed intertidal zone than with running around our campsite positively giddy with joy. After walking more than three miles, I supposed I should let him be a kid. And since we were practically on the beach (you know you’re camping on the Olympic Peninsula coast when you feel the need to conduct rough computational estimates regarding the probability of giant driftwood gaining enough inertia at high tide during an exceptionally rough night to slam into-and-through century-old spruce trees and continue traveling 30 feet to the spot where your tent stands). We chose a campsite with a straight-away view of Tskawahyah but mark my words- all the campsites at Cape Alava are good. We walked through the camp where I spent my first night at Cape Alava with my friends Kelsie, Ken and Lance. It was a good camp but I decided this being Adam’s first backpack we had to choose someplace our own. The evening was chilly (in the upper 30s) and I wanted to make sure everything was ready for dark. I watched Adam dart from pile to pile of sticks, gathering damp firewood.
Both days out on the coast, Adam spent various times pretending to be Darth Vader- he had black gloves, black rain pants and black socks. He kept asking me “Papa, don’t I look like Darth Vader?” My nerves started to fray because every time I’d clandestinely attempt a portrait of him he’d notice me first and instantly strike a stiff-looking posture characteristic of the Emperor’s elite Imperial Royal Guard. This winter he and I are heading down to Cannon Beach for a weekend by ourselves. We’ll rent a nice oceanfront room. The room will have a big screen television and hopefully it’ll be a stormy, fearsome weekend for we will be having our very own Star Wars party: Adam will watch the first Star Wars movie for the first time! I guess that’s a pretty big difference between the Oregon Coast and the Olympic coast, huh? The Oregon coast is one of my favorite places in the world, but I’m so glad there’s no such thing as the Washington Coast Highway.