A Winter Walkabout in Western Washington
"What is that? The sun or the moon?"
"I don't know. I'm not from this neighborhood."
I was told, that for the last thirty days, the sun was not seen on Bainbridge Island. The January weather had a kind of pitter-patter rhythm:
Rain, fog, rain, rain, fog,
Fog, rain, fog, fog, rain,
Fog, rain, rain, fog, fog, rain.
I spent a few days at my sister's home on Bainbridge Island, and I suspect that what I was told about Pacific Northwest weather is ‘fake news,' false information, conspiracy theory, a tall tale, or a plot to scare Californians away. "Sunshine isn't normal," they say. "The weather here is really wet." But, I am suspicious. I could be wrong, but all that groaning about rain and clouds and gloom might be a fable to frighten out-of-town visitors. Especially Californians.
I was on a friendly family walkabout on the Puget Sound in Western Washington State.
And the sun was shining.
Day 1 – Sunny in Seattle
The day before I left Fresno, it was 79 degrees at Yosemite International Airport. I flew into SEATAC dressed for the occasion with my bright blue Marmot raincoat and my REI rain pants. I was ready for the famous Pacific Northwest weather.
I caught the "Link" light rail train heading for the Seattle waterfront. "Are you heading north on the metro?" my brother-in-law texted me to make sure I was making appropriate progress and in the correct direction. "The sun is on my back!" I reply after I pulled out my sunglasses and took a photo to prove that I wasn't lying. The proof is in the picture. Big fluffy clouds follow along as I make my way north to the Bainbridge Island Ferry.
It was sunny in Seattle.
Day 2 – Sunny in Bainbridge Island
Saturday morning, we took a photographic walkabout along the shore of Fort Ward Park, a 137-acre marine park with 4,300 feet of saltwater shoreline on Bainbridge Island.
We talked to a woman who was herding five dogs.
A bald eagle flew overhead and a kingfisher darted over the water.
Cormorants sat on posts stretching their wings to dry.
Small creeks trickled into the sound.
A harbor seal bobed in and out, up and down.
Soft delicate little waves laped on the stony shore.
There are no leaves on the hardwoods, and the berry vines looked thin and weathered. The unpaved portions of the trail were as slippery as snot, and mud stuck to my shoes. Bright green mosses and ferns seem to shout "Quick, photosynthesize while we can!"
The snowcapped peaks of the Olympic National Park were on the horizon, and the Washington State Department of Transportation ferry slowly made its way across sound.
I liked photographing the colors and shapes of the seaweed and the rocks. The light took on an interesting unidentifyable color. "This is what I like to do," taking photos and being outdoors in the cool air and the warm sunshine. The water and the sky were burning blue.
"Clean air!" I could take a deep breath without a concern for my health.
That afternoon, we didn't want stay inside while the sun was shining outside. We set out for a second walkabout to Fay Bainbridge, the only campground on Bainbridge Island. "Should I bring Eggburt, (my teardrop trailer) here and camp?" I muse, "only if it's warm and sunny." The wind was cold, and the sky was clear, and in the south Mt. Rainer floated like a cloud over bright blue waters.
Day 3 – Sunny in Seattle
Our next walkabout day was back to the Seattle waterfront. I set aside my fear of being a tourist, and we took a ride on The Seattle Great Wheel. There is a reason it is a tourist attraction. It is fun to float above the waterfront.
We strolled over to the Olympic Sculpture Park. It the sun it was warm, and in the shade it was cold. I needed a cup of Starbucks to warm up, so we took a few breaks to act like a cold-blooded creature soaking up some sunshine.
Day 4 – Sunny in Port Townsend
On day four, we drove north to Port Townsend where we soaked up clear brilliant distant views of Admiralty Inlet, Whidbey Island, Mount Baker, the Cascades and the Olympic National Park.
Our walkabout long the Port Townsend docks, admiring the handcrafted wooden boats, I question. "If the weather is so grim, why spend so much money on boats and multimillion-dollar homes on the shore?
Luckily, I suspected that all the talk of grey skies is a hoax. I brought with me a tube of Zinka brand sunscreen. "Colored nose coat, created in California," brags the label. I needed nose protection.
The water was blue, and the sky was bluer without a cloud in sight. A thin white line on the horizon hinted that the snow covered Cascade range was not far away.
Even the soda fountain counter at our lunch break was pink and sky blue. As we ate our salmon burger, Lady Gaga was playing on the jukebox in the Nifty Fifty's Soda Fountain.
Day 5- Sunny in Bainbridge
I woke up at my sister's home surrounded by red cedar, cottonwood, and Douglas fir. I'm not sure, so I have to ask:
"Is the sun shining…" I shout down the stairs.
"Yes Cindy, the sun is shining…"
That morning, my sister and I took a casual stroll on the trails of Bloedel Forest Gardens.
As described on their website: "Bloedel Reserve was created by Prentice and Virginia Bloedel, who resided on the property from 1951 until 1986. The founders' vision was ‘to provide refreshment and tranquility in the presence of natural beauty,' and Bloedel's mission is to ‘enrich people's lives through a premier public garden of natural and designed Pacific Northwest landscapes."
We spent two hours walking, admiring flowers, photographing, and discussing the ferns, mosses, willows, Douglas fir, hemlocks, camellias, giant sequoia, waterfalls, and (of course) the sunshine. It was a beautiful day on Bainbridge Island.
Day 6 – Is it Sunny in Seattle?
Time to head back to warm Central California. My sister drops me off early to catch the ferry. Next, I walk to the "Link" light rail. After the short walk, I check in and take my seat on the plane.
As I look out of my Alaska Airlines' window it is…
It is raining.
"Is that the sun or the moon?"
When it comes to the weather, maybe I shouldn't call anyone a liar.
Admittedly, NOAA's numbers don't support my conspiracy theory. I did my homework and the Seattle area should expect rain for 1/3 of the year, fog or cloudy for 1/3 of the year, and sunny for about 1/3 of the year.
On the other hand, Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and weekly radio guest on KUOW is on my side. He writes in his book The Weather of the Pacific Northwest:
"Serious misconceptions about Northwest weather abound… Probably the most repeated unsubstantiated claim is that Seattle receives more rain than virtually anywhere else in the continental United States. Not true."
I am not from this neighborhood. But, it's such a beautiful place to visit, I could live here. Maybe I just need a bigger sample size before I confirm my conspiracy theory.
Maybe one day I will tell my friends in California "It is true. It rains a lot, and it gets really gloomy, and grey, and woefully wet. You don't want to move here."
But for now, I'm keeping my sunscreen handy.
It is sunny in Seattle.
Thank you, Sue, Ken, and Kenneth for a wonderful visit.
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