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Port Townsend

This summer has been the summer of what I have dubbed, Mini-Cations. Small little ventures that are long enough to take a breather, but far far shorter than a vacation or even weekend getaway. It has totally changed my perspective on Vacations. I’ve found I like smaller, shorter trips with more frequency and variety more than bigger trips which tend to be fewer and farther between. The latest installment was last Monday, when we headed up to Port Townsend.

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In the 4 years we have lived in Seattle, Port Townsend is yet another place we hadn’t been to. There is very little reason for that, especially since one of our college professor’s from Cal Poly has a house up there and has been offering for us to come visit since before we graduated. On top of that (and I can’t recall if I have ever mentioned this before), before we officially moved to Seattle we very (very!) nearly bought a piece of land on the Kitsap Peninsula, so therefore have actually spent quite a large amount of time across the water, but never made it up across the Hood Canal Bridge more than once (we skipped PT that time on our way back from backpacking the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic’s). While the peninsula’s feel like a whole different world from Seattle, in actuality it’s only about 50 miles away. Of course what makes it feel farther is the ferry ride across the sound and several large bridge crossings over inlets, canals, islands and the like. That area is so incredibly beautiful- so green, calm and seemingly untouched. So when we heard another friend from college was traveling up for the week but had decided to drive along the coast instead, we decided to take Monday and head up too.

It’s been a while since we last took the ferry, I actually can’t recall when that was. The ferry was something that held such allure for us when we first were contemplating moving up here. Then, 5 months into living here, Matt took a job at an Architecture firm out on Bainbridge and he did the reverse commute for nearly two years. We learned what it was like to be a slave to the ferry schedule, how much it sucked as new parents to be so much looking forward to Matt getting home then have something come up last minute so he’d miss the boat and be stuck out on that island for another hour. While it added a whole lot of stress, I still think as far as commuting goes, the ferry system is awesome. Food? Wi-Fi? Plush seats? Beer? Far surpasses single-passenger vehicle travel. Riding it for recreation is far better. It takes a large chunk of our driving time out of the trip, and the kids get to run around and see the beautiful sound, city and islands from a new perspective.

When we arrived at Allan’s house, he took us on a hike out along a trail to ‘Lover’s Leap’. Our hope was that by the time we got there, the fog would have cleared. His house sits atop a forested bluff looking out across Discovery Bay and onward to the Straight of Juan de Fuca then Vancouver Island. Often times he sees Orca whale pods in the bay, which the girls would have loved. The hike took us down along the ravines and through the dense woods to a vista, which on a clear day brings an incredibly breathtaking view. The fog did not lift in time for us and we peered out into whiteness and silhouetted trees no more than 100 feet from the point. Even so, there was still plenty to see and explore along the trail, from banana slugs, to berries, even the biggest wasp nest I have EVER seen.

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The sun came out instantly as soon as we made it back to the road. So we headed back and hung out at Allan’s house for a bit. Now, one of the benefits of having a lot of Architects as friends is getting to see the cool pad’s they’ve made for themselves. This house was one we’ve heard much about, even seen pictures of (the pictures, nor mine I fear, really do the place justice). Like much of the land available on the Peninsula with a water view and easy access (well, that is within reasonable price), tends to have very similar issues- critical slopes, watersheds, riparian corridors, septic setbacks, fish & wildlife restrictions. So being an architect, these restrictions ultimately lead to very creative and amazing solutions on land other’s won’t touch because it won’t fit much, but wonderful when what you are trying to build something far smaller than what the building departments normally expect (say, under 2000 sqft and not a faux-craftsman). Right next door to Allan’s house the neighbor’s have a house designed by James Cutler, a quintessential name Pacific Northwestern architecture. We got a quick tour of the house, of which I didn’t take any pictures of the inside out of respect to the owners. But I took full advantage of Allan and photographed his beautiful home.

The house’s interior width is only 14 feet wide (due to setback issues from a critical slope on one side and a septic setback on the other), but it makes up for it’s tiny footprint with soaring 23′ vaulted ceilings. Allan has maxed out the glass (nearly 40% of the walls are windows, not to mention the skylights. The home is open, rich, and filled with Allan’s character. The other home he owns in San Luis Obispo is a historic victorian that was moved several blocks when the city plowed a highway right through China Town (how’s that for historic gentrification?). The house used to be the Chinese Brothel. This house is very different, it very much fit’s it’s place and environment. The coolest element was a wonderful reading loft he has perched above the kitchen. Accessible via ladder from the bedroom, it wedges itself in the skylights in the gable, leaving barely enough room for even me to stand. As he didn’t want to block out natural light, he had a glass floor installed, allowing the center of the space to be flooded with light from above. Plus it’s pretty trippy to stand atop plate glass and look straight down 20 feet.

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From there, we all headed into old Port Townsend city center to play tourist and grab lunch. Allan took us to this amazing hole-in-the-wall soup place (if you’re ever there it’s called Hi-Spot and it’s down some back alley, so don’t ask me how to get there). Absolutely amazing soup. The restaurant was Hawaiian Themed, which seemed a bit out of place until we found out the owner opened the shop to pursuit his dream of retiring in Hawaii. Then we hit up an awesome vintage bookstore and vintage car shop. I think we passed about 15 Antique Furniture stores, they must be akin to Seattle’s Starbuck’s one on every corner motto, Port Townsend must be the Antique capital of the world. By that time the afternoon had worn on and we had to grab coffee and head home.

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I think we were pretty certain the kids would all crash on the ride home, but that was not the case. Perhaps it was the soup, but they were all pretty hyper and giggling in the back seat. That is until we crossed the last bridge over onto Bainbridge and Tallis crashed right before we had to load onto the Ferry. Even though we woke her up once on board, it was so nice to be able to walk around and stretch our legs a bit as we watched Seattle get bigger and bigger over the water. It was good to get home, but it made me all the more amazed just how close so many absolutely wonderful places are within such a close distance to us. These mini-cations really fit the season of life we are in with young kids, not to mention provide a great opportunity to visit with people whom we’ve been separated by time and distance. Mostly, I find it’s an incredibly enjoyable to Matt and I, who often just need a little break like this to recharge a bit.

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