We worked a couple of snow days in early February, days when we had so much snow we told the Assistant Managers to stay home and we would fill in. It’s a great deal for us because, hey there’s about 10” of snow out there, and we aren’t going anywhere anyway! When this happens, we then earn a few extra days off.
We added one of those days to a normal 3 day weekend and booked an RV site at Fort Worden State Park, the Beach Campground. There are 2 campgrounds at Fort Worden, a beach affair which is open and expansive, with a beach that wraps around 2 sides of the long skinny property. The other is the Upper (Forest) Campground, which has sites sprinkled among the pines and firs on the hill above the old fort. Each campground has its own charm, depending on whether you prefer a forest view or sunshine and the smell of the ocean.
We left noonish on Friday morning (our bonus day off) and drove the rig onto the Kingston Ferry, then across the Hood Canal Bridge (where we just missed a boomer missile sub transiting out to a tour in the Pacific), further on to Port Townsend and then on through to Fort Worden. With all the recent snow, the view of the Olympics from the Hood Canal Bridge was very nice.
The old fort was built as a defensive gunnery emplacement to protect Puget Sound in World War I, just in case some of the extremely distant navies of our enemies decided to invade our homeland through the Pacific Northwest. It doubled down as an improved gunnery site for World War II, with the same predictable results: not a shot was fired at the enemy (for obvious reasons). But the gunnery batteries, which still exist sans guns, are impressive. Solid concrete doesn’t even start to describe it with many of the walls seemingly feet thick, and tunnels running everywhere so the soldiers manning the guns and fetching munitions wouldn’t be subjected to enemy fire. The fort is pretty sizeable, and most of the facilities have been renovated and restored to use as a resort of sorts under the management of the Washington State Parks system.
The main fort is the long “Commons”, a grassy parade ground that is surrounded by base housing and administrative offices. The housing has been upgraded and refurbished as rental “cottages”, a few of which are 6 bedrooms, or “Condos” which are converted barracks housing. It seems like a perfect place for a large family reunion, and I’m sure it really jumps in the summer. At the ocean end of the Commons is the Beach Campground, and at the other is the Upper Campground. We walked the entire perimeter, and it’s about 2.5 miles with lots to see.
Above the fort Commons, on the bluffs to the West, are the gun batteries. Part of the fun of coming here is all the walking and hiking you can do to see all of the installations.
There is a lot of signage telling you the history of it all, and the views are spectacular. There are some interesting buildings as well, that don’t have any signs, so we can only guess what they were used for. This one sits atop the hill, so it may have been an observation post. If I was Base Commander, I would have been tempted to hang a giant target on the ocean facing side of the tower.
It rained on and off during our stay, but we caught a nice break on Sunday and opted to walk the perimeter of the park. Up a steep trail to the top of the bluff, and then west and back down to sea level where we found the old Chinese Gardens. What is now a pond used to be a drained shallow valley that was taken over by Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s. They grew produce which was then trucked into town as far away as Seattle for sale. Anti-Chinese political sentiment eventually ran all of them out of the area, and the well-tended farms fell into retirement, and eventually flooded back into a pond.
While we walked we also collected rocks and driftwood to paint, a Zen experience that is incredibly relaxing. Wendy has quite a collection from all our camping, and this time she focused on painting a landscape scene from our beach onto a piece of driftwood found on the beach.
Fort Worden sits adjacent to Port Townsend, the wooden ship capital of the Northwest. It’s an old seaport town with a decidedly Victorian flavor, and also home to two of our favorite restaurants. Breakfast was served at the Blue Moose, a smallish breakfast-and-lunch-only spot run by 2 sisters. Along with a great (big) breakfast, you get some cool antique furnishings and collectibles hung all over the walls.
Lunch was served at Sirens, right on the waterfront and up a very steep flight of stairs. The atmosphere is inviting, the views are great, and the food is wonderful. The beer mug says it all.
In between the two restaurants, we strolled through the boatyard adjacent to the Blue Moose.
They fit out some pretty big vessels here, with a monstrous “Travel Lift” that can pluck boats longer than 100’ right out of the dockside. That mystery picture above came off the front of the Red Bluff, a heavy tug. Old tires make great bumpers for big ships, I guess. We got a few pictures to give some scale to it.
Winter camping is nice without all the summer crowds. The solitude and quiet offsets the less-than-spectacular weather. Returning from our perimeter walk, we were remarking that, unlike most, there was no real highlight to this trip to anchor this blog. But we spoke too soon. On our return we noticed a growing crowd of law enforcement vehicles, lights flashing, at the entrance to the park. I initially thought a donut truck had overturned, but soon a Camp Host came banging on our door to announce that someone had found “a piece of ordnance” on the beach, and that the bomb squad had been called to clear it out. It turned out to be a WWII artillery shell, apparently still live. A few hours later Mr. Bomb Disposal showed up, and the decision was made to detonate it in place rather than move it. We had nearly a front row seat for this, and I couldn’t have been happier. In my book, any day you get to see somebody blow something up is a very good day, indeed!
We watched and waited, and soon saw Mr. BD trailing a spool of wire back from the beach, to which he attached a hand switch. And shortly after, a siren sounded and a loudspeaker barked “Fire in the hole” 3 times. A rather loud boom and plume of smoke erupted, which really was only the beginning. The loud boom was likely the explosives used by Mr. BD, which then lit the old shell propellant on fire, which created a huge cloud of smoke that engulfed the whole entrance to the park for about a half hour. It was all very exciting, and definitely worthy of being a blog anchor!
And last but never least, here’s Tippy, inspired by a handwritten sign we saw on our journey!