Notes from a Family Vacation

July 12, 2023

About 12 years ago we took a family vacation to the Olympic Peninsula. We lived in Washington State at the time, near the Puget Sound. We ten camped for most of the trip. Since I am a night owl and my husband isn’t, I usually am up finishing packing until 2 or 3 a.m., then I nap and he takes over, and I get in the van and nap some more.

On this trip, Dh finished loading the van whilst I slept as usual. Then I loaded up the ice chests with the prepared camping meals I’d made while the children got ready and we set off, seven children (the youngest just 2 and 4), two adults, and a dog (Sadie-Lady, who we got when the FYB was a baby and who went home to be with Jesus a couple of years ago), at about 7:30 a.m.

We went to Mukilteo to catch the ferry over to Whidbey Island ( Whidbey Island is 45 miles long and claims to be the longest island in the continental U.S. The population is small (one website listed 1,000), the beauty impressive ( Deception Pass is at the Northern end, Ft. Casey and Ft Ebey around the middle.

The sky was clear, the water of the Sound blue, and the temperature perfect. I got a souveneir coffee cup at the coffeeshop on the Ferry. Dh decided to wait and swing through an espresso stand (this _is_ Washington) on the way to the next ferry.

The children love to stand outside at the front, where the wind makes havoc of your hair. I prefer the calmer back of the boat.
The trip over took about half an hour, and we delayed returning to our car just a smigeon too long. Dh buckled everybody else in while Cherub and I made our painstakingly slow way down the stairs from the passenger deck to the car deck. There are two sets of stairs at this end of the boat, but we are slowing down the people behind us. I apologize, and one older man says, “No, no, never do that.” I thank him, and then as we get to the bottom of the stairs he says, “You know, they have an elevator for you people.” Chagrined, I confess I did once know that, but I forgot. He says, “that’s fine, but next time you’ll know.” (Ah, well, and as it turns out, this is the only ferry out of several we will take on this trip that does have an elevator)

We buckle up and drive off the ferry and up the highway to Keystone, the other ferry stop. Along the way, dh stops to get himself an espresso and we let the dog out to do the necessary and stretch her legs. A fellow espresso buyer offers her a dog biscuit and tells her to have a great day. Equuschick says thank-you before she realizes the lady wasn’t talking to her.

The Barrista (espresso girl) looks harrassed. We learn that a fellow sitting in a car to the side has just given her an order for 15 different espressos. Did I mention this _is_ Washington? I think we once counted 15 drivethru espresso stands on a strip of road about 2 miles long not far from our house.

Sadie flushes a small critter out of the bushes, but it moves too fast to be identified. The espresso stand is surrounded by woods on all sides, as is the highway.

We continue on our way, munching on a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese in the car (forgot knives, but we grabbed a few plastic ones from the coffee shop on the ferry). Evergreens hug the road on either side, often making the drive shady even though the sun shines brightly. Periodically the trees suddenly stop and open fields burst out into the sun. Wildflowers bloom, cows much placidly.
As we take the exit for the Keystone ferry we drive out of the woods and meadow and past mud flats. Here we spot at least 6 blue herons fishing as well as numerous other water fowl. The purple thistles are blooming richly, and they make a pleasant contrast with the yellow flowers brightly showing their faces. We can see the Olympics across the sound, looking misty in the distance across the sea.

We are content with the beauty of it all. So content that we’re only a little dismayed when we learn that the ferry is delayed 2 1/2 hours due to exceptionally low tides.

The ferry ticket-meister is a genial fellow, cracking sympathetic jokes and making a kind comment on the size of our family. As we drive through the gate one of the children says, “He was a jolly man.”

We park the van in the holding lane and join the others whiling away the time exploring the seashore. It is a rocky beach, and the waves have smoothed away the rough edges of most of the rocks and polished them. We hunt for the prettiest rocks with the zest of children at an Easter egg hunt, and in many ways, the rocks remind me of Easter eggs.

We discover a California Sea Cucumber, probably killed because of the low tide. click here to see a photo of one, though ours was much redder than this: click here to read more about these interesting members of the echinoderm family:, or here: I’ve found them fascinating ever since one spat out its cuvier’s tubicles at me while I was snorkeling off the coast of Okinawa.
We leave our Sea Cuke and clamber over the rocks some more. I am holding Cherub ‘s hand as we walk, until one of the children asks me a question about the tide and the dock for the ferry. Hser that I am, I let go so I can talk with both hands. Cherub walks away from me and stumbles and falls on the rocks, skinning her knee for the second time today. It’s bleeding and she has sea water and algae all over it and green slime on both hands, but Cherub like, she just grins. We make our belabored way back up the beach and over the rocks to the restrooms to clean her up. She is not upset, but is so very interested in what’s going on with her knee that she nearly somersaults trying to bend over and examine it while still walking.

Later FYG (who is around 4) and I wander off together, and she finds a space between some larger rocks that she says is her house. She invites me to visit, but once I sit down, she tells me to move, she wants to sit there. I explain I’m a guest, and that’s no way to treat a guest. She says, “Oh, yeah,” and we continue our visit. Later she says something about the ferry taking a ‘yong, yong, yong, time,’ and I, mother like, take a moment to say, “Llllla, lllla, can you say LLLLL?” She grins, puts both hands on her hips and tells me, “You’re not my mother, you know, you’re just my neighbor visiting me.” I apologize.

The ferry finally arrives, though it’s nearly noon before we make way. The delay has set our trip back by 1/2 a day and we’re feeling a little depressed about it, when a man in a folk costume type white smock shirt and jeans comes up and explains that he will be playing his Irish harp music in the back if anybody is interested. We are!

We all rush back to listen to him play this beautiful instrument. FYG and FYB stretch out on the floor, resting their chins in their hands. Pip sits in my lap and dozes off. I listen to the soothing notes as they drip musically off the ends of his fingers and gaze out the windows at the blue Sound as we travel over the waves, and I get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes at the beauty of it all. My firstborn leans her head on my shoulders and squeezes my hand. Over the heads of the other children I catch my husband’s eye and we smile.

Meanwhile, the Cherub has been quietly emptying the contents of the purse belonging to the complete stranger sitting nearby. I am mortified. The stranger is all that is kind and understanding and tells me it’s just fine, it’s okay, no problem at all, which the Cherub understands to mean “You’re not in trouble,” and she smirks at me.

We buy two CD’s from Michael David, the harpist, which we still play from time to time.
The ferry lands at Port Townsend, and we continue our journey- but not this post.