Marrowstone Island: A World So Close to, So far
I zipped previous them, a city lady driving too fast down an empty country street. The elderly couple, out for a brisk stroll, waved cheerily anyhow.
That is what you do if you reside in the sluggish lane on a place like Washington’s Marrowstone Island. You wave at automobiles, even these driven by speedy strangers.
I smartened up and slowed down to higher take pleasure in this tranquil island. In any case, why was I hurrying It isn’t like there’s something to rush to on Marrowstone, a six-square-mile island nestled near Port Townsend.
Let the San Juans have their ferry lineups, the cute outlets, the tremendous-sized second homes gobbling up the waterfront. Marrowstone is a rural hideaway for newcomers and the descendants of 19th-century farmers and fishers who settled the island.
Some islanders still work the land and sea or make music and artwork, while some commute to Port Townsend, a 20-minute drive away. Others are retired, just having fun with country life. And, sure, there are vacation properties, including a couple of huge fancy ones, on the prime waterfront on Marrowstone’s east shore. On a clear day their inhabitants can, if they swivel their deck chairs, see each Mount Baker and Mount Rainier. Admiralty Inlet, busy with freighters and pleasure boats, is practically at their doorsteps.
It is such views and the outdoors life that deliver visitors to Marrowstone. Actually no one comes for the procuring. The island’s “business hub” _ and concerning the island’s only retailer _ is the comfortably ramshackle Nordland Basic Retailer. Buy groceries, fishing deal with or beer, or rent a small boat to mosey across the sheltered Mystery Bay out entrance. Or sit and sip espresso by the store’s wooden stove on a chilly day.
After shopping for my dinner fixings, I left Nordland, the island’s principal “city,” and headed to Fort Flagler State Park, the big draw on Marrowstone. The sun-dappled street wound via thick forest; a few deer grazed on the grassy shoulder, barely glancing up as I drove previous. A guy in a pickup truck, his huge junior stone island soft shell jacket shaggy canine sitting practically in his lap, waved as he headed the other approach. I felt as if I was a world away, not just a few hours, from Seattle.
The fundamentals (and extra)
Who lives there: About 900 individuals _ a whole bunch extra on peak summer season weekends _ and many deer.
What’s in a name: Capt. George Vancouver named Marrowstone Level in 1792 after the whitish cliffs behind it fabricated from what he known as “marrowstone,” in keeping with HistoryLink.org, the web encyclopedia of Washington State historical past. Nordland is named after 19th-century Norwegian immigrant Peter Nordby, who based the Marrowstone settlement.
Ferry good: Marrowstone and neighboring Indian Island (a naval ammunition facility that retains all however its south tip closed to the public) are linked to the Olympic Peninsula by a bridge/causeway. No ferry essential. Nonetheless, from Seattle and factors east, you might want to take a ferry to the peninsula or drive there from the south, through Tacoma.
Locations to stay: Nothing fancy. The down-house Seaside Cottages on Marrowstone are on the south tip. In Fort Flagler State Park, there’s the hostel, campground and a number of other historic navy homes that have been turned into vacation rentals. There also are personal cabin rentals across the island. See www.ptguide.com _ a Port Townsend-area information _ which has links to rentals on Marrowstone. There are fancier locations to stay in Port Townsend, Port Ludlow or Port Hadlock.
More info: Fort Flagler State Park, 360-902-8844 or www.parks.wa.gov/. Washington State Tourism, 877-260-2731 or www.experiencewashington.com.
But tiny, bucolic Marrowstone has had its battles, principally about development and especially about hooking up to a public-water provide (wells serve a lot of the island), which opponents worry would encourage extra development.
Peace within the park
Fort Flagler State Park was my place for the night time _ almost literally. I’d booked a bunk on the 14-mattress Marrowstone Island Youth Hostel, housed in one of the park’s outdated military buildings. I was the one guest on a heat summer season weeknight.
It was a luxurious abundance of Spartan space; I cooked within the hostel’s communal kitchen and skim within the dwelling room. For night entertainment, I walked for a few miles on the virtually-empty, sandy beach. Bald eagles drifted overhead and seals cruised past, a stone’s throw from the Marrowstone Level lighthouse, as the solar set.
Fort Flagler sprawls over 784 acres at the north tip of the island. Once a nineteenth-century army fort, with heavy-obligation gun batteries designed to protect the entrance to Admiralty Inlet (and thus Puget Sound) from enemy ships, it turned obsolete when the age of aircraft dawned. Together with its sister bases, Fort Worden at Port Townsend and Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, it was turned right into a park. Now Fort Flagler has miles of seashore and forest trails, historic army constructions and a campground, which is about the busiest place on the island with scores of comfortable RV and tent campers.
The subsequent day, I explored the park’s small navy-history museum and joined a tour of the batteries led by Dennis and Nelda Donovan, retirees who volunteer on the park all summer. We clambered across the bunker-like batteries on excessive bluffs on the water’s edge. Dennis talked of the historical past, of the massive guns and the men who served right here, as we walked via dark passageways and concrete-walled rooms that held ammunition.
“Dennis likes forts; I like lighthouses,” stated Nelda. On Marrowstone Island, the couple gets both and far, far more.