“If you come and hang out with me, I will probably take a lot of pictures of you that you will enjoy for the rest of your life.” – Sean Dustman, Oak Harbor, Washington, USA.
The man stands by his word. In June 2017, we bunkered down with our Dustman cousin clan on Whidbey Island, a pineland paradise in North-West corner of mainland USA. Sean is an amazing photographer, and he is snapping away in a photographer’s wonderland. It is a living, breathing garden of Eden.
Their home is in the quiet little seaside town of Oak Harbor. This hub was just a short ferry ride across a bay with dancing dolphins and orca, and through a windy road of rich, old growth forest, to the mammoth, mossy Olympic National Park. As far as parks go, this one’s definitely up there in the mystical category. This is where rivers run at their clearest, air dives into your lungs at its freshest, trees grow on trees at their greenest, and if fairies live anywhere, this is definitely where they live at their happiest.
Everyone should visit Olympic National Park. Everyone. It was made a national monument in 1909, but still suffered many years while battles went on between the Forest (logging) Service and Park Service. When President Franklin Roosevelt visited in 1938 and witnessed the activities of the Forest Service, he was appalled. Soon, the area was re-designated as a national park. In this bold action, the President saved two of the most threatened valleys by stripping an additional 187,000 acres away from the Forest Service. Thank goodness for that guy. Now it survives for all of us: we can see, touch, listen, feel and smell this sweet sanctuary. It winds from snowy peaks, down rivers, through forests and all the way to the sea.
Our crew hiked through the Hoh Rainforest. We crouched at the banks of the Hoh River and splashed the water on our faces, icy cold as the snow from which it had melted. We visited the beaches. These were incredible shorelines with smooth stones to clamber over and fallen pine trees, washed up on the shore as big as beached whales.
It came as a surprise to me, that while ‘getting at one with nature’ I’d also brush so close to teen pop stardom. In recent years, this eerily beautiful countryside was the setting for the blockbuster series, Twighlight. Where we stayed in the town of Forks, every shopfront sold a vampire shirt or a warewolf hoodie. Twighlight tour buses putted down the street. People working in the diners even admitted to moving here just because they loved the series so much. Hence, I must record that there was a short time in my life where I momentarily regretted not having endured one of the movies or the books. The feeling passed.
We loved our visit in this tiny corner of the country. The islands are patchworked with beautiful state parks everywhere and people take pride in their wild, unruly forests, their clean beaches, their sweet lakes and rivers. Patches of torn-down forest are, thankfully, an exception to the rule. And luckily, we came at the end of a long winter. We brought with us a nasty flu, and while we unfashionably shared it with our loving hosts, they took it in their stride! The sun came out, white skin was bared and reflected in the back yard, barbeques were abundant and we basked in the glory of being still for a while. It truly was a welcomed break from the road. Thanks for the photos, Sean. Thanks for the memories. We will miss your colourful crew.