Hidden Places – Neah Bay
I’ve decided to restart this site as a means to share with people not only my photos and thoughts, but hopefully to inspire people to leap out of their comfort zones, spin the globe, pick a point on the map and with no if, ands, or buts (unless you are cycling there, then there is A LOT of butt), go there!
Everyone knows Paris, London, the big flashy cities, with the flashy names, that connote a whole array of expectations. Everyone has done the EUROPE trip or the USA trip, where you tick tourist sites off a list as you seen them, accomplishing Bucket List items. Yet, my joie de vivre is finding those experiences you can’t find in the travel bibles, places, even though many of them most definitely are not, feel, like my secrets that I get to share with anyone who will listen or, in this case, read.
Neah Bay is one of those magical places that you don’t want to leave. Quite literally there is only ONE way to leave, along a windy road, mostly occupied by logging trucks. From that road you come to a single fork. Take a right towards Forks (yes, home of those awfully fashionable and emo vampires), or keep heading along the windy coastal road, past the Nippon paper factory’s billowing smokestacks into Port Angeles.
I arrived into Neah Bay along that windy logger road, one rainy evening in late March on a fully loaded bicycle. I had made a terrible error in judgement, due to my limited touring experience. A 100km day, was actually a 140km day, along an insane road, wind pushing me into oncoming truckers barreling down the road in their mammoth infinite wheelers, the rain drenching my body, my soul, my two pairs of socks. At one bend, I was almost going to call it quits, but I pushed forward, called my couchsurfing host from the Tyee Motel. She was shocked at how I had gotten there.
“No one cycles on that road.”
Well, now at least one person had. She fed me elk soup and gave up her warm bed, to sleep in her daughter’s room, so my frozen shell could resume it’s regularly scheduled temperature.
“You’re not ridin’ out of here”
My host said grimly. She could not be persuaded, so I decided it was probably for the best to explore the town today and bus out on the evening bus to Forks.
The town of Neah Bay is peace on earth. As I walked the wide streets, with no one in sight, except for a few cawing crows and some people walking the wharf towards one of the numerous fishing boats docked there, I got the feeling that the old way of life was present way of life here. I entered a small gift shop. No one hustled me to buy or even greeted me as I perused. It’s as if the business existed, simply as a way to present the town’s art. Selling anything was a bonus. There are under 1000 permanent residents in Neah Bay, mostly members of the Makah Tribe, who have fished and lived here, on this, the most North Western point of the USA, for thousands of years.
The Makah Museum here, presents the history of the Makah Tribe, interpreted through artifacts recovered from Ozette, a Makah village that was party buried in a landslide in 1750. The area is rife with history and culture. When you go there, make sure to ask people about Goat Island. Everyone I met seemed to have a new story to weave. Truly friendly folks are abound in Neah Bay, along with some beautiful camping and hiking opportunities. The must do walk is the Cape Flattery Trail, out towards the lighthouse, overlooking Canada in the distance, visible on the other side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Along with the museum, it’s worth checking out the “trading post” mercantile there, which not only sells an array of food items and oddities, but has a wonderful display of scary taxidermed animals lining the shelves. And since taxidermy spikes my appetite (nothing says EAT like a glass-eyed, poorly stuffed cheetah) I ate AMAZING candied salmon for dinner. Salmon so good, It will make you cry tears of joy.
Neah Bay is truly unique, truly pen scribbling inspiring stuff. And though, I won’t mention names, since there isn’t TOO many people here, I would recommend to Couchsurf. I was given a lot of insight, inspiration and wonderful company by my amazing host, who not only rescued me, but rejuvenated my spirits and introduced to me that community vibe and welcomeness, that brings me to a gap toothed smile, even almost five years later.
If you haven’t already tried it, check out http://www.couchsurfing.org and travel through the eyes of those who live in the places you go to. Plus meet some amazing new people and future friends!
Without A Map,