Today we explored the ocean in kayaks and conversation. All the youth and trail guides loaded into kayaks at Fort Worden State Park, where we paddled along the shore—eelgrass beneath us and clear skies above us. A pair of bald eagles watched from the bluff. One of our youth pilgrims captured the feeling of this excursion:
Kayaking by tall, rocky cliffs today transported me to the white cliffs of Dover, oceans away. Racing carefree into the freezing ocean sent a rush through me unlike anything else. There’s so much to experience in this world, and our Olympic Peninsula is a perfect place to explore.
When we returned to land, The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori taught us about the Salish Sea and its ecological complexity, and NOAA biologist Lynne Barre gave us an overview of the local orca whales. About seventy orcas make up the “Southern Resident killer whales”—less than half the number that lived here as recently as 1960.
We then spent an hour on the beach, where many of us braved the cold and plunged into the water. Two youth pilgrims even performed an aquatic macarena, as comfortable in the chilly waves as the orcas we had just learned about.
St. Paul’s, Port Townsend hosted us for the night (built in 1861, St. Paul’s is Washington’s oldest Episcopal church building in continuous use). St. Paul’s had organized a scavenger hunt through the historic downtown, so we broke into three teams and explored Port Townsend’s Victorian waterfront. Each team ended up winning the scavenger hunt in its own way. My team, for instance, finished first—with an outstanding batting average of .600 correct answers.
Each day as we journey through the Olympic Peninsula, we hold morning and evening prayer, sing songs, and talk about creation care. Tonight, in preparation for the morning’s seven-mile hike out of Port Townsend, the pilgrims shared how they felt about getting on the trail:
I think for me, the forest is like a sanctuary. It’s somewhere to escape the burdens of the everyday. Going on a hike is so beneficial, if you will, it’s like going back to your roots.
I like to go into the forest because I feel like the forest is full of forgiveness. Sometimes I carry burdens with me, and going into the forest is restorative because the trees are not going to judge me because of my past actions.
I live in a place where the woods are my back yard and the Snoqualmie River is down the street. I’m so fortunate, but I’ve grown “numb” to my surroundings. I’m used to it. But when an extra red and vibrant sunset shows up, or a bald eagle flies through, I’m reminded how gorgeous it is. As I am put in the position on this trip to be “forced” to really see and experience everything, it’s breathtaking, awakening, and sorta puts everything in perspective.
* * *
A few extra photos: