By the numbers:
42 pages of a new Travel Journal. 2 States and 1 Canadian Province, 6 plein air paintings, 2 digital portraits of the NBA CHAMPION DENVER NUGGETS!, 1 Wedding, 2 hotels, 1 cliffside cabin, 2 nights car sleeping, 2 couches, 2 guestrooms, 1 former roommate, 2 of my Dad’s fraternity brothers, 1 Aunt, 4 National Park Passport stamps, 3 ferries. 29 Books.
Days 41-44: Travel Journal Pages 1-9, Hood River, OR and Alex and Peter’s Wedding
The whole reason for this trip was to end up in Hood River by May 13th. My cousin, Alex, was getting married on the cliffs high above the Columbia River in the shadows of the Cascades. After a leisurely morning, sharing coffee on the porch and giving final ear scritches to Tuna Turner, I followed Chelsea to another adorable neighborhood in Portland to pick up her friend, Tiffany, an effervescent widow who is in her late 40’s, a painter, and a birthday twin to Chelsea. I followed them along I-84 to a Mexican restaurant in White Salmon on the Washington side of the Columbia across from Hood River. We had a lovely lunch, complete with massive margaritas, octopus soup, and a birthday serenade for Chelsea. I left them to check in at a spa and I went into Hood River to get a manicure and pedicure next to the Safeway. I needed to shift gears into family and wedding mode, and I would spend much of the next few days shuttling family members from the Portland airport to The Westcliff Lodge.
After I checked into the Lodge, all I wanted to do was crash, so I wasn’t especially enthusiastic when my Aunt Cath invited me to join her and the Gravleys (my Uncle Adam, his brother Eric, and Eric’s family) to Ferment Brewery low on the Banks of the River. But I summoned my reserves of friendliness and prepared myself for what I knew would be lovely, but what felt deep in my bones that I didn’t want to do. I was so tired!
The Columbia River in Hood River has 2 beaches: one for the wind surfers and one for the kite surfers. They are separated by a jetty, and you can rent equipment for either sport from companies by the river, but you have to stick to the correct beach. It’s Sharks vs Jets and never the twain shall meet.
Ferment was busy, but I got a chance to get to know Arden and Azella, Eric’s daughters who are 9 and 11 years old, respectively. Back when I was 11 years old, my sister and I spent a week on the Olympic Peninsula with Alex’s family, and that is when I met Uncle Eric. Childhood is peppered with celebrity guest appearances—the people who show up briefly but make a big impact—and Uncle Eric was one of those. He was fun, novel, and best of all, not our parents. He was probably in his early thirties but was game to play and build sandcastles. We did a Ranger Walk on the beach, and Eric, my cousins, Emma, and I were tasked with inventing a new animal and building it out of things we found on the beach, and Eric helped us to create a “Frog Dog” out of sand and driftwood. He earned the nickname “Frog Dog” that day and 25 years later, I was cementing my own celebrity status with his daughters. They were the only kids at the wedding, and I spent the weekend painting with them, dancing, and turning cartwheels. I was baffled by my allure to them, as were my family members who rarely see me as being playful, but Arden and Azella were two of the highlights and I hope I’ll get to see them again before the next wedding in 25 years.
It is the nature of family events to have too much to do, including errands and catching up with people you rarely get to see, that downtime is never truly restorative. As a result, the majority of the entries for the weekend of Alex’s wedding were actually written more than a month later and are desaturated by time and distance. I summarized the experience with bullet points and photographs, so the order of events may be unreliable, but our embellishments often reveal what is important to us. My bullet points are brief, but evocative:
If I’ve learned anything about storytelling from my Grandfather, it is that the facts don’t really matter, but there is a grain of truth behind every legend. What I know is that Alex and Peter’s wedding was one of the best thought out and most true to the couple ceremonies I’ve ever witnessed. Every person I met felt honored to be there and blended beautifully with all the other groups and individuals collected there. Beautiful place. Beautiful people. I think about it a lot.
Days 45-51: Travel Journal pages 10-19, Kalaloch and Olympic National Park, WA
“It’s true what they say, that you can’t go home,” I wrote in the first entry from the Olympic coast 5 days after the wedding. Emma and I arrived in Kalaloch on Sunday, May 14th, which was Mom’s Birthday/Mother’s Day, and we would spend the week as just the Green Women in a place that had been a landmark of our childhood. We stayed in Cabin 6 overlooking Kalaloch Creek, and the rocks that appear at low tide and watched as a gorgeous sunset turned from hazey pearl to fiery red. Kalaloch has all of the hallmarks it had from when I was a kid with some aesthetic updates. The Lodge feels much smaller (though I am taller) and the gift shop feels more grown up having replaced the polished rock station with Pendleton blankets and rain jackets. The phone booths are still there and the mercantile has been renovated, but the seagulls have been replaced with swallows and crows.
Emma and I walked down to the rocks at low tide and were disappointed that the tide pools are mostly mussels and barnacles. There were a few snails and anemones, but they used to be teeming with orange and purple sea stars. We wandered along the beach through the mist before turning around and walking back through the campground. I saw a whale spout and crest; they were on their way north, migrating from Baja to the Arctic for the summer.
Mostly, we all needed to take time to let down. Emma was jetlagged, Mom overworked and overwhelmed, and I’d been on the road for nearly 2 months. We read and watched people on the beach from Adirondack chairs high up on the bluff outside our cabin. Even though Kalaloch is a time machine without wifi and limited cell service, I kept thinking of my childhood with fond detachment and I kept waiting for a wave of nostalgia. It wouldn’t hit until one point when I stepped out of the wind on the beach into the protection of the bluff and the sun warmed driftwood smell hit my nose. Suddenly, I was 9 years old again, sunburned, sticky with saltwater and happy.
Emma and I would drive to Ruby Beach for another low tide walk through the mist, and at first we were disappointed because the sea stacks that used to have crowded tide pools were similarly populated like the Kalaloch rocks. But when we turned down the coast to check out the lower rocks along the southern part of the beach, we finally found the orange, red, and violet sea stars piled on top of each other and tucked into the seams of the rocks.
It was a relief.
Later, we would drive out to Cape Flattery, the Northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States and on the Makah Tribe Reservation. In October, I went to the Southernmost point in Key West, and in March 2022, I went to South Point on the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m slowly ticking off the checklist of the perimeters of my country. We had Indian Tacos after a beautiful 2 mile hike to an outcropping of rock over turbulent turquoise water contrasted with vivid green moss and red lichen. We ended the day at the Forks Library where we worked on planning our New Zealand and Australia trip in July and August before driving back to Kalaloch to make dinner.
We would close out the week with a visit to the Hoh Rainforest, and we left Kalaloch before noon but weren’t allowed into the park until 2 pm because they have metered parking (i.e. 1 car in 1 car out). I’d thrown my back out while walking on the beach, and I lay in bed as it spasms and seized, but I felt better the more I moved, so I risked the drive and hike in the hopes it would continue to improve. The Hoh is a place I must have visited but had no memory of beyond hanging mosses and colossal cedar trees. There are a few short loops and an 18 mile out and back to a glacier high in the Olympic Mountains which is another trip for another time. Emma and I stopped at the visitor center where I got my stamp and I asked a Ranger about the different ferns (sword fern vs. lady fern) and then we walked along the Hoh River trail to access the mineral-rich glacial melt water. It was not especially wet and we saw no banana slugs (which can live up to 7 years!), but I felt the tension in my back ease with every step through the 5000 year old forest.
Days 52-61: Travel Journal Pages 20-21- Seattle and Bainbridge Island, WA
Nine days and only a page and a half written here. This is a symptom of burnout, and finally having a home base where I could unpack most of my car and shut down for a while after 8 weeks on the move. I stayed with Aunt Cath and Uncle Adam in their home in Lake Forest Park for 4 weeks, and I would take 2-3 day trips out to visit friends and join my dad for a memorial service at his alma mater in Tacoma. I find I am especially susceptible to inertia, and when I get too settled, I stagnate. On the flip side, when I move too much, I get overwhelmed by the things I've done and the things I need to do. Somewhere around Hood River, I stopped sharing stories on Instagram and posting to my website. I still took pictures to share my sketches, so people could still keep track of me, but the slog of keeping up to date while moving on became untenable.
The two entries I wrote during this time were from Third Place Books where I spent hours doing the administrative parts of being an Itinerant Illustrator (AD emails, portfolio updates, paying bills, etc.) and from the deck of a ferry Edmonds to Kingston. At Third Place, I wrote about long conversations with Cath about art, family, and finding ways to occupy ourselves after leaving teaching. On the Ferry, I wrote about listening to a man riffing on his guitar while sitting in the sun. It was the perfect soundtrack to watching sailboats and cargo ships as they crossed the Sound.
What I didn’t write about was an afternoon in Fremont where I would spend an afternoon painting the Bridge Troll and enjoying the scent of the Theo’s Chocolate factory that made the whole neighborhood smell like a brownie. I didn’t write about watching playoff hockey or basketball with Cath and Adam, nor did I write about my visit with my old roommate, Zoe Peake. I have to remember these things from photos, sketches, and notes on my #WanderingAddison spreadsheet of logistics.
Visiting with Zoe was cathartic. We were only roommates for one year in high school, and the last time I’d seen her was during another epic road trip after we graduated when we picked her up in Hill Country and drove along the Gulf Coast before dropping her off on St. Simons Georgia. She was with me during my first trip to New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina. We hadn’t kept in touch but were aware of each other through social media, so when she saw me start moving up the coast, she invited me to stay with her when I got to Washington. I spent 2 nights with her in an apartment where she was pet sitting and we caught up on 17 years of history. I slept on a couch with two cats who would find their way onto my chest during the night and make me feel like I was drowning in fur. Zoe and I talked about adolescence and living unconventional lives and we bonded over reading aggressive amounts of romance novels. This is the fourth time this has happened over the past year where women have covertly confided that they enjoy reading what has been stigmatized as smut, but once they find another “intelligent” woman who is also a fan, it opens the floodgates of recommendations.
Zoe would join me on the ferry back to Seattle where we would meet up with Hannah and Erin Duff, two more classmates from FVS, for a walk around the Arboretum and Lake Washington. Erin has become an expert gardener and she was excited to learn that Zoe had bought a house with an established garden in Bremerton. We stood by the water across from U Dub and watched as crows harassed a juvenile bald eagle, before walking back to our cars and wishing each other a good life with hopes to see each other soon.
Days 62-64: Travel Journal Pages 22-30- North Cascades National Park, WA
North Cascades National Park has been a National Park since the 1960s and it reminds me a lot of Glacier meets Shenandoah. It's about 2 hours away from Seattle, almost to the Canadian border and it follows the Skagit River through gorges and canyons penned in by jagged mountains and a few remaining glaciers. Several dams on the river created Ross and Diablo Lakes which are an opaque turquoise due to all of the suspended sediment from the melting glaciers. I made it to the Park just before 1 pm and got recommendations for hikes and places to paint. I did a few loops up and down the canyon before returning to the Diablo Lake overlook where I painted on the edge of a cliff for about 2 hours. I really liked my drawing and ruined it with watercolor and impatience, but I learned a lot and it was good to have completed something.
I didn’t arrive with much of a plan or interesting food. Maybe I’d hit up the general store in Newhalem, the hydroelectric company town, or drive the whole of Highway 20 through the park. Maybe I’d draw. Maybe I’d hike up above the tree line… It’s possible I miss out when I travel like this, deciding what to do just before I do it, but sometimes I end up doing things I could never have planned for. When I woke up the next day, I drove up the newly opened Washington Pass to draw Liberty Mountain. It felt good to be at elevation and I focused on drawing with purple and black ballpoint, seeing all the details I could through the crystal clear air. Earlier, I took a short hike across the suspension bridge over the Skagit and took time to read signs along the trail that pointed out relics from many forest fires and how some cedar trees behave like chimneys and can burn from the inside and still survive. There was another plaque that showed a row of cedars all in a row that had been saplings on the same nurse log. I loved learning about that.
I ended up at the Mazama Public House east of the park, and I shared a table with a couple from Tacoma. They were retired former biologists and teachers, and the husband eagerly shared with me a large head-sized puffball mushroom he’d found on the side of the road. I didn’t ask for their names, but we shared a meal and excellent conversation before I turned around and went back to my campground on the other side of the pass.
The next day I would hike 2 miles straight up to Pyramid Lake. I knew it would be brutal, so I waited until the last day because I was going to sweat profusely and didn’t want to stink up my car which I had to sleep in for two nights. I drove the 2 hours back to Cath and Adam’s for a quick shower before driving down to Tacoma to meet my dad who had flown in from Maryland the night before.
Days 65-76: Travel Journal Pages 31-42, Tacoma, Seattle, Whidbey Island, WA, and Vancouver, BC.
Dad came to Washington for two weekends, which was one of my main reasons for staying in the PNW for so long. It’s rare that I get one-on-one time with him, and he was there to attend the memorial service for one of his Sigma Chi fraternity brothers and then his 40th Reunion for the University of Puget Sound. I was glad to have the chance to be his wingman and catch up with his brothers, most of whom I hadn’t seen since I was a child. We sat around a firepit and discussed the reasons for why fraternities should continue to exist and why they maybe shouldn’t. Greek life wasn’t part of my college experience apart from being allowed to live in the SAE house for two years after they got kicked off campus, but this group of men has been my father’s consistent community for four decades. They were there for his triumphs, mistakes, and many of his best stories. I was glad to be present for them all while they honored their Brother, Scott, with a White Rose Ceremony in the Puget Sound Chapel.
Later in the week, Dad and I would drive out to Whidbey Island north of Seattle to visit with his Brother, Nick. We took a ferry and had mussels and a lamb burger in Coupeville before driving to to Ebey’s Landing, a National Historic preserve, complete with blockhouses which were small fortifications that look like elevated log cabins meant to protect settlers from Native attacks. Then we drove north to Nick’s. Nick and his wife Kathy have a lovely beach house and awesome dogs on the northwest side of the island, just north of the Naval Air Force base and just south of Deception Pass State Park. Their home overlooks a private beach complete with soft sand and relentless Tomcat flyovers making regular maneuvers. Nick is really similar to my dad in that he is quiet and attentive, but also a little awkward. When we arrived, I excused myself to walk the beach while Dad and Nick caught up and established a rhythm. I have a default setting to make people feel comfortable, but my inclination seemed forced, so I stepped away to reset and when I returned, we all sat on the deck and shared easy conversation while we watched the tide come in and the San Juan Islands emerge and disappear in the haze.
The next morning, Dad and went for a hike around Deception Pass State Park which is known for a high trestle bridge, rocky beaches and trails. We parked, climbed up to the bridge and then another half mile to the summit of Goose Rock. The weather was fair but we worked up a sweat before wandering down to the beach where we sat on a drift log and watched the rock collectors search for jaspers and agates to tumble.
The rest of the day would be spent driving up to Vancouver where we would walk around Stanley Park (the same Stanley of Cup fame). The park is on the tip of the Vancouver Peninsula and is home to rose gardens and totem poles. The Vancouver totems are different from the ones I saw in Sitka last July. They are more ornate with a wider variety of full figures. We walked along the water to a lighthouse that looked out on the bay where cruise ships docked, rowers rowed, and seaplanes landed. It’s gorgeous here.
We checked into the hotel and decompressed for 1.5 hrs before calling an Uber to take us to Gas Town to see the steam clock (a clock that runs on steam, obviously). We planned to walk to Chinatown for some dinner, but we ended up walking through one of the most sprawling and crowded homeless camps I’d ever seen. Everything in Chinatown was closed after 8 pm, so we ended up at a bar where we watched the Stanley Cup playoffs and ate peri peri boneless wings. We ended the night by walking back to our hotel along the water. We ate gelato and failed to find a Mountie hat. It was a good day.
We did find a Mountie hat the next morning (my father’s shiteating grin was worth the search) before driving back down to the border which would take us an hour to get through. We parted ways in Seattle for the night while he drove down to Tacoma for his reunion, and I watched the Denver Nuggets in the NBA playoffs with Cath and Adam. I’d meet up with him again in Tacoma for a BBQ before I checked out Point Defiance and the Rose Garden, and then again at Four Generals Brewery in Renton, a project of one of his other Brothers that uses a reverse osmosis system to mimic the mineral content of the water in German cities in the brewing process. Dad and I sat at the bar and had a fascinating conversation with the bartender about the state of healthcare in the military. My dad worked for the VA, and she used to be a therapist on base, and I had lots of questions.