Adventure Log: With an Exclamation Point!

February 8, 2023
Tokeland Hotel

It happens every winter, I get the road trip bug to drive my favorite highway (SR6) out to Willapa Bay on the southern coast of Washington. It’s not the destination, it’s the drive. I love it most when there’s sun glowing through fog or sun turning frosty farms into glitter.

I leave home just before official sunrise. It’s not forecast to be a sunny day (though yesterday it was) nor a rainy day. (The forecast will be proven wrong on both counts.) For once I remember to drive the frontage road to the highway six intersection rather than the interstate so I can pull over to enjoy the ground fog or the geese or the sunrise or whatever. It’s ducks today.

Although I promise myself not to stop at the places I always stop for photos, but to look for new sightings, I can’t resist the poplar farm. It’s so beautiful and mysterious. Then I pull off again for the sun through the fog.

I soon leave the traffic at the I-5 intersection behind and have the road almost to myself. I pull into the Claquato historic cemetery, where my parents, grandmother, and aunt are buried. The sun glows through the fog and the grass crunches under my tennis shoes as I walk over the frosty graves.

Back in the car, I remember the conversation with my mother the first time I drove out this road for a brief respite from mother care, leaving my sister on call. It was December. I told her I was planning to have lunch at the historic hotel in Tokeland—a tribal fishing village near the coast, ninety minutes from home.

“Well,” she said, “it might take you longer than you expect.”
“I have no expectations,” I said.
“It will take longer if the roads are slick.”
“Yep,” I said, breathing.
“It’s a two-lane road, you will have to go slower.”
“I know it’s two lanes. It’s why I’m going there.”
“There’s probably a lot of logging traffic on that road during the week.”
“It’s Sunday,” I said, kissing her cheek goodbye.

Back then I was just trying not to be irritated, not to let her steal my excitement to go someplace new, to be away for a day. Now I wonder why she was telling me all that. Did she not want me to leave? Was she making sure she could still visualize the drive? Was she wanting me to know she remembered, or that she knew more about it than I did? Was she worried about me? I have no idea.

As the sky lightens then returns to fog and back again, I skirt first the Chehalis River, then the Willapa. I pass through the small towns, over creeks and sloughs. I don’t see a single logging truck. At Raymond on the Willapa, SR6 ends, t-boning into US101. Left goes to Long Beach and on to Oregon. I go right this time toward Tokeland. I pull off the road where I’ve seen swans before. A pair is there, floating with the mallards.

It’s too early for lunch at the Tokeland Hotel, so I drive on, leaving 101, and fork off to Westport, the fishing port at the end of the road.

I walk a little way on the paved path along the Pacific and discover a trail that disappears under the low pines. I wonder if it will take me back to my car, but I run into water across the path. It’s odd and rather delightful to be in a “short” woods rather than tall trees. I feel like I should have to duck.

I head back to the quirky hotel, my true destination.

I choose a table by the window with a sleeping cat on it. He doesn’t seem to mind that I’ve joined him, and, since I’m clearly thrilled to share the table, the waitperson doesn’t remove him.

The table is a bit close to the table next to it for my taste, but, hey, cat. There are two couples at the table, my age or so, and the woman closest to me strikes up a conversation about the cat, and tells me they are from Spokane, on the other edge of the state. Twice more we talk about the cat while waiting for our lunch. The cat shifts his right leg a few times, but otherwise is unmoved by my company or the conversation. Or my rockfish sandwich.

The woman asks if she can take our picture. In exchange, I share a Mother Lode bookmark with her, telling her it’s about the book I wrote. She is appropriately amazed! Her companion asks for one too. They say, “This looks really good!” The first woman asks where she can get one and I tell her any bookstore can order it, or Amazon. One of the husbands tells me he writes plays. “You don’t happen to have some with you, do you?” his wife interrupts. “I do! In my car!” I say. The other woman asks if I have two. I do!

After I finish lunch, and pet the cat, finally disturbing him, I get books from the car and wait in the parlor for them to return from a tour of the rooms. There are five books on the table by the fireplace, all of them about aging. What are the chances? I wish I had left one of mine.

Lessons of the day:

Be spontaneous.

Be prepared.

Be friendly.

Create exclamation points.

Keep company with cats.

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7 thoughts on “Adventure Log: With an Exclamation Point!

  1. Oh, I love that poplar farm! The first time I saw it, I was mesmerized, wanting to walk among those perfect towering rows. Such a great road trip! I’ve never been to the Tokeland Hotel (or the Quinault Lodge either, two gems you’ve shared that are on my “someday” list). I remember a restaurant kitty named MoMo at Duck Soup in Friday Harbor that had that same coloring. Smudge spirit? A serendipitous day all around. Ducks, swans, sun, fog, cats, good food, good drive, books and a walk. Perfect. Glad you have Mother Lode with you. I’ll bet you can sell a lot that way! I suspect it was all those things you mentioned about your mom. Kind of sweet to think you’ve held the same love and memory of place. 

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes! Spirit of Smudge (a much thinner spirit). Well, there’s another question I wish I had asked my mother: had she ever been to the Tokeland Hotel. I wish I had taken a deep breath and asked her why she was telling me all that. I just wanted to get away . . . and before I lost it with her. Also, she couldn’t answer why questions. She didn’t know why. She might have made something up though. In any case, it would not have been a satisfying answer, I’m sure. Oh well. (I sold a book to my dental hygienist the next day!)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. How great about the books! You could almost create a separate blog category or hashtag for books you sell to people who know YOU and didn’t rely on a random amazon search (yoga teacher, dental hygienist, restaurants, airbnb guests, etc …)  If it were me, I’d try to place the mom questioning into the category of “I love you, please be careful and please come home”. Maybe she just didn’t know how to say it 🧡

        Liked by 2 people

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