Hood Canal, Dosewallips and Pleasant Harbor, a Journey Back

Let me introduce you to some new places in Washington. New to you, not to me for Hood Canal has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Canal? No, not really. Hood Canal is a fjord, a natural inlet of Puget Sound on the Olympic Peninsula, deep and raw and undeveloped – abundant with clams and oysters.  But it’s the shrimp I remember most from my grandparent’s place at Pleasant Harbor.

Our family would pile into the car and make the long drive from Seattle where grandma ran the restaurant – later a store – and grandpa had a shrimp boat. We spent long and lazy summer days walking down to the beach to play and swim and fish. One summer I was there when reporters came and took pictures of grandpa (and me) and featured us in the Seattle Times Pictorial Magazine. You can see that story here if you missed it.

I spent more time at Hood Canal after my mom and stepdad and sister – the last remaining child at home – moved to Brinnon.  Across the street from Hood Canal and against the backdrop of the mountains and forests of Olympic National Park,  the air was fresh and clean and scented with smoke from wood burning stoves. I visited many times throughout my college years and beyond, bringing friends and later my husband, with me. Mom would take us to the Dosewallips River or up to Rocky Brook Falls. Or she’d take us into the woods hunting for mushrooms, especially chanterelles which we ate soon after fried in butter.

It had been too long so last week we visited the area and to shorten the drive took the ferry across and the Hood Canal Floating Bridge, one of the longest in the world.

I’ve crossed it many times, but this was the first time we had front row seats while we were stopped to let a ship pass through.

After a detour to Port Townsend for lunch, we headed south on 101 past Quilcene to Brinnon. You’ll miss the town if you blink, but we didn’t and saw nothing much had changed.  We continued next door to Dosewallips State Park and were treated to a herd of elk, down from the high country to feed.

After watching those marvelous animals – or shall I say they watched us? –  it was time to head to our next destination, Pleasant Harbor.

Okay so the sign wasn’t there;  it remained rooted safely back in the sixties.  In place of the store where shells and rocks and candies once lined the shelves and Elsie stood behind the counter ready to sell you those fresh caught shrimp, was a rundown building with cars about. But the road was still there – the one that led down to the harbor – the one my brothers and sisters and cousins and I had walked to the docks where grandpa moored his shrimp boat.

But it was steep and gravel and one lane only and we were reluctant to drive it.  And we were just as reluctant to leave our car at the top and walk down the road as daylight was running out. So we continued on 101 hoping there would be another way.  And then we saw the new sign ahead;  and a new road that although steep was paved with two lanes and would take us safely down to Pleasant Harbor.

I closed my eyes and I was eight years old again and saw the dock where we dropped our lines down the barnacle encrusted pilings; where we saw the perch feeding in crystal clear water and yanked them up when they took our bait. There’s no fishing better than that.

So it was a day well spent on Hood Canal where time stands still and boats rest under the setting sun.

No wonder they call it Pleasant Harbor.

~ Susanne

P.S. This post was inspired by Lorna’s prompt, at Gin & Lemonade, ‘Time warp.”

17 Comments on “Hood Canal, Dosewallips and Pleasant Harbor, a Journey Back

  1. Lovely memories relived, Susanne.I like the names of some of those places. I am guessing they had native American origins.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Hi Pete, I am the sister that was left behind in this wild territory. I do remember my grandparents telling me the meaning of two of the river names. Waketicah Creek = No Good, No Fish…. and Hamma Hamma = Stink Stink. I believe that Hamma Hamma was named for the salmon that would come to spawn and die on the muddy banks.

      • Thanks, Maria. They are great definitions of interesting names. We have a lot of Viking place names around where I live. Like Hindolveston, Toftwood, and Horningtoft.
        Beetley is an Anglo-Saxon name, from ‘Betel’, meaning a wooden hammer.
        Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Such pretty photography! I figured out that you must not have been “raised by Swedes” though, since you hunted and ate mushrooms found in the wild! 🤣🍄but, since you are still here, your mom must have known what she was doing!

  3. Very nice that you got to see the elk herd, which is a local traffic stopper. Not sure that the locals are as enthusiastic since the herd can take out a garden in minutes if they have a mind to. Living in Port Townsend, the Hood Canal Bridge was always the wildcard when it came to catching a ferry to Seattle. The more important the reason for going, the more likely the bridge was to be open!

    • Yes, we were thrilled to see the herd of elk. A real treat! I’ve taken the bridge many times but never stopped up front while a ship went through. It was interesting. It wouldn’t have been quite as fun to be in the long backup it caused. All in all a great day!

  4. Amazing pictures of the elk! Have you looked at those hoof prints? They’re massive 🙂 Very magical.

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