On a bright day last Fall I drove to the end of the earth and parked. A boardwalk of cedar planks led from the trailhead, through stands of western hemlock, red alder, and cedar draped with epiphytes, to Cape Flattery and the northwestern most point of land in the contiguous United States.
It’s early in the morning, hours before false dawn. A full moon streams a wake of light across the landscape – dead grass and a split rail fence, the dark copse of conifers standing in the wetlands, and the stump of an old madrone bleached the color of bone. It’s silent except for an occasional car rushing for an early ferry, the distant sound of tires on pavement like the chant of Tibetan monks. This is the holy hour of darkness before the day begins.
I’ve been thinking about the ruined fence that frames the far side of Lindvog Road, the planked fence made from trees milled where they were felled. The trees were small, too small for serviceable lumber, just large enough to make a fence slat. Some of the planks in the fence were the entire width of the tree. Their edges undulate with the natural contour of the tree trunk. Bark still clings to them like a thick skin.
Traditionally Pacific Islanders have sailed vast distances without compass or instruments, steering by the stars, the flight of seabirds, the shivering air of thermals rising above islands, the green hue of a lagoon cast on the belly of a cloud, or the feel of the swell generated by familiar winds.
It’s late in March and a lowering sky hangs heavily over the village of Kingston and Appletree Cove. There are no apple trees on Appletree Cove. There never were. Lt. Charles Wilkes, commanding the United States Exploring Expedition that surveyed Puget Sound in 1841, mistook the flowering dogwoods for something more familiar.