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Camp Journal #2: Site 41 Fort Flagler State Park ~ September 2019

Fort Flagler comes to mind when people ask me to pinpoint a camping favorite. And I've really only scratched the surface, AND (kinda) got rained out. So that tells you how great it must be! But really with this one, it's also about the journey.

Pictured: You're headed for fun when oysters are at play!

A solo camp at Fort Flagler State Park begins with a ferry ride - something I love. On a sunny Friday, there can be a two or three ferry wait to get from Edmonds to Kingston. You just embrace the wait... bring out your book, breathe the ocean air, when you get up close pop across the street and get a doughnut at Top Pot Doughnuts, anticipate adventure to come.

Pictured: Every ferry ride from Edmonds to Kingston is different, lovely in its own way. This ride was no exception to that ferry magic rule.

I realized (thank GOODNESS!) that I hadn't grabbed the ground coffee beans from home as I'd planned ~ so a stop in Kingston for coffee and a few impulse purchases made me later than I'd planned... which made me a little stressed out, until I realized there (a) wasn't a thing I could do to turn back time and (b) I was on vacation, and the only one saving I was late was me. So I stopped that. It's a pretty drive to Fort Flagler, crossing the hood canal bridge, taking a twisty road that wanders equally by military fencing and rural houses and pockets of the sound. I'd never been to Fort Flagler, and my camp adventure was chosen for that reason, and because I would get to see the sea.

Pictured: A sweet little spot of sound on the way to the point that Fort Flagler sits on.

Spot 41 is a sweet little spot about halfway back on the north side of the upper loop (the lower loop is on the beach flats and is all RV's, with no greedy; the upper loop sits on a bluff with great trees and greenery and is all tent spots. It is separated from another spot by a split wood rail, so that one is quite visible from the site, but the actual camper distance makes if fine... or the two sites would be a great place for two solo camping friends to be near, yet separate :)

Setting up went well, racing the sun; mostly because I wanted to go see the sunset and sit on the beach before dinner but I didn't want to be setting up in the dark. So tent up, sun sparking through the trees, bedding and sundry inside, and kitchen stuff flung onto the picnic table, and I took the stroll to the cliff, where there was a set of steep stairs and path down to a stretch of shore.

Pictured: Not every sunset is like this one, I imagine, but this was what I was treated to. Every stage was more beautiful than the last. A dad and his two children joined me for the last rays.

The menu for dinner was steak and fingerling Finn golden potatoes. The fingerlings I'd steamed the night before, so those were leftovers, which made them very easy to panfry along with the steak to heat them up. They'd still have been fine if I'd started them in camp - I'd have diced, steamed in a little water, and then ended with a quick fry. Salad-in-a-bag with some feta cheese and nuts to jazz it up, and I feasted by candle lantern.

Pictured: Sometimes I'm a meat and potatoes (and porter) gal when I'm solo camping. Too full for s'mores, which is UNUSUAL for me, I stoked up the fire and settled in to watch the ash sweep up into the sky and read the mood of the embers.

The next morning I slept in, took a few extra minutes to put the coffee water on to heat, while I shimmied up the short path to the restrooms. The need was great... but the restrooms were closing for cleaning, and there was no delaying the ranger, park staff, who let me know the next closest restroom was NOT elsewhere up here - there's the one centrally located restroom (men's and women's, multi-stalled and with shower) was alllllllll the way down the hill and out toward the spit. I mean, a WAYS away. If I'd realized how far, I'd have taken the car. But I wasn't thinking clearly (witness no coffee yet) and so took off on foot. The need growing ever greater, it was hard to note how beautiful the path was. I was laser focused on getting there. And it was 19 minutes away. I timed it. JUST after I left, relieved, the park staff showed up at THIS one to clean~ so I barely made it in time!

Pictured: It was MUCH easier to admire the scenery on the way BACK... only I was practically jogging up the hill, because down in the restroom I realized I'd left camp with the coffee water on the stove. Alllllll the way back up there.

Back in camp, coffee in hand, I started the morning fire, another of my chief camping joys, and soaked in the glory of the morning. It was a gorgeous clear day, and I felt so peaceful and relaxed. After some book time and the luxury of sipping coffee and reading by the fire with my feet up in the second chair, pancakes called. I took my time making sausage, pancakes, and fruit, and fortifying myself for the day.

Pictured: My go-to camp breakfast is pancakes of some kind. Camp breakfast perfection.

Now it was time to decide what to do with the day. Should I meander hike the trails around the campground? Go explore the actual Fort area? Hmmm... no, the beach was calling. So I strolled once again down the hill past the RV campground area to the very skinny spit and pebbly shore that looks out toward Port Townsend and the tiny ferries going to and fro in the distance. Amazingly I had the beach to myself for most of the early afternoon... the park proper had folks picnicking and kite flying. I snacked on an apple and some cookies and soaked up enough sun to get a sunburn.

Pictured: Treasured time on the beach, and beach treasures found.

There is a little (tiny) general store and beach cafe down across from the RV area in the main day-use park area, the Beachcomber Cafe, open 10-3 Sun thru Thurs, and 10-6 Fri and Sat during the summer and through September. I stopped in for ibuprofen (add to the "bring next time" list) and noted that they have an extensive espresso offering for the next day. It's a place to get a kite, bug spray, ice, a burger, or some ice cream. Or hang out and play some checkers and catch some shade (the good kind.)

Pictured: The Beachcombe Cafe is open and welcoming for snacks or forgotten items. OR espresso. Mmmmm.

I contemplated the weather as I made a grilled cheese for early dinner. All signs, and the weather for the area on my phone, said that rain was going to set in starting with 50% chance about nine o'clock that night, turning to 100% chance of rain from 3 am to the rest of the day, Sunday. Now, I'm a bit lucky - I've never had to take down the tent and pack up in the rain, and frankly it is not appealing to me to do it, nor to re-set up and clean up muddy gear back at home. And of course, the morning wouldn't be sitting by a fire sipping my coffee... it would be all about the rain. But I REALLY didn't want to go home so soon. So, less than 24 hours after setting the tent up, I took it back down, and packed up the car with everything except the camp stove and kitchen box and remaining firewood, which I left under a tarp on the picnic table. I shoved everything in the car to the side and made a little blanket next in the back that barely fit me, was a bit uncomfortable, but was warm and cozy. My thought was, if it rained, I'd have very little to put in the car and be on my way (espresso at the Beachcomber featuring in this scenario) and if the weather report was wrong, I'd have a lovely morning by the fires as usual and not have anything to pack up. Win win! I had a lovely evening by the fire. The rain starts to spit as I crawled into my car bed. A less restful night (rain on a car roof is REALLY loud) but was so glad I'd made the call.

Coffee in hand, I doodled along the road and the rainy drive out, taking side roads as the mood struck, stopping to buy some locally-smoked salmon and to watch a doe graze in a meadow. On my way back to Chimacum, where I was contemplating hitting the farmer's market, I saw a tiny sign with an arrow that said "Ajax Cafe" and Brunch, and pointed toward the bay I'd just rounded in Port Hadlock. I could use some brunch. I tried to argue myself out of it and then I realized I deserved to treat myself; I went an intersection farther and did a U-turn and came back. Down a steep little drive to a tiny marina which is flanked by the delightful inside and out Ajax Cafe. I really, REALLY hope it survives the pandemic closures, because I would take extra days camping on the frontside to take in Sunday brunch on the way back at the Ajax Cafe. From complimentary muffins as I was given the menu to the warm wonderful atmosphere of hats on the wall and eclectic hand-painted chairs, to try one of the best breakfasts I've ever had anywhere, it was just joy. I arrived toward the end and the served me so graciously, making me feel relaxed and allowing me to soak it all up.

Pictured: The cozy Ajax Cafe in Port Hadlock ~ one of my lifetime top best breakfasts out.

Continuing on, the rain was still spitting, but I took in the Chimacum farmer's market, enjoying the produce, the flowers, people, and getting some really delicious goat cheese.

Pictured: The Chimacum Farmer's Market is a fun excursion rain or shine

I can't be in Chimacum and NOT stop by the Finnriver Farm and Cidery, one of my favorite places. It is a lovely venue with a fun little farm store, amazing craft ciders on tap, and a bevy of food crafters ~ on the summer weekends, live music, and either enjoy in their heated tiny-lights lit cider garden, or throw a blanket out on the grass and look over their beautiful orchard and farm grounds. The Dented Buoy Pizza is a fixture, with wood fired pizza that simply cannot be beat. I had a tiny pear cider and shared my pizza with some music-listeners and it was the most pleasant of coming-home-camp afternoons. USUALLY I get a chocolate milkshake on my way home from camping... this was definitely next-level.

Pictured: Finnriver Cidery with craft made ciders and Dented Buoy Pizza. A MUST stop.

I felt like I had been gone a week, which is always how I feel after a weekend of camping; and even thought it was cut short by rain, I had so much spontaneous fun and let's face it, indulging myself at every turn, treating myself like a treasured friend. Which was actually really nice. Like, REALLY nice.

I took a little nap in the car on the ferry ride home... it's only a half hour, but I was tuckered in that really good way that a good camping weekend brings.

Fort Flagler State park is going to be on my list, every summer, for years to come.

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