My First Visit to Port Townsend was during the early 1980s as a teen with my mother, and at that time none of the chain hotels on the southwest side of town had been built yet. While the Port Townsend of today has a lot of nice old preserved buildings, the place in that era had a much more genuine old town feel to it. The huge suburban sprawl had not yet happened, and there were actually more antique structures downtown than there are today. The railroad line wasn't in use very often, but there was still enough traffic to keep the railroad "car float" dock open. It truly did feel like being thrown back in time, though the Port Townsend of today is still like that to some extent - just with a few more modern conveniences to keep the tourist traffic up.
Today, the community is far more tourist oriented, as it has to be in order to survive economically.
While strolling around town, I told my wife of the strange vibe I got at the market and she was surprised at my perception. She had felt it was a very warm crowd. All the women smiling at her, lots of eye contact. True, even after seven years of being together, you don't always see things exactly the same but this was an unusual cognitive puzzle. It seemed odd that two people could have had such divergent experiences at not only the same place but at exactly the same time. We were at each other's side the entire time!
Later, on the ferry to Seattle, we overheard some people mentioning that Port Townsend has a large lesbian population. We weren't sure it was true but it would help explain my pretty wife's popularity at the market. I've gotten used to men checking her out but I guess a pretty girl is a pretty girl. I took solace in my not having lost my desirability entirely. The object of desire is determined by the one desiring and in this case, my wife was that object. I had to concur with their choice but just the same, I will keep her closer to my side next time wandering the Farmer's Market in Port Townsend.
Port Townsend did not disappoint. It was turn-of-the-century and it was all nicely renovated. This was an old world charmer that had obviously been nicely kept. It was the port town we had been seeking for weeks driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. The biggest surprise was that the brewery was very much a part of the old town, in a great historic building. We walked into the atmospheric old pub full of carved wood, half expecting sailors to be boisterously laughing at the old long wooden bar. Instead, we found a very cool alternative scene that somehow meshed well with the nautical antique décor. A hot meal and cold beer never tasted so good. The good times went to our heads, fuzzy with comfort and perhaps a few too many beers. It was a good thing we had already set up camp. In this state, the B&B would have surely won out.
The next morning found us back in town, wandering its historic streets waiting for something to open and for the fog to burn off. We caught wind of a Farmer's Market and headed up towards it, enjoying neighborhood architecture we would have missed otherwise. It was obviously home to some fairly well-to-do people. Port Townsend was not for paupers. Its market was hip, fashionable but still exuding grassroots down-to-earth small town charm. We grabbed something small to eat and enjoyed the many stalls of produce and homemade crafts. Things were pricey and people friendly but not overly so. There seemed to be a lot more women than men, but again, they did not seem so friendly. No one smiled at me. I never caught a stranger's eye. I didn't think much of it and with the sun finally coming out, we went back into town to take some photos and sort out the ferry departures. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Port Townsend is an architectural gem. This is one place to just walk around and enjoy a piece of America's past. One that likely would have been torn down if the money were available back in the day.
Fondest memory: A lazy Sunday morning. Pancake breakfast. A stroll down red-bricked Main Street. Not really sunny, but not raining either. Farmer's Market to check on the produce. Sounds pretty typical and we were enjoying just that. Normalcy. The truth is, where we live, none of these aforementioned events would take place. Ok, maybe the occasional pancake breakfast. It's more likely to be French Toast. We have no Main Street, at least not as charming as the Anywhere USA Downtown Port Townsend, WA. We live in a big South Florida city where you drive everywhere. Port Townsend was like being in another time, not just another place. A simpler time when you could walk for the things you needed or just for the hell of it, as we now did.
The pancake breakfast had been at a nearby campground and while that may strike some as being anything but typical, it had become part of our lives the past five months, camping around the USA in search of its natural wonders. It was only occasionally that we found a place like this, especially since making it to the west coast weeks earlier. We passed through many towns with names that sounded promising but many left us wondering just where all the history had seeped to. Sure, there was the random surprise like Mendocino in northern California but places like Astoria in Oregon failed to live up to high expectations. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Port Townsend was a surprise. We had spent the previous two weeks exploring Olympic National Park in great depth. Beach-combing, camping, and hiking. Most rewarding were two backpacking trips into the park's vast wilderness. Every meal cooked and eaten outdoors aside from one fried chicken dinner at a Safeway supermarket to escape a deluge of rain. The day we left the park, we had hiked down 7 miles and 3500 feet from Lunch Lake. We could have made it back to Seattle but it would have been rushed to catch the last ferry and Port Townsend sounded like it would be a nice place for our last night on the Peninsula. Besides, it had a brewpub and a meal indoors was looking pretty good to a couple of disheveled backpackers in need of a shower.
A nice B&B would have been so very welcome at this point but being on a six-month trip does require some budget considerations and we were headed to Seattle the next day and would be in a nice comfy home there. So, one more night of camping it would be. After five nights in the backcountry, even car camping seems luxurious. Showers, flush toilets, extra sleeping bags for cushioning. Comfort, my friend, is very relative. We made ourselves a nice little den to sleep and headed into town. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
once a year port townsend hosts a festival where people build human powerd vehicles for a race in the local harbour.
it brings out the most creative sides in the local inhabitants and it's really a fun thing to join.
if you ever thought the parades in disneyland were anything to talk about then try this.
Fondest memory: the creativity of the people taking part.