Murdock Beach

Did you ever see a round rock?  Not round 2D like a pancake. Round 3D like a perfect sphere.  Well I hadn’t,  so I was intrigued when some friends told me about a beach where you can find them.  So was Oola.

The place is Murdock Beach, (sometimes known as Round Rock Beach) off of Hwy 112, down a rough dirt/mud road to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Being that Oola and I are novices, my friends kindly showered us with examples.

Murdock Beach on a brighter day, minus tide
Murdock Beach on a bright day with a minus tide and with Vancouver Island in the distance

Here is a “round rock”.

spherical rock

It is called a “concretion” or a “nodule”. What happened is when a marine critter died, something about it created a chemical reaction in the mud surrounding its remains and the mud hardened.  There is a fossilized sea creature inside this rock.  Here is a youtube video to explain the phenomenon better.

My friend artist/quiltmaker Diane Williams found this one.

Concretion inside a matrix
Concretion inside a matrix
Artist and teacher, Diane Williams
Artist and teacher, Diane Williams.  She also organizes the art shows for the Library in Port Angeles.

You can see that if you take the spherical part from the matrix, you would have something that looks like a pitted avocado.  And that is what Pamela Hastings showed me, along with something that was created by a creature with different ambitions.

Pamela Hastings
Artist, Doll Maker, Pamela Hastings


That rock on the left would make a great head for one of her dolls.

Actor and sometimes teacher in musical theater at Cornish (and Pamela’s little bro), Hugh Hastings  found these.

Hugh Hastings
Hugh Hastings

There are more stones that look like “hot dogs in a bun” that hold fossilized items such as reeds.

fossilized reeds

My new friend, artist Katie Yeager found these spheres.

Katie Yeager
Katie Yeager

Then a few minutes later she displayed these with an explanation:murdock6

Here we have two balls, a tit, a penis circumcised and a penis uncircumcised.  (What is art without sex?  Nothing, I tell you, Nothing!)

Sound of throat clearing — Oola and I love rocks that have messages or drawings on/in them.  She found these strange drawings all over the place.

linear drawing on rocks
linear drawing on rocks

We didn’t find any pictures of Jesus’ face but this reminded me a little of octopus paintings from Minoan Crete.

snail trails on stones
Drawing of an Octopus?

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you may even see the artists!

BTY.  Murdock Beach is part of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  A sign indicates that rocks are catch and release.

PS Warning, the dirt/mud road contains surprise whoop-dee-doos, so unless you have a FWD, take is slow.  Take it slow anyway, and enjoy!

going home

PPS Warning.  Check your tide chart or wear your Wellingtons.  There is no beach at high tide.

Northern HWY 101

Mother Killdeer on her four eggs
Mother Killdeer on her four eggs

There is city park in Port Angeles where HWY 101 (under the guise of Front St.) runs by Wildcard Guitars and Dove Studio.  Each evening for the past couple of weeks I have been checking in on Mother Killdeer — much to her consternation I must admit — just to see how she and her 4 eggs are doing.  She and her mate have chosen this spot next to the gravel parking lot and next to this water sprinkler for a nest.  What an eye they have for protective coloration!  She stays so still, you would think the sprinkler would move first.  And the eggs are so big. (and every mother out there says, Ouch! that must have hurt.)

But it is time to go to the SF Bay Area to visit family and do a couple of art errands.  Oola and I will travel on HWY 101 (mostly).  So we say  goodby to the Killdeers and head out early on the next adventure.

On the first morning in the Olympic National Park it looks like

Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent

the lake is having as much trouble waking up as we are.

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

The wind picks up, and soon we are on the Pacific Coast.  We make a stop at rugged Ruby Beach where abundant wildflowers are whipped about on the bluff.

A few hours later we are in Cape Disappointment State Park.  It is located where the Columbia River meets at the Pacific Ocean.  And you will remember from your history, this is where Lewis and Clark and company completed their contract.  I wanted to camp where they camped.  And, if signs can be believed, I did.

Cape Disappointment lighthouse
Cape Disappointment lighthouse

It was named Cape Disappointment by an English fur trader/merchant of dubious reputation, John Meares.  There is a wicked sandbar at the mouth of the river.  It looks like the waves are breaking way out in the ocean.  Because of this dangerous feature, Captain Mears could not enter the Columbia River and gave the area this name.  A lighthouse was built on the 200ft bluff to warn other seamen of the danger entering the River.

In 1805 Lewis and Clark showed up and wondered how the peaceful Pacific could be so wild.  They camped here, but the weather was so miserable they relocated to the south side of the River.

Artist Maya Lin started her Confluence Project here.  I stood here maya-lin
to try to understand the geography of the place and to take photos, not realizing the importance of the art I was standing on.

Columbia River, Baker Bay, from the Maya Lin viewing platform

Of course, people come to Cape Disappointment for many reasons.

Oola boogie boarding

This one looked pretty cold and dangerous to me!

Being keen to see family, I decided to cross over to Interstate 5 where we passed this magnificent site:

Mount Shasta

On into California participating in fun-and-death with impatient 18wheelers.  The time saved was much too stressful.


After good family visits it was time to do the errands.  BUY ART SUPPLIES! One of the places on my list was

Dharma Trading Company in San Rafael

the place to find everything needed to add color to fiber.  In my case I needed to pick up a large roll of paper-backed silk for inkjet printing.  When the warp and weft are straight it makes wonderful hangings.  New project in the works…. printing some of my “discovered figures”, photos, and street rubbings on this luscious fabric.  Then doing everything possible to contrast its beauty with violence.  Don’t ask why.  I don’t know yet.

Up the California coast on 101 this time.  Precious stops in Coastal Redwood groves.  I don’t know of anything more quieting than just BEING in a grove of these trees, tallest on the planet.  Something in their bark just seems to neutralize all the poisons.

California Coastal Redwoods
And these are not even old growth!

My sources tell me that Lewis and Clark and Co. did not like fresh fish, like salmon.  Sick of the weather on the north side of the Columbia and sick of being hungry and sick, they took the advice of local Indians who told them that there were elk on the southern shore of the River.  When the weather cleared enough for the company to trust their boats to the waters they came upon herds of this.

Roosevelt Elk stopping traffic.
Municipal Art?

In Crescent City I had to stop the car for this 40 ton concrete work of sculpture.  I had to find out about it.  As it turns out, these “dolosse” are used all over the world to to strengthen breakwaters.  Who knew?  (Mr. Wildcard did.)

Breakwater reinforcement in Cape Town, South Africa

Their name means something like “knuckle bones” in Afrikaans.  They were developed South Africa in the 1960s to protect jetties by dissipating the energy of incoming water rather than blocking it.  Genius.  Does Life imitate Art or what?!


Another “arresting” sight on the side of the road!

Path to the Elwah River and the site of the dam that is no more.

Getting close to home, where it almost always smells like summer camp.

Finally home, and after a hunny smooch, a trip over to check on Ms. Killdeer.  As I suspected might happen, the eggs have hatched.  Three nestlings running about catching bugs, but it seems that a crow made a meal of the fourth.

Three hatchlings.  The twins seem to think they are posing for Diane Arbus.


Trip to Bellingham and the Whatcom Museum, Part one

Last Sunday there was a break in the weather so Oola and I headed out in Mom’s Memorial Prius to a show we had wanted to see in the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham WA — a very important and, as it turns out, memorable show of Artist Books.  We also wanted to hear a talk by Sandra Kroupa, Book Arts & Rare Book Curator at the University of Washington (UW).

You can click on any image to see it enlarged.


I say there was finally a break in the weather.  But both Oola and I were ecstatic about the snow in the Olympics — which we claim as our back yard.

Oola reveling in snow
Oola reveling in snow

Warm in the car, we drove to beautiful Port Townsend where we caught the 9:30 ferry.

the Kennewick
the Kennewick

Oola had never ridden on a ferry before and was fascinated that this one has a helm in the front AND in the rear.  It never has to back up.

Here we are, packed in and watching the Cascade mountains in the rear view mirror.

Port Townsend to Whidbey Island
Port Townsend to Whidbey Island

Farther up Hwy 20 is a bridge that connects Whidbey Island with Fidalgo Island.  Beautiful and scary, built with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps in a time when cars were both smaller and fewer.

Deception Pass and Canoe Pass Bridge from the west
Deception Pass and Canoe Pass Bridge from the west
Deception Pass Bridge and Oola
Deception Pass Bridge and Oola
Deception Pass Bridge detail
Deception Pass Bridge detail

The water is deep; the current can be very strong and very dangerous here.  And the whole area swirls with stories.

For example: why the curious name?  Oola is so glad you asked because she looked it up.  In 1792 George Vancouver, British captain of the Expedition to map the northwest coast, thought that the water swirling out of the pass was a river.  Understandable, as this is how it was described by earlier Spanish explorers.  After a couple of tries, sailing master Joseph Whidbey discovered that the pass led not to a dead end but to Skagit Bay and the Saratoga Passage. (see map above)  This was BIG.  And Vancouver was so delighted he named the island, which they had thought to be a peninsula of the mainland, after Whidbey.  Vancouver named the deceptive passage Deception Pass.  Of course, he could do that because he had just claimed the whole Northwest for the British Crown.

Another legend tells of Scotsman Ben Ure who smuggled drugs and illegal Chinese laborers.  The story goes that he and his partner, Pirate Kelly, would tie the men into burlap sacks to make it easier to toss them overboard should they be seen by U. S. Customs.  He eventually got caught and admitted to his evil deeds.  His island, just inside Deception Pass, still bears his name as does Deadman’s Beach where many of the bodies landed.

In the 1920s, before the bridge was built, if you wanted to get from Whidbey to Fadalgo Island you would hit an old saw with a mallet. All five feet of Berte Olsen would show up,  then she would either collect your 50cents and ferry you across, or not, depending on the turbulence of the water.

But I am getting off the track here.  For more about this fascinating place see

Oola advises that this post is getting too long. She is sometimes very practical.  I will work on the Bellingham part tomorrow.



Trip to the Northernest Westernest

Yesterday we decided to find out what extreme North West in the L 48 looks like, land’s end.  So we took a 70 mile drive from Port Angeles along Hwy 112 and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Cape Flattery in the west, all in Mom’s Memorial Prius.


Please click on any photograph to see an enlargement.

Roadside Wildflowers! At first the vetch was in full riot mode.


Then as we moved farther west we encountered Fireweed.

Even late in its season it fills the roadsides.  I saw it blanket a large swath of forest clear cut looking determined to defend and heal the land.

More and more wildflowers everywhere the eye landed.  Most of the names I do not know. A joyous extravagance!

Our first stop was a tiny town called Joyce with an old but well maintained general store/post office and – again – a love of colorful flowers.

Joyce general store and postoffice
Joyce general store and post office

There I noted two curiosities.  First a nearby building that advertized “Frozen Ice”.  Oola pondered: could there be another kind of ice?

Frozen Ice
Frozen Ice

Secondly, there was a small but closed museum.  In the museum yard there is a huge – I mean monstrous huge – tree stump with tackle.  The tree was eight-hundred-plus years old when it was cut down.  On the road I encountered dozens of lumber trucks, none of which held any logs that compared even minutely in diameter to this old stump.  The lumber industry cuts stuff down and ships it out on an industry time line.

stump and tackle
stump and tackle

The white tags say the tree was this old when the general store was built.

Not far down the road we saw this.flagAnd considering events since the recent Charleston shooting it’s probably best to leave this a quote without comment…other than to say that there are folk in this area who like to go out into the woods and play survivalist games seriously.

Farther along the road we took a short turnoff to

Great beauty, and as elsewhere along this highway, invitations to solitude and contemplation. UNTIL one looks up and sees this travesty at the top of the hill that creates Pillar Point:

Clear Cut
Clear Cut.  The lumber industry insists that this is the only way they can make enough money.

Oola opined that the fog was looking for its missing trees.

Farther up the road we entered the land of the Makah Indians including Neah Bay.  I loved driving through their forest filtered light.

Forest light
Forest light

We stopped at a burial ground.  It was sad to see so many American flags.  So many have died as veterans of American wars.

Makah graveyard sculpture
Makah graveyard sculpture

Soon we were almost to the goal of our trip, land’s end.  One small problem, my knee was reliving an old injury, and as it turned out, I could not walk the last half mile of Cape Flattery to the Pacific Ocean.  Here is a google picture of how it looks from the air.

Cape Flattery as seen from the air
Cape Flattery as seen from the air

It was sore disappointing not to see the caves, waves, and spectacular ocean rocks, the photos of which I had viewed on Google maps.  But when the knee heals I will go back.

Our consolation prize was to gently drive the Cape Loop Road to the tranquil Waatch River

Waatch River
Waatch River

and back into Neah Bay where we were too late to see the Makah museum.  It was time to go home but there was one more adventure waiting for us.

We saw the first falling of leaves and realized that yes the days are getting shorter — back to the lengths we were used to at lower latitudes.  Just east of Neah Bay I stopped the car on a bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the Snow River.

Snail Rock at the out point of the Snow River
Sail Rock at the out point of the Snow River

We were viewing the scenery when I observed people from the nearby car gesticulating and pointing cameras in the direction of the kelp beds below.  I asked what they saw and they said “a great big whale”.  Sure enough, Thar she blew! A big, languid, lithe, grey whale exercising her baleen in the shallows.  She was so big that even at our distance on the bluff we could hear the wind of her exhalation with the spray.

Whale spray
Whale spray

There was no hurry in her.  In fact – truth be told – she reminded me of those big, dramatic, brown slugs I used to find in the garden.  But she was magnificent.  My camera’s memory disk decided it was full, but there is one more picture.  Wish it were a video.

Grey Whale feeding
Grey Whale feeding

It was regrettable but we really had to make tracks.  And yes that really is a 9% downgrade – my favorite!

The road home
The road home