In Days of Old When Knights Were Bold: The Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire

maypole

If Camlann Medieval Village is an accurate portrait of a quiet 14th century medieval village, the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire is the 14th century Disneyland. It spans three weekends in August, with three distinct themes,  different performances depending on the weekend and a schedule that’s so jam-packed that you could not see everything in a day unless you were really goal-oriented, which is why some people choose to camp out on the grounds for the weekend. I chose to make a go of one jam-packed day during the third weekend, Her Majesty’s Royal Masquerade, where visitors were encouraged to don their most fantastic masks and join the merriment.

My first stop at the Faire was Cirque du Sewer, the only show with an acrobat, trained acro-rats, and an acro-cat (also: an assistant in a hat, and instead of a mat, a poop towel). The show was charming and delightful, though I did once have to suppress my gag reflex when she placed one of the rats on her head and brushed its tail behind her ear like it was her bangs. I don’t know why that revulsed me so utterly, I’m just squeamish. It probably didn’t help that the rats all had names like “Ebola”, “Typhoid” and “Literally Coated In Diseases That Are Flaking Off Onto My Forehead Right Now”.  (Maybe I made up one of these names. Maybe.)

cirque du sewer announcement

just a little mayhem

cat juggling

cirque du sewer

After the exciting grand finale of Cirque du Sewer, which involved slack rope walking and more theme-appropriate piccolo playing, I made my way to the Jousting and Tournament arena, where the Seattle Knights (previously seen at the Hurl Faire and the Portland Pirate Festival) staged battles and performed feats of skill on horseback. I’ve really got to hand it to those guys–I was feeling a little warm just standing around in my t-shirt and jeans, and they were battling in armor for hours. No wonder one of their members passed out during a fight! I saw her later in the day and she was, thankfully, fine…I don’t want to see anyone get hurt for the sake of my entertainment.

announcer

german celebration

knight battle

spanish knight joust

spanish knight

trident battle

Finally, in the distance, I spotted the notorious pickle wench, purveyor of ice cold pickles, and wearer of a really ridiculously awesome pickle mask. It was pretty refreshing…for a pickle. Sure, the salt content had me running for McGilly Sasparilly’s “Ambrosia of the Gods” cream soda, but in its first few cold pickle-y bites, I could see why my tablemate at Camlann waxed so rhapsodically about them. Plus, I will pretty much never turn down a proffered pickle. I’d probably even take one from the paws of Ebola the rat, if he felt like sharing.

pickle wench

tiny dressed up dog

jeffrey the jongular

After that, I wandered around, catching the tail end of a performance by Broon, and setting up shop really early for Jeffrey the Jongular. Just before the show, he looked out at the audience and said he needed to go out and wrangle up more audience members. I jokingly asked him why we weren’t good enough for him, and he asked me how big my tip was going to be.

michael bolton

First, Jeffrey, it is not polite to ask a woman about the size of her tips, and second, it made things really awkward when the only cash I had left turned out to be a fistful of quarters from the bottom of my purse. I think the tip issue is the thing that most didn’t sit right with me over the course of the day: with the sole exception of the knights, every performance I attended ended with a lengthy spiel asking for tips, some more aggressive than others, some indicating that our tips were the only thing keeping them off the street. I don’t know what the deal is with Faire, if they’re not paying their performers or what, but it seems weird to me to pay an entry fee into a place that’s offering you a day’s entertainment, only to then feel like the biggest piece of shit on Earth if you only have a few bucks to toss into their hat after partaking in said entertainment, like you’re ripping them off. I don’t typically walk around with a bunch of cash in my wallet–I happened to visit an ATM a few days prior to the Faire and had roughly $40 on me. I spent two bucks on a pickle, three bucks on a soda, and the rest of what I had on me in tips, and when that was gone, I felt like I shouldn’t go see any more shows because I was tapped out. I did go see one more show, Robin’s Risque Revels, in the adult-only theater, enjoyed all of the lowbrow jokes and songs thoroughly, and afterward I felt so guilty that I didn’t have any cash on me that I practically slunk out of the theater and suggested that we go home for the day. I’m not saying don’t go–I enjoyed the Faire, and I’ll probably go back, just that if and when I do, I will be prepared with more cash on hand so I can enjoy performances AND a giant turkey leg.

Talk About a Puff Piece: The Corgi Picnic

death from the ankles down

I feel about dogs the way many women feel about babies. If I see you on the street walking your dog, there is a 99.99% chance I am going to ask you if I can pet him, and a 100% chance that I will coo “Hi, puppy!” at him. I want you to tell me about your dog. Tell me his name. Tell me how old he is. Don’t bother scolding him for leaping up into my arms, that is exactly what I want, an opportunity to snuggle your dog. Are things getting weird? Have I descended into gibberish-talking foolishness and you’re starting to worry? Did you have places to go and (other) people to see? Sorry, I might be missing those social cues because I am too busy petting your dog and telling him that he’s such a good boy, yessums he is. I follow more dogs on instagram than I do people. My most commonly used emoji is the smiley face with heart eyes and this is because I love all of these dogs. I will only unfollow your dog if you use him to shill products that are bad for dogs, because the cuteness of dogs should only be used for good, not evil. Once, I was in a garden store looking at dog products and thinking about how much I like Samoyeds when the fluffiest Samoyed I’ve ever seen walked by and I got to pet him. I don’t know if I manifested him from wishing hard enough the way The Secret would have me believe, but I’m also not ruling it out, because one afternoon I spent a lot of time thinking about how much I like candy and a realtor dropped off a bag of candy on the doorstep of my rental house. Of course I will eat candy from strangers, look at me. Either way, what I am saying is that the afternoon I wished I had a Samoyed to pet and one magically appeared ranks as the best coincidence of my life.

Sometimes I feel a little guilty about how enthusiastic I get about other people’s dogs when it’s not like I don’t have a dog of my own. But then I remember that love is not a finite resource, and my little bean has it good, with mountains of toys, a bed in every room, super premium food, and more space on my own bed than I get for myself. Hence why I felt zero guilt snapping up tickets for the annual corgi picnic the second they became available, as I was not going to miss an opportunity to meet and play with up to 100 new corgi friends. After all, there is a reason that “corgi” ends with an “eee” sound, because that is the sound I make whenever I see one.

theo and nala corgisThis is Nala and Theo, corgi best friends.

corgeeeee

theo corgi

corgis playing

uh oh uh oh

corgi baitThe pizza provided by the event hosts proved to be excellent corgi bait.

butters the corgiThis is Butters, mostly mild-mannered but occasionally turns into Professor Chaos at home.

corgi buddies

corgi crew

corgi pool

corgi sign

corgi

different color corgi eyes

leaping corgi

nala corgi

panting corgi

running corgi

dawwww

puppy pile

sweet baby corgi puppy face

sweet baby corgi

It was awesome. A dog tornado would roll through the yard, a few would break away for pets and tummy rubs, and then they’d get absorbed back into the group. Everywhere I looked, there was a corgi smile (or two! or ten!). What was surprising was how affable they generally were with one another, even in such large numbers–only a few dogs had to serve hard time in the dog jail pen.

The gracious event hosts are corgi breeders and enthusiasts, and they had a “reserved” pen of their most recent litter so they could become socialized under supervision. I got to hop into the cage and was swarmed by puppies, and it was basically a dream come true. My only regret was that there were no puppy party favors. Napoleon’s regret was not being invited–that, and not getting any pizza, either. Worst. masters. ever.

A Walk on Kalaloch Beach

 

To get to Kalaloch’s Beach 2 on the Olympic Peninsula, you first need to take a short (very short!) hike through massively burled woods. From there, push on through the enormous berry bushes and rampant weeds that are threatening to overrun the trail, and trust that the little wooden drawbridge over a fairly deep gully will bear your weight. Then it’s just a short scramble over some driftwood and stones and you’re there–a wide sandy beach great for walks and tidepool viewing. And even on a summer Sunday, it was relatively deserted: I saw more bald eagles than I did other people.

Hiking the Hoh: The Hall of Mosses

hall of mosses

crossed tree trunks

crystal clear water

draping moss

ferns and mosses

giant fallen tree

hall of mosses hoh

twisted wood

hiking path in hoh

hoh rainforest

knobbly trees

leaves and moss

black slug

lush green mosses

moss monster

moss moss moss

mossy stump

mushrooms hoh

mushrooms

olympic rainforest

please stay behind fence

river

roots

such greenery

the moss wins

tree arch

trees growing on a fallen tree

twisted trunk

walking moss people

run away and keep runningKeep running…forever?

As I’ve talked about before, the Pacific Northwest is home to the largest temperate rainforest zone in the world, stretching from Northern California into Alaska. Located in the Olympic National Park, the trees of the Hoh Rainforest are protected from commercial logging, which means that the unique mosses and lichens that can only survive in old growth forests thrive here. Though there were a number of other hikers present on the day I visited, it wasn’t far from the ranger station that I ceased to hear the sounds of human activity. It was so peaceful. Birds called and chattered. I looked up and saw a hawk gliding through the trees. Dappled sunlight filtered through the canopy, and everywhere was this lush, verdant green. It seemed hard to believe that a wildfire had been burning in the forest since May, a fire in this rainforest for the first time in living memory. It’s just another reminder of just how dry this year has been everywhere, that a fire could rage out of control for months in a rainforest, this particular area one of the wettest in the entire United States! It wasn’t bad when I visited, no smoke or anything on the tiny portion of the trails I hiked, but it’s still deeply disturbing to think that this treasure could be in danger–not just from fires, but also from invasive species.

Yesterday marked the 99th anniversary of the national park service, and I’d like to thank them for all the hard work they do to protect and preserve these important, beautiful sites. Not just for our enjoyment or the enjoyment of future generations, but for all of the flora and fauna that can only thrive in wild spaces and can’t protect themselves from encroachment. And I’d like to encourage all of you to get out there and find your park!

A Haven for Trolls in Sequim, WA

troll haven headquarters

troll scroll

amazing door

troll haven

dragon

dragon gate

troll club

barn and gate

fangs

green troll pole

troll barn

grrrr

hornet ear troll

old squinty

one foot troll

skeksis troll

Some settings make the mythological seem more plausible. I found myself in Sequim on a misty morning, fog curling around the trees, and it made sense to me that trolls would congregate at Bandy’s Troll Haven, a place where the sun would never turn them to stone, a place that lives up to their legendary reputation of overruning farms and estates. Gary Bandy, the creator of Troll Haven, was deeply interested in Tolkein’s Middle Earth stories and was wealthy enough (from his invention of a special door hinge) to decorate his properties in truly eccentric fashion, scattering trolls, wizards, and dragons around his castle and surrounding orchards and farmland. Better yet, some of the properties of Troll Haven are available to rent–I’m already pondering ideas for epic parties. I hope they have a recommended vendor for insurance in case of party-crashing trolls.

 

Spotted on the Roadside: Stonehenge Maryhill, where the dew drops cry and the cats meow

 

burned out hill

burned out tree

columbia river

golden grass wind farm

golden grass

stonehenge maryhill

stonehenge greenery

stonehenge shadows

stonehenge tumbleweed

stonehenge washington

washington state stonehenge

washington stonehenge

maryhill stonehenge

windy

stonehenge altar

sacrifice

 

Who the fuck builds a stonehenge? Two Stone Age-guys wondering what to do who just said: “Dude, let’s build a henge or two!”

We do know who the fuck built this Stonehenge, and it wasn’t exactly a stone age guy. Sam Hill (1857-1931) was a pacific northwest businessman with a lot of klout in the area. He’s known for two large monument in Washington: the Peace Arch at the Washington/Canadian border, which was dedicated in 1921, and the town of Maryhill, named after his wife and upon which he dedicated this replica of Stonehenge in 1918. He was inspired by the supposed druidic sacrifices on the central altar of the prehistoric Stonehenge and built this replica as a memorial to the local soldiers who died in World War I, to remind the populace that human life is continually sacrificed to the god of war. Rather than replicate Stonehenge precisely, dragging large stones from the surrounding hillsides, he built his stonehenge from concrete blocks, its altar aligned with the sunrise of the summer solstice.

There are a number of huge burned out patches near the site, and a sign warns visitors to make use of their car ashtray rather than discarding them on the ground. The area knows a thing or two about fire–the original Maryhill buildings all burned down shortly after construction, much like the ill-fated nearby town of Shaniko.

 

Spotted on Stonehenge Dr in Maryhill, WA

With twice as many blacksmiths and 40% more rootin’ tootin: Shaniko, Oregon

door falling off shaniko

It’s surprising how quickly the landscape changes in Oregon. Almost as soon as you leave Portland bearing east on the historic Columbia River Highway, the surrounding hillsides turn golden and dry, giant trees giving way to small shrubs, craggly hills leaning over the wide blue river. As you push further east and reach Route 97, tumbleweeds start bumbling across the road (hence their Latin name: tumblus bumblus)  and deer can be spotted on the hills to either side, cropping the shimmering grasses and keeping a wary eye out for predators. Still further on Route 97 is the destination: Shaniko, Oregon’s best-known ghost town.

old truck

Many North American ghost towns were created by the gold rushes of the 1800s. While gold in the somewhat-nearby (150 miles) Canyon City did influence people to move to and settle the area, Shaniko’s big boom (and name change from Cross Hollows) came in the early 1900s, when it served as a temporary terminus of the Columbia Southern Railway. At that time, Shaniko was known for its wool production, and boasted the largest wool warehouse in the state. The Columbia Southern Railway was originally intended to continue out of Shaniko and to the coast, but terrain issues prevented its construction, making Shaniko the permanent terminus of the line. In 1911, two things happened that precipitated Shaniko’s decline. First, a different rail line with service to Portland diverted passengers from Shaniko. Second, a major fire wiped out the majority of Shaniko’s business district. With little incentive to rebuild, many of the businesses left for more prosperous locations, and the settlers went with them. Passenger rail service to Shaniko ended in the early 1930s, and by the 1960s, that rail line was discontinued entirely.

Now Shaniko is categorized as a ghost town, though people do still live there (36 of them, as of the 2010 census). I didn’t run into any of them during my visit–the only other person I saw was another visitor, a trucker who excitedly pointed out the jail and mentioned offhand that he’d seen three rattlesnakes that day, which kept me scanning the ground anxiously and caused Jason to get startled by a hose. Some restoration has been done to the buildings, along with some modern damage because assholes like to carve their names into everything.

jail shaniko

shaniko jail interior

shaniko jail

jail cell

jail lock

blacksmithHere’s the blacksmith shop…

other blacksmith shop…not far from the blacksmith shop. Hey! How many blacksmiths does one town need?

piano keys

rusted piano

warning rattlesnakes

shaniko bank

shaniko bill

shaniko cafe

this ole houseAnd while we’re at it, what’s up with ghost towns and christmas lights?

wooden cowboys

stormy shaniko

shaniko jail cart

shaniko criminal

Aside from the jail, there weren’t many buildings you could enter, which was a little disappointing. But on the other hand, entering a dark building that may also be occupied by free range rattlesnakes isn’t necessarily all that high on my to-do list.  Either way, by the time I’d checked out the town and taken the all-important jail photo, the sky had grown a threatening shade of gray for early afternoon, so I decided to emulate those 1911 settlers and beat a retreat back to civilization.

Spotted on the Roadside: And that’s no bull in Ellensburg, WA

 bull statue

bull statue ellensburg

In Ellensburg, there’s a statue celebrating the town’s cattle ranching and frontier history originally titled “Cowboy”…and what a boy he is, with his, uh, tail dangling between his legs just so, inviting you to sit next to him on the bench. Still in the building stages, people were offended by the name, people were offended by the potential schlong, there was presumably some shrieking of “Won’t somebody please think of the children?”, and ultimately the name was changed to “The Bull” before being cast and erected in 1986. Heh…erected.

 

Spotted on N Pearl St in Ellensburg, WA

Dick & Jane’s Spot in Ellensburg, WA

 

101 n pearl st

bear with a pile of heads

bach

beethoven

bike rims and reflectors

clown

rapunzel

colorful fence slats

dick and janes spot

front porch

giant pencil

5 arrow

keys and reflectors

life is but a dream

nail post

ooh la la nice reflectors

peg teeth

petri

punctuation

 

 

seagull

tin man

wall of reflectors

what is this place

you are beautiful

reflectors

A sign outside Dick & Jane’s Spot reads “What is this place?” What is this place, indeed? It’s a 37 year project in the making, a constantly evolving collaboration between outsider artists Richard C Elliot (1945-2008) and Jane Orleman that also serves as their home. As old pieces decay, they are replaced and restored, and thus Dick & Jane’s spot is in a constant state of flux–each year, there’s a new postcard for sale via a vending machine in the front yard that reflects the changes to the installation. Work from almost fifty other artists graces the yard as well. The Spring 2015 update outside the house describes Dick & Jane’s Spot as “What is this place: Art for the heart, from the heart, in the heart of Washington. Remember, one hearty laugh is worth ten trips to the doctor.”

The art and joyful spirit of Dick & Jane’s Spot did warm my heart and make me laugh multiple times. Their use of reflectors also reminded me powerfully of another outsider art house I visited in 2010: the now-demolished RichArt’s ArtYard. And the “you are beautiful” on the gate reminded me of Chicago’s “You Are Beautiful” project. Dick & Jane’s Spot, YOU are beautiful. And no one is going to miss you at night.

A hike to Cape Flattery

 

boardwalk

cape-flattery

blue green water

the beautiful water of cape flattery

grasses

jason hike

cape_flattery

hazy cape

fog and a windswept tree

cape flattery

sandstone caves

sandstone fingers

 It was a long road to Cape Flattery–almost five hours from my doorstep to Neah Bay, including a ferry ride across the sound. After stopping at the Makah Museum to pick up a recreation pass (required to park and hike on tribal land, and good for the entirety of the year in which it’s purchased), I drove the winding forest roads to the trailhead. From the trailhead, it was a short, easy hike to several viewpoint areas…and there I was, on the northwesternmost point of the continental United States, the deep blue-green waves relentlessly pounding on the sandstone cliffs, the distant Sitka trees blanketed in fog, a gentle rain falling,  the few other people there also in silent awe of the beauty of the cape. On the way out, I saw deer calmly cropping on the side of the road and bald eagles circling in the sky. I hope to go back soon to hike the other, longer trail on Makah land: Shi Shi Beach.