Adventures in Nordland

Today I wasn’t supposed to go to Nordland. I had told all of my co-workers about how I was to visit Four Corners, WA on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Then I google-mapped Four Corners and found there were FOUR in the state. Well, I can’t do that in one day!

So, in keeping with the Kitsap Peninsula theme, I searched nearby for places I hadn’t yet visited and stumbled upon Indian Island. Well, that’s certainly an interesting name for an island, so why not visit? I’ve cut across on SR 104 before on my way to Sequim & Port Gamble, but never ventured up.

I then searched for state parks. Because if you’re going to go someplace on a whim, the easiest destination spot is always a state park (just don’t forget the Discover Pass). Fortunately for me, Marrowstone Island (next to Indian Island) has not one, but two state parks. I was sold.

It was a fairly easy trip: I took the ferry over to Bainbridge (to save on gas), then up 3, over the Hood Canal Bridge, onto Oak Bay Road, then a few rights and a left later, I was headed straight to Fort Flagler State Park.

As you get about halfway onto Marrowstone Island, you reach the tiny hamlet of Nordland. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s a town or hamlet, but I’ve always been fond of that particular term. Amazed I didn’t spot it on the map earlier, my mind wandered: I’ve heard of the Norwegian town of Poulsbo, but another one? I wondered how it got it’s name (I never found out, so I’m imagining it’s a community for retired Vikings).  I drove right past the Nordland General Store, nestled against a post office about the size of a postage stamp across from a channel.

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Knowing I must get a postcard or two and some ice cream, I vowed to stop as I was heading back.

A hop, skip and a jump later, I had arrived at Fort Flagler. Incidentally, I called it Fort Ladlow in my head all day.

Not knowing what I would find, as I only did a cursory search of the place to make sure I could access the park, I was surprised to find I could go three different directions: towards a beach access/camping site, vacation housing, or a gunnery (something like that). Immediately attracted to the beach, I headed there. A quarter-of-a-mile later, I found it. Nestled quite closely to the beach was a small campsite, pretty full with RVs, despite the mild Pacific Northwest weather.

With Port Townsend right in front of me and the cliffs of Whidbey Island on the right, the views were spectacular. Coincidentally, there was a fairly low tide and a bird convention going on, so I got to see a display of flight from a gaggle of black birds as they flew in from above. After about a half an hour exploring the rocky beach and finding only one silver of blue beach glass (a rare find, I’ll admit), I decided to head back to the car. The difference between the rhythmic sounds of waves crashing on the beach to the calm, serene view of Port Townsend Bay just a few steps away was staggering: I decided it would be a great place to return with a kayak and a tent when I got the chance.

I chose the ‘vacation housing’ section next, because, well, it’s not often you get to see that sign every day in a state park. Nestled into the park were a few scattered Victorian era mansions surrounded by a cluster of large, early 20th century boarding homes. Turns out the mansions are for rent or you can host a conference in the yellow boarding houses.

Just a few paces later, I parked the car when I was told I couldn’t drive any further, though a driving path was clearly visible. Curious by the rundown houses on my left, I got out of the car and started walking. Straight ahead was a bunker. Several of them, in fact, called ‘batteries.’

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Washington State is pretty cool. They let you walk around closed military sites so you can imagine what it must have felt like back when the whole place was operational and cannons were on the raised circular platforms that now stand empty. Still confused as to why they were built before World War One (I think), it’s still pretty impressive. On my way back to the car, I spotted two deer, who weren’t too startled by my sudden appearance.

I visited the gunnery, or whatever it’s called, next. It wasn’t that impressive, despite being the only site with guns still remaining atop the bunker. Unfortunately, it was placed directly across from a ‘sewage pond,’ complete with descriptions about what happens when you flush the toilet.

Despite seeing several cars in the park, it felt like I had the place to myself. The park takes up a good chunk of land, and it’s easy to see why the military built their fort at this location. The sight lines to the waterways are amazing!

I was able to find my way down to an expansive beach and headed to a sprawling lighthouse complex I saw while touring the vacation houses. The lighthouse was empty, but the houses were not: it appears it’s property of the US government.

Mission to reach the lighthouse complete, I walked back on the sand, spotting the top of a seal’s head before reaching the walkway up to the car.

Sadly, if you like to collect beach glass like me, Fort Flagler is not the place to you. Only three pieces of glass found in about three hours!

Realizing I’d better start to head back or I wouldn’t reach home until way past dark, I decided to head back the way I came with a quick stop at Mystery Bay State Park (a great place if you have a boat)!

On the way back, I realized that Mats Mats isn’t the name of a hair salon, but a town! Sadly, in my haste, I didn’t pull over to explore.

Surprisingly, I made it to Bainbridge with a few minutes to spare before loading onto the ferry without running on fumes. I did have to pay for both directions of the ferry trip, but while disappointing, it’s totally worth the money.

The adventure to Nordland complete, I settled in to enjoy the views of the Puget Sound, always on the lookout for whales.

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