Peter Kun Frary, Professor of Music University of Hawaii, Leeward
Point Wilson Lighthouse Port Townsend, Washington, USA Photo by Peter Kun Frary
Canon EOS 10D, EF 24-85 3.5-4.5 USM
In all the world, this is my favorite place. I grew up in Port Townsend, Washington, and Point Wilson, Fort Worden and surrounding beaches were my playground and refuge. When I was old enough to ride a bicycle, this was the first place I headed for. Why? It was the end of the earth. Riding north, you could go no further: the Straits of Juan de Fuca formed an impassable barrier, at least to a 9 year old. When I was old enough to drive, my mama's New Yorker Deluxe (2-speed Power Glide) floated through the inner roads of the point with ease. My first motorcycle, a Honda 350 Scrambler, seemed to automatically know Point Wilson was my destination.
The preeminent power of nature was bluntly apparent at Point Wilson. The constant gale force winds, crashing waves and driving rain were quick to remind how small and insignificant you were. The radical weather patterns made me think this place was a vertex of power, maybe even otherworldly--a scared place. A half mile away it could be peaceful and warm, but the point was always turbulent, brooding and powerful. When I was a college student home on break, I walked these beaches during winter storms, enjoying the solitude and feel of nature on my face.
Point Wilson is located in Fort Worden State Park, a massive WWII relic adjacent to the Victorian era city of Port Townsend in Northern Washington State. The lighthouse stands at the corner of the stormy Straits of Juan de Fuca and the relatively calm Puget Sound. The wind swept trees bear witness to the harsh conditions at the point. During my high school days this was a popular place to hide while cutting class, get stoned and enjoy "submarine races."
As a kid I often rode my bike up Morgan Hill just to enjoy coasting the mile down to Point Wilson. In those days Fort Worden State Park was a reform school for juvenile criminals, having been decommissioned as an Army base after the Korean War. My father was stationed there during its final military years. Now Fort Worden is a beautiful park hosting writer's conferences, music festivals and summer camps.
Fort Worden officer's row, bunkers and barracks formed the backdrop for the '80s classic movie, "An Officer and a Gentleman," starring Richard Gere, so you may have unwittingly seen them on TNT or late night reruns.
During Fort Worden's reform school era--circa 1960s--most of the fort was off limits and left "as is" by departing military forces. Being kids, we climbed through the barrbarred-wire barriers and spent summers exploring the myriad bunkers, tunnels, towers, pillboxes and underground reservoirs on the hill. Some tunnels went on for miles and were filled with graffiti and names of men stationed there during WWI & II. Of course it was dangerous as hell and if you fell down a staff nobody would ever know or hear you cry.
Point Wilson represents many "firsts" for me. As the end of the earth--or at least Port Townsend--it was my first taste of independence from parents and school. On the beach or in the bunkers I could be anybody I wanted. I was free. Trespassing on bunker hill hinted at my rebellious nature and was my first attempt to "stick it to the man." Now I am the man. My first shinny-dip was off the army dock and into the frigid 40 degree Puget Sound. Was the first and last time I tried that. Finally it was the place of my first kiss 'n feel, probably with "violin girl" from third period orchestra. Hmm, maybe it was with "give me a ride to school everyday girl." Well, it happened at the point and that's all that matters.
Finally it was the place of my first kiss 'n feel, probably with "viola girl" from third period orchestra. Hmm, maybe it was with "give me a ride to school everyday girl." Or that tall alto from choir. Well, it happened at the point and that's all that matters.
These many years later, when my mind is still, I think of this place. I see vignettes of the straits and bunker hill, my dogs running the beach and paisley faces and voices of friends and love long lost. I've returned to Fort Worden dozens of times, perhaps in some silly quest to glimpse a nostalgic moment in my past. Most of the bunkers and all the tunnels and reservoirs are welded shut and park rangers patrol the perimeters like a police state, collecting fees and handing out citations. Fields I once played in are now a RV park, filled with elderly travelers and satellite dish equipped Winnebagos. I suspect the submarine races are still viewed by novice lovers, so maybe things haven't changed so much.
Northwest Galleria Home
©Copyright 2004 by Peter Kun Frary All Rights Reserved