Entering Elma | field notes from the Pacific Coast

Daybreak at Mosquito Creek backcountry camp, Washington Coast


By the time I got to Kalaloch they’d stopped serving breakfast and were turning things over for lunch, but not in a rush for anyone. We were backing up in the lobby and I was second, a party of one. The lodge has a reliable bathroom on the way to the coast and the food is top-notch. It’s not just the fact there’s nothing around, they seem to really care. But the service is slow, no one wants to go as fast there. That’s why they moved to the peninsula and that’s why I go there, to slow down.

Hardly noon but because they were serving lunch that legitimized me ordering a beer. I followed my server to the bar, picked a handle and committed to that, a pint. I ordered a smoky elk burger with jalapeño aioli, sliced red onion, tomato, lettuce, fries. Were it breakfast I would have gone for the coffee as I’d had none earlier breaking camp, I wanted to get out of there before the Belgian girl woke up.

I washed up in the bathroom, got the blood off my hands, had a good look at myself for the first time in days, a click down from tawny port, ruddy-orange, brown. My lips were sun burned and my eyes puffy/layered. And my hair was a twist cone, the way it wrapped around, the way some guys take a lot time to make it look like that.

I got my journal out and continued on my beer. There was a seat by the window with starlings doing fly-bys, dipping into Fuchsias on the deck. It was all socked in with fog and cool. Just a few miles north there was sun but when I pulled down to the coast it got consumed by fog, often the case. And the lodge guests were still hopeful in their sandals and light summer sweaters but wore a general malaise on this holiday weekend when it was supposed to be sunny everywhere else. And that’s the cruel joke of this place, the deck chairs sit there most days empty.

Two couples in their 50s or 60s got seated by me and we nodded hello. I tried to insulate myself from their dialogue. It wasn’t hard to pinpoint exactly what they were all about by what they ordered and how they specified things. I wanted to preserve the great ideas I had before they were lost. It was a hardbound journal Charlotte picked out for my birthday that said TRUST YOUR CRAZY IDEAS on the cover. That was good, I had lots of crazy ideas. More that than trust.

But I’d written many pages longhand for the first time in months. I’d switched to digital, trying to learn the art of taking notes on my phone, which isn’t much of an art.

The two couples were close enough I could hear them debating the elk burger, which I’d just set upon with force. They were nervous about the aioli though, and I realized one of the women was British by the way she said jalapeño (she made it a hard “J” like JALO-peño), and the guy opposite, who reminded me of Hemingway with his thick, white beard and mischievous look: he was trying to talk her husband into a beer but the husband kept balking.

I asked if they were Scottish, I could tell by the lilt in the woman’s voice. They were all in different stages of accepting their age. The woman looked like she’d waited all her life to be that way, she wore it well. She was like a cartoon grandmother with her sweater and glasses and possibly a wig. Her husband had a tattoo on his forearm that was all military, an anchor gone blue-green. He turned to me a full 90 degrees and described where they were from, Yorkshire.

I went back to my burger and beer and they, their order-making. The British woman had her phone out and was trying to understand it, trying to establish a connection. They were concerned about roaming charges. I was trying not to get involved. And then they got to wondering exactly where they were, the name of the town, so they could label themselves on a selfie. It was sad watching the elderly adopt the conventions of youth.

The Hemingway guy asked if I was a writer when they came in, I don’t know why, but I said without hesitation yes, matter-of-fact, then felt good for committing.

They were trying to figure out the spelling of the place and Hemingway gestured to me, said ask the writer, he probably knows.

And I got most of the name but second-guessed myself at the end (was it Loch or Lock), and laughed, the Scots were confusing me…then Hemingway’s wife, who seemed to be fighting her age or possibly taming or delaying it: she asked what is it I write (books?), and there was a sense of hope in her how she asked, maybe they’d met someone famous they could tell their friends about…they were on the edge of a good time but not quite there, how they’d resigned themselves to the fog, the tone in their voice, debating a drink before noon, what that would mean for the rest of their day, a resignation to plans not going as planned.

I said memoir and field notes; I’d been out a few days, didn’t want to waste my battery so I was going old-school with paper and pen. I wondered if the Brits knew what that meant, they probably coined the term.

After I paid I gave the British woman a copy of my receipt with the spelling of Kalaloch at the top then went back into the fog, estimating the time to Aberdeen and Olympia, and home.

But a bit up the road I started nodding off, wished I’d gone for caffeine over beer: the sameness of the scenery and the heat from the sun made me drowsy, along the shoulders with nothing but Scotch Broom and sword ferns…the same tape turning over, no-name towns, forest road turn-offs, nowhere to nap. A few times I felt myself slip, but it jarred me awake with adrenaline and that would last me a few miles before it happened again.

I pulled off at a gas station in Aberdeen and filled up: a beautiful afternoon right in the middle of town with no one around. The only shops that looked new or busy sold cigarettes, energy drinks, cannabis.

I got the idea for a Red Bull and reached for the first size but it was small, and each row descending got bigger until the fourth, a 20 ouncer, $4. I told the clerk it was my first one and he said, you mean ever and I nodded, and he advised I go back for a 12 or 16 but I said I was having trouble staying awake and he said that makes sense, just take it slow.

By the time I got to Olympia I was playing cat and mouse games in the passing lane, or the the inside lane that gets co-opted for passing on the left: there was an Acura and a few Jeeps I went up against all the way to Tacoma, outside Puyallup—before I pulled off for the country road toward Auburn/Hobart, the 18.

I got into Issaquah ahead of schedule with time to stop at the liquor store for a six-pack, a couple bottles of Rosé—and when I pulled into our driveway Charlotte was crying, stepped in dog shit, didn’t say hello—and the cottonwood blooms were gathering like snow in the garden beds and though it was a Saturday all was quiet, and there was no one else around.

This is the first in a series of posts I’m preparing from three days out on my favorite stretch of the Pacific Coast: 48 miles of uninterrupted coastal hiking up rope ladders and overland trails through old-growth forest, some beach hiking and rock scrambles. The posts don’t need to be read in order, and I’ve started with the end of the trip coming home, yesterday. Thanks for reading! — Bill


Categories: identity, Memoir

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

60 replies

  1. Great story. I’ve never had a Red Bull or one of its cousins. Your experience is why I hope I never do.

    I look forward to the remaining chapters in this tale, although the entire time I spend reading them I will be insanely jealous of you having the opportunity for such a trip.

    The Belgian girl worries me.

    Beautiful picture too. The restaurant sounds like a stop I’ll need to make when I go on my road trip to end all road trips.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well if you can get that groin of yours sorted we’ll have to go up the coast together my friend! I would love that! I can’t believe the picture. I just synced my phone and when I looked at it I had to really study it to recall where it was. And that’s where I camped for two days, and yet it didn’t look familiar in that way. And that’s kind of the theme of this series of posts coming, or one of them…aging, identity and the nature of faith. So, there you have it. Thanks for reading Mark. Enjoy your day, and hope you get a run in before it gets too hot. Ha! Life is good. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nor have I, Red Bull that is, mostly because I judge the type of person who drinks Red

      Liked by 2 people

  2. red bull, scots, elk burgers. a holy trinity who meet up in acid dreams, except it was a slice or your real waking life. nice –

    Liked by 1 person

    • More to come! Sausages! Thank you Beth and happy Memorial Day to you and yours. I’m about to start the coals…thanks for visiting. Bill


  3. “the blood off my hands”. OK. I’ll be back for the next/previous instalment.

    Lovely piece Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star…I’ve dabbled in them all, craft energy drinker that I am. Even Four Loco, which is half energy drink half another story. But you made the right choice with the beer. I mean, elk burger and coffee?


  5. “The British woman looked like she’d waited all her life to be that age, she wore it well.” I know the type. I saw a white-hair today wearing a pantsuit, the same exact beige polyester getup someone her age would have worn 30 years ago. Is it the inevitable uniform, the Fuck-It Comfort Suit?

    Great piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m laughing–but here I am, elderly and trying to adopt the conventions of youth–I’ve got a phone but it is a cast-off that I do not much with except text–and I also live somewhere near Yorkshire–but honest, that wasn’t me sitting there with the wig-type hairstyle!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s funny Joan! I didn’t know you live up there! I am playing with some agism themes in this series, so that scenario fit in, to contrast myself to them, despite feeling a sense of middle-aged “age,” and the nature of youth vs. advanced age. Thanks for reading and tolerating me, which isn’t easy. ! Bill


      • Yes–I know–the age-thing is awkward, but very real. When I was in my early twenties, my friends and I used to talk about people who were–oh–forty-odd. I really couldn’t understand what it must be like to be that old! I considered putting inverted commas around my use of ‘elderly’ there–but I thought I’d take your definition of it! I’m 65–I don’t know–I didn’t want to be coy about my age–but I didn’t want to put people off reading my stuff–and now I realise I am as obsessed with age as anyone else! I’m saying to everyone–oh, I’m older than you are…and how old I am seems to be coming up with regularity.
        Yes–I live in the north-east of England–used to be North Yorkshire–there still is a North Yorkshire, not far up the road from where I live–but we’ve been kicked out of that now.
        My accent–not lilting–the Geordies now–we lived in Devon for quite a while, and friends there would not believe we were not Geordies–who live even just that bit further up the road–now, there’s an accent!

        Liked by 1 person

      • 65? That’s super. You get a sense for people’s age from their writing voice I think. I would have pegged yours younger, for whatever that’s worth. I’m playing with the idea of youth and aging in this series of posts I have planned for this week, it’s fun. Is “old age” the absence of youth, and vice versa (youth, the absence of worrying about dying, getting older, etc.?). It’s funny, I do think the couple I met in that lodge restaurant were from your area. I loved their dialect. I’d like to learn more about the nuances there, throughout Britain. We spent 3 months there a while ago, and traveled throughout each country. The hardest to grasp was Belfast. Bill

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful photo Bill! One of the unique things about the Washington Coast is the “general malaise” of so much of it–the run down towns, the lack of facilities, so unlike the Oregon and California coasts. I think it’s what keeps it from becoming overdeveloped and cliche. It’s surprising really, how the towns just hang onto the defunct lumber mill vibe they’ve had forever, and no one really gives a shit. And of course, there are so many beautiful places to explore in between all those funky towns. It’s an interesting place no doubt. You’ve captured it well Bill. Aberdeen is really kind of creepy, like somewhere you would expect a serial killer to be from. Probably is, being Washington State and all, heh. I might have to google that.


    • I know, I think about the serial killer thing whenever I cross Green River. And the surprising lack of anything really out there, but you’re right, it keeps it unique and from development. I like the sparseness of it and the weirdness, I think Rod Serling would have had fun out there with his imagination. Bill


  8. Love this post, Bill, especially your interaction with the Brits. You describe them so well, how they look and that prudishness, not wanting to drink too early because it’s unseemly. And the woman’s little note of hope she’d stumbled across a famous writer and would have something to tell the folks back home. Also your pleasure at ‘owning up’ to your credentials as a writer – how we all walk that line, us amateurs, too coy to call ourselves that because we still have to earn money in other ways, even though the writing describes who were are more than the day job ever can.
    Love it.
    Stay away from the Red Bull, though mate. Especially when mixed with alcohol – tis a killer! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Red Bull is toxic. I felt it worse than alcohol for some reason, can’t imagine combining the two! God, thanks for the advice and happy you got to read that bit with the Brits. Nice folks. I’m going to bring them back in when I get to the end of this series and I’m going for a long run of it…we’ll see! Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sadly, that’s a bit of a thing here, Red Bull used as a mixer with spirits, vodka being the most common I think. Sends you doolally-tap, as my Nan would have said.
        I’ll look forward to the Brits’ reemergence. This long hike sounds like quite the adventure 🙂



  1. Field notes from the Pacific coast | The influence of the tides on the streams | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  2. River Theme | Field notes from the Pacific Coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  3. The Death Card | Field notes from the Pacific Coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  4. Field notes from the Pacific coast | the lover before your last lover | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  5. The last time at Mosquito Creek | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  6. I live in an apartment on the ninety-ninth floor of my block | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  7. Dead Souls | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  8. The rat torture scene reveal | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  9. A new path to the waterfall (for Brad) | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  10. The imagined superhero complex | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  11. “Hang on to yourself” (the faith, identity theme) | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  12. The beauty of the snail | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  13. West Cork Roundabout | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  14. What became of camp | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  15. Suicide in the Alps (father figure theme) | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  16. The expansion and compression theme | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  17. Too long from the dark, this deep into June | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  18. “These are the days now” | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  19. Existential work theme | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  20. The Cascadian fault | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  21. You have to learn the lesson twice | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  22. The day I turned purple (ghost theme) | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  23. The Tower card, reversed | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  24. The ‘kill your idols’ concept | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  25. I’d love to turn you on | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  26. The black Opal kombi connection | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  27. The Charm of Making | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  28. Trying on masks | Field notes from the Pacific Coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  29. Over the hills where the spirits fly | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre
  30. The Chris Cornell rat scene reveal | Field notes from the Pacific coast | William Pearse | pinklightsabre

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: