Mussel Beach

Before leaving Crescent Beach, we decided to hike out to Tongue Point on the north end of the adjacent county park, Salt Creek Recreation Area. Although the tide was out far enough for us walk along the beach and shoreline all the way to the Point, the manager of our campground suggested that we drive to the Rec Area and then hike down from the parking area on top of the headland there. I’m glad we did.

It turned out that the headland at Tongue Point was home to the main coastal defense battery that protected the Juan de Fuca Strait during World War II, then known as Camp Hayden (1941-1948). Still there for all to see is the camouflaged, bomb-proof, two-gun emplacement known as Battery 131, although the two 16-inch guns and carriages have been removed.

Don’t be misled by the characterization of these as “16-inch guns.” These cannons were each 45 feet long, 5 feet thick at the breech (loading end), tapering to 16 inches in diameter at the destructive end, and mounted on turntables. They were every bit as big as the German defenses at Normandy. And they could fire one-ton projectiles nearly 28 miles! Now, that’s a lot of muscle!

In addition to the main guns, there were also two 6-inch guns located 2,000 feet higher up, known as Battery 249. On the Army’s plan for the Strait, below, I’ve circled Camp Hayden in red. The circle surrounding Camp Hayden is the limit of fire for the 6-inch guns (able to reach Port Angeles, circled in yellow); the further arc is the limit for the 16-inch guns – they could reach all the way to the city of Victoria across the Strait (also circled in yellow).

Further to the east there were a number of batteries protecting Seattle, Puget Sound and the military base on Whidbey Island, but Camp Hayden was equally important. According to a placard at the Rec Area, Camp Hayden’s duties were:

    To deny hostile ships entry into Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, east of Slip Point.

    To defend harbor facilities and shipping in Puget Sound, Port Angeles, and the Strait against bombardment by naval gun fire.

    To support, by artillery fire, the beach defense of United States territory.

    To assist by artillery fire the Canadian Defenses of Esquimalt; specifically denying enemy ships entrance to Esquimalt and Victoria harbors, furnishing protection for friendly shipping, defending the harbors from bombardment by naval gunfire, and supporting, by artillery fire, the beach defense of Canadian territory.

And before you conclude (like I initially did) that this was overkill, consider the fact that in June 1942 the Japanese invaded and established a forward base in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and Japanese submarines torpedoed freighters just off Cape Flattery on two occasions, sinking one and crippling the other!

After wandering around the bunker for a while, we made our way down to shore, stopping to take a few photos on the way:

The outflow of Salt Creek, shown below, separates Crescent Beach & RV Park’s private beach from the public beach at the Rec Area:

This would have been the way we would have come if we had walked from our campsite:

As we neared the stairs leading down to the water, we noticed two eagles in a dead tree just off the trail, an adult (top) and a juvenile (bottom). On our return, the eagles had flown the coop and a raccoon was busily foraging through their nest.

We walked out on the Point around mid-tide. Most of these rocks will be submerged once the tide rolls back in.

There were mussels everywhere.

We named the place “Mussel Beach.”

Back at the RV, I made one last trip out to the beach to watch one of the many unladen tankers that passed us go by. Battery 131 is up in those trees to the right; Vancouver Island is visible in the distance. I turned, and without moving, took a photo of our campsite.

I couldn’t resist also taking a photo from the road as I returned to get moving on to our next destination, 7 Cedars Casino.

7 Cedars Casino, owned and operated by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, is just outside of Sequim at the southern end of Sequim Bay. The Tribe allows RVers to camp along the perimeter of the casino’s parking lot, even making provision for free electric if you arrive early enough to grab a location with an outlet (which we did).

We hadn’t planned to visit the casino other than to have dinner, but there was quite a racket out by our RV from construction going on next door, so after we ate, rather than return to the noise outside, we decided stick around to play the 25¢ slots, using the $5 matching voucher we were given when we registered to camp in the parking lot. We hit the jackpot three times! The payout was $55, enough to pay for our dinner!

We really appreciated the free meal and free campsite, but the construction next door went on all night and we barely slept. The next morning we had a decision to make. The forecast for the next three days called for rain and our plan had been to drive south on US Hwy 101 alongside the Hood Canal, stopping to camp and hike some of the trails in the Olympic National Forest along the east side of the National Park. But we didn’t want to do it in the rain, nor exhausted from lack of sleep.

And Dale was anxious about her blueberry and raspberry crop that was soon to ripen back in Bellingham.

So, we decided to cut the trip short and headed back to Bellingham by way of the Kingston-Edmonds ferry, saving the eastern and southern sides of the Peninsula for another trip later in the year. We finished our morning coffee and headed home. We were back in Bellingham 3 hours later.

Post Script:

While living at the end of the world in the Florida Keys before moving to Washington, we would have to drive the length of the state in order to get anywhere with an elevation above sea level greater than the height of a Saturn-V rocket sitting on a launchpad at Cape Kennedy (345 feet). And, in order to cross the state line into Georgia, 500 miles away, we would have to contend with 4 hours of congestion in South Florida and 4 more hours of tedium on the Florida Turnpike and I-75 through the rather desolate interior of Central and Northern Florida.

But, now, we can be in a foreign country in half an hour, skiing or hiking at the top of Mount Baker in 45 minutes more, or in another world like the Olympic Peninsula in between meals!

It’s heaven.

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