January’s full moon lights the Salish Sea at Fort Worden State Park. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

January’s full moon lights the Salish Sea at Fort Worden State Park. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Getting away, six minutes away

MALDIVES OVERWATER BUNGALOWS. Barcelona five nights, $347! Such are the absurdities in my email’s “Promotions” folder from various travel newsletters.

I shake my head and thank the stars I live in a beauteous, if chilly, place.

Then came two “personal” days off in exchange for working all of the holidays.

So up ahead, for the first time in a year, lay the opportunity for an overnight getaway.

But where?

A mental spreadsheet listed my needs and wants: Someplace within a couple hours’ drive from Port Townsend, not too dear, super-clean, saltwater nearby.

I spent the next several evenings analyzing the options.

Friends recommended hotels and spas in Brinnon, on Whidbey Island and along the Hood Canal.

Due to several factors — price, predictions of snowfall, too much of my time off looking through the car’s windshield — none worked.

Then something popped up on a hotel booking site I’ve used dozens of times.

I’d been searching for something in Coupeville or Oak Harbor, thinking a ferry trip would make me feel like I was really getting away, and this lodging was near those towns.

It looked so familiar. So inviting.

A one-night stay was twice as much as I wanted to spend, but it promised significant savings on other fronts. I went for it.

Fort Worden State Park rents its one-time noncommissioned officers’ houses.

They’re more modest than the grand General’s and Colonel’s homes, but the row is well-situated, facing east across the Parade Grounds toward the water. From the front porch of each, the view opens to a vaulted sky above silhouetted trees and emerald green grass.

It took six minutes to drive over; one minute to collect the key from the host.

When I opened the door and saw the living room, I breathed a happy sigh.

This is a real house, with an old staircase to the bedroom, an old kitchen table, faded carpet, a firm sofa and chairs to sink into.

No flat-screen TV. No mini bar.

There is quiet all around.

One can listen to the silence.

I put on every piece of winter clothing I own and began walking, to the Bliss Vista overlook, along the bluff with the view of the Point Wilson lighthouse, then back across the batteries perched high above the dusk-pink shoreline.

Somehow, I lucked into an evening and a morning free of wind and full of moonlight.

My house was well-heated, and the pizza delivery person managed to find my front door after a series of phone calls, so the night was carefree, too.

I realize that I am fortunate beyond description.

I’ve been to the fort many times when it teemed with people, music, performances and open restaurants.

Clear of all that, the place rests in elemental beauty.

I never thought I’d spend this much money, mind you, on lodging that is not exotic on any level.

Yet the time, ferry fare and gasoline saved, the access to walks along the Salish Sea at both sunset and dawn: You can’t put a dollar amount on any of it.

The crosstown getaway lasted less than 24 hours, but every one of those hours was rich in the refuge I needed.


Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Her column runs the first and third Wednesdays of the month. The next one will appear March 3.

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