Discovering Sequim Part II – Lavender Soul
‘As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul.‘
As soon as we drove into Sequim I knew something was different. It wasn’t the pastoral landscape or the rolling hills. It wasn’t even the stunning bluff or the spectacular sand spit. It was something about the grass. Something weird, something off…..I couldn’t quite put my finger on it….and then I saw it
“Honey” I exclaimed “Look at the grass…it’s BROWN!”
If there’s one thing you don’t expect to find in the moist, green Pacific Northwest it’s fields so deprived of natural water they’ve gone brown. Having just spent the last two weeks dripping in 90% humidity, this was a total revelation. We had reached the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, the place where rain magically parts, almost like the Red Sea of Exodus, to fall its separate ways. In this little, protected enclave they only get ~18 inches of rainfall a year, whereas just 90 miles to the west Forks receives over ~120 inches per year. It’s honestly dry here, right here and really nowhere else around here. This unique environment means Sequim (pronoinced squim) enjoys a weather very similar to (of all places) the south of France and that, in turn, means lavender. Acres and acres of lavender.
Ahhhh yes, balm of the soul, inducer of sleep, soother of burns, healer of mind and all-around rejuvenator of the spirit. There are few things a whiff of intoxicating lavender can’t fix. The heady scent seeps into your nostrils, invades your mind and just like that you’re gone -> drifting away in the happy never-never land of relaxation. Plus, who doesn’t like purple? I’d read about Sequim’s little lavender secret back in Feb and when I heard about the lavender festival (typically held around the 3rd week of July) that just happens to coincide with full bloom (it’s timed as such) I knew we had a destination to make. Full fields of blooming lavender topped with lavender margarita’s, lavender ice cream and lavender mocha….oh yeah, baby I am THERE!
We arrived a few days before the start of the festival and toured farms and booths much of the week-end. There are no less than 12 lavender farms in the area, each with their own unique character producing over 150 different varieties of lavender (seriously! I didn’t even know there were that many) and they all hold open house during the festival (5 of the farms were on a paying tour, the other 7 on a free tour). This was topped off by TWO downtown street fairs, and no end of either purple or lavender-derived stuff just about anywhere you could throw a stone. Purple houses, purple benches…even the local Costco was overflowing with bloomin’ lavender plants in their parking lot! The booths were pretty typical fair-stuff, lots of arts & crafts of similar genre, but the farms were superb and offered plenty of classic photo ops. My favorites were Purple Haze (by far the cutest) and Washington Lavender (a classy farm with an historic B&B) while the winner drink was a lavender mocha from Hurricane Coffee in downtown. Yum, yum!
Taking in Sequim at this time of year is really prime, not only for the mass of purpleness & good aroma, but because the farms start harvesting their crop soon after the festival ends. So, if you want to catch that classic field-of-lavender shot July is really the best time to do it. If the crowds of the festival don’t tempt you, target your visit right before the big week-end. Once harvested much of the purple goodness ends up as lavender oil which then gets re-purposed into sweet-scented bath oils, infusions, creams and such. The fields then lie dormant until the next bloom.
Between the lavender madness, our epic hikes to the lighthouse and hanging by the Dungeness bluff we really didn’t manage much else in town. Our moochdocking buddies from Bend were in the area so we joined them for a day in a dog-friendly hike on the Miller Peninsula (one of the better dog-friendly spots in the area -> Polly approved), plus we gorged ourselves shopping at Nash’s Organic Produce (fabulous store!), but that was about it. Hurricane Ridge, which is much touted for the area, teased us from the distance but remained enveloped in cloud the entire time. The same went for the ferry to Victoria (in Canada), a tease but no go.
Ah well, my soul came for lighthouses and lavender and both those needs were abundantly met. Besides, giving yourself a good reason to come back is always a smart plan. Shall we say around….next July?
NOTE/ Most of the lavender farms in the area do NOT allow dogs, however the down-town street fairs during the festival were both dog-friendly. For best dog-friendly hiking head on over to the Miller Peninsula half-way between Sequim and Port Townsend. The trails around the Dungeness Recreation Area (except for the spit) are also dog-friendly.