PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — As we’re tromping down a beach on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Tim Blair stops suddenly and digs his fingers down into the sand. It’s almost as if he has a sixth sense for this sort of thing.
Out he pulls a small, frosted, translucent rock. It’s exactly what we’re out here on the beach for. It’s sea glass, a renewed piece of trash.
Glass Beach is tucked away near Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula, and according to Blair, it’s one of the best shorelines in Pacific Northwest for sea glass hunting. And he would know. Blair, of Port Orchard, has become a bit of an online authority on the topic over the last few years, as he’s developed a popular beachcombing website, PNWBeachcombing.com.
Up until the 1960s, Glass Beach was the site of a city dump, Blair says, which is why it’s such a good spot for glass hunting. The beach has since been cleaned off, but the waves keep digging up small glass fragments from decades ago, polishing them into beautiful gem-like pieces and depositing them on the shore.
The pieces are remnants of old beer bottles, medicine containers, auto glass and other refuse. As the waves work the glass over, they wear away jagged edges and form the frosted pieces the beach is known for, Blair says. Marbles, pottery and porcelain pieces can also wash up on shore, making the beach a beachcomber’s delight.
As Blair puts it, it’s “urban archeological exploration.”
Blair advises beachcombers to park at the North Beach lot at the end of Port Townsend’s Kuhn Street — which runs adjacent to Fort Worden State Park — and follow the beach west. The towering bluffs along the water mean this narrow, three-mile stretch of shoreline is your best route out to Glass Beach, Blair says.
You can find sea glass along the way, but the best pieces are out past McCurdy Point.
Old rusting remnants from the former dump site are signs you’re almost to your destination. Once you round the point, the long stretch of sandy waterfront you see is Glass Beach. Time to get to work.
On our venture out to the beach, Blair and I spent a few hours combing through some of the rock beds piled up by the waves. We used a trowel and a small hand rake and worked our way down a small stretch of shoreline, pocketing green, red, white and blue pieces, but it’s possible to find pieces just by walking down the shoreline.
There are plenty of pieces to be found out on Glass Beach, so be sure to bring along a bag or some container to store your haul in. With a little work, the reclaimed glass pieces can be turned into jewelry, home décor or perhaps could class up your goldfish tank a bit.
Before taking a hike out to the beach, it’s important to be prepared, Blair says. Pack a lunch, grab a waterbottle or two, dig out the sunscreen and most importantly, check the tide schedule. At high tides, water covers the narrow beach, which could mean a harrowing trip back for the unprepared. During the summer months, the beach will be clear during daytime hours.
Because it requires a hike of about three miles, Glass Beach is a secluded destination. With all the digging, hiking, waves and vistas to take in, it’s a relaxing spot to spend a few hours on a summer day.
“What I enjoy most about it is getting away, uplugging,” Blair says. “It’s a very relaxing 6- or 7-hour Easter egg hunt.”
Information from: Kitsap Sun, http://www.kitsapsun.com/