The Man

We drove up to Anacortes and took the ferry over to Orcas.

We had some time before check-in at our cabin, so we spent an hour or so snapping photos on a lake-side trail. We were in the habit of saying hello, after greeting other hikers on the trail, so we said hello to a man who was moving dishes from a picnic table to the trunk of his car. He was middle-aged, expressionless, and wore a flannel shirt.

“It’s a great day isn’t it?” he said.

One of us agreed and the next thing we know, we’d received as much information about the island as can be fit into the time it takes for two people to get into a car. Among the new facts in our possession: The best place to watch the sun set on Orcas Island is at Obstruction Pass.

We waved good bye to the friendly man and continued our vacation.

On our last night we followed the man’s advice – We drove the forty minutes to Obstruction Pass.

Ingrid asked me, “That guy in the parking lot the other day was kind of odd.”

“I’m sure he’ll be there when we arrive.” I put on my best Vincent Price voice, “‘I knew you’d come. I’ve been waiting for you.'” We’d been grumbly, our bodies and brains were stiff from over-exercise, and this lightened the mood a bit.

Ingrid snorted and we riffed off that for awhile – suggesting other scenarios, deciding what we’d do if such a thing had really happened.

Ingrid started getting nervous when one of the signs on the road said “Obstruction Pass Trail” instead of just “Obstruction Pass”. We were beat and weren’t prepared for a hike.

We found the trailhead in a campground parking lot. Ingrid pulled in slowly and surveyed the situation. There were a few cars, it was getting dark already.

Ingrid drove up behind the last car in the lot. A man was crouched over behind it.

Ingrid called out “Excuse me!” to him. I had a sense of deja vu as I noticed that the man was washing his dishes from a plastic tub in his trunk.

He turned around. I wasn’t surprised to see the man from the other parking lot, from the other day. He was wearing sunglasses.

Ingrid was. “Oh. Hi. It’s you,” she stammered.

He didn’t recognize us.

“You were in the parking lot the other day. . .”

He looked at us blankly.

“At Mountain Lake?” I added.

“At Mountain Lake. You told us that this was a good place to see the sunset.”

“Oh right,” he said (though he didn’t seem to really remember).

“Is there a road out to Obstruction Pass?”

“No, there isn’t. You can take the trail.” He noticed our disappointed reactions. “It’s a really quick hike – just half a mile. You can even just walk halfway and watch from the bluff.”

Ingrid thanked him and drove away.

“Do you want to go?” I asked her.

“I just wanted to get out of there. That was very strange.”

We decided to take the hike. Ingrid turned us around and we parked a few cars down from where the man was still doing his dishes.

“You’ll need to take a flashlight,” he told us.

We thanked him (flashlight-less), found the trail, and walked down at a quick pace. We found the bluff ten minutes later and watched dusk set in. The man was right, It was a beautiful spot.

We snapped a few photos and headed back up the trail. When we were about halfway there, we heard someone’s smoker’s cough coming from up the trail. We turned a corner and for a minute, through the trees, we saw someone, plaid shirt, coming in our direction. He twisted around when he saw us and hurried back up the trail.

We slowed our pace and let him put some distance between us.

The man greeted us when we stepped back into the parking lot. “Not much of a sunset tonight,” he said.

Ingrid didn’t answer.

I hesitated, “No. There was a cloud blocking the sun.”

“There needs to be some good cloud cover to get a really nice sunset,” the man explained.

We nodded our heads in agreement (though his comment contradicted mine), scrambled into the car, and drove back to Beach Haven.

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