Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Quiet of a Birch Bay Autumn

On the day after Labor Day, Birch Bay (WA) grows quiet. Few cars are on Birch Bay Drive, the road along the Bay that is the heart of this resort. Vacation homes by and near the Bay have their shades pulled. The C Shop is dark and without its enticing odors.

Someone, it seems, flipped a switch and the bustling resort has transformed into a peaceful hamlet whose full-time residents have the colorful Bay sunsets, cleansed air, and relaxing vistas to themselves.

As visitors abandon Birch Bay, the weather gets better. September days are mostly sunny, and the mild days and cool nights are near perfection. The area gets just enough rain to filter the air and to turn the summer-browned land to green. Unlike dry July and August when only weeds can survive, Birch Bay's fall revives grass and moss and other greenery.

As September changes to October, the pace of life in Birch Bay decelerates even more. On weekdays, residents have the place mostly to themselves. Even when a few people wander into the village on weekends, the quiet remains mostly unbroken. In this setting, it is easier to notice the splash of Kingfishers as they dive bomb into Terrell Creek and of salmon as they leap out of the shallow water for no known reason.

No doubt the herons are pleased with the new peace that surrounds them. They return to locations on the creek and along the ocean they had abandoned earlier when the crowds had descended to shoot off their fireworks and to explore the nature around them.

A bonus for fall residents of Birch Bay is that they get to see flocks migrating ducks and geese that make stops in the Bay. With a guide book and some binoculars, Birch Bayers get the thrill of identifying their colorful guests.

Flocks of Birds Arrive in Late Autumn

With the beaches of Birch Bay State Park largely empty, fishing boats show up not far from the park's shore. They not only snatch critters from the Bay for diners near and far, they also serve as picturesque objects that enhance the beauty of fall sunsets over the Bay. The few people passing through Birch Bay can usually be seen with a camera at the State Park as sunset falls. Fortunately for some of us, it is almost impossible to take a bad picture of a Birch Bay sunset.

Fishing Boats Seen as Sunset from Birch Bay State Park

A Fishing Boat on Birch Bay, Seen from Birch Bay State Park
As October progresses, the shorter days are less likely to be sunny and more likely to be rainy. The clouds and rain often enhance the beauty of the Bay's sunsets and bring a deeper silence that sharpens the taste of coffee and, on the best days, stimulates deeper thoughts.

The shortening of days and the increasing absence of the sun create a feeling of uneasiness among the residents of Birch Bay. They remind us that another switch is about to be flipped. This time both the costs and rewards of living in Birch Bay increase. Even more residents leave to find refuge in a sunnier place.

The change usually comes in December. The sun disappears for days at a time. The wind changes from a cleansing breeze to steady force, then sometimes to a threatening roar. The gentle Bay waves are replaced by unsettled, roiled waters that threaten to blow onto roadways.

A Winter Storm Creates Big Birch Bay Waves 

If you live amid tall pine trees, you can only hope that they can, for one more year, withstand the frightening gusts of cold wind visiting from the Arctic. If you have a house along the Bay, you pray that it will survive onslaught of  the black sea for one more year.

Winter Sky Over Birch Bay

Yet for those who stay during the winter months, the rewards are immense: Quiet, calm, pristine air, active wildlife, superlative views of a transformed Bay. Thus as the autumn deepens and the signs of things to come appear. it is time to contemplate what the winter has to offer and whether we want to be here when it arrives.

Big Waves: Winter in Birch Bay