Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sequim, Our New Home

Katie and I recently moved to Sequim, Washington.  Sequim is not a new place for us. We lived in Port Angeles, 15 miles to the west, from 2004-2009 and both worked here part of the time.

Sequim is not your usual Western Washington town. It is located at the top edge of the Olympic Peninsula. On the southern border are the Olympic mountains and to the north is the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Vancouver Island, Canada is directly across the Strait. To the west are some of the rainiest places in the US, receiving over 100 inches of rain per year, yet Sequim gets less than 16 inches, lower than many towns in Arizona and California. This is because of the rain shadow effect. The Olympic mountain range serves as a barrier, causing the winds to lose their moisture before reaching the area. Washingtonians refer to it as the “banana belt” and pilots who fly over, talk about the “blue Hole” which is often directly above Sequim, the only break in the clouds for miles.

Sequim(pronounced Skwim, from the Klallam language),  is a smallish town of about 7,000 residents, 30,000 if you include the surrounding area.  

In 1977 a Sequim resident named Emanuel Manis was digging a hole in his front yard and accidently unearthed the bones of a 13,800 year old Mastodon. Imbedded in one of its ribs was a human made bone projectile point.  This archaeological discovery put humans in the area earlier than Anthropologists thought. Some of the Mastodon’s bones can be seen at the local Sequim museum.

Prior to white settlers, the S’Klallam tribe inhabited the area. S’Klallam means “Strong People” in the Salish language. The first European settlers came in the 1850’s and lived in Dungeness, located on the Strait. The West Coast's first commercial fishery was built in 1848 in Dungeness. They mainly sold Dungeness crabs. In the 1920s & 30s commercial crabbing became a huge industry. The area was named by George Vancouver in 1792, who wrote: "The low sandy point of land, which from its great resemblance to Dungeness in the British Channel, I called New Dungeness.” The Dungeness School which was built in 1893, is still standing in the area and is run by the Sequim museum and arts Center hosts many local functions.

Sequim is currently most noted for its annual Lavender Festival. Lavender farming is not a lucrative business on its own, but on one weekend in late July, all the farms work together, showcasing their various lavender products, and turn Sequim into Washington’s own Provence. People come from all over Washington and beyond to wander around the farms and the downtown area, spending their money.

Another Sequim festival of note is the annual Irrigation Festival, which is the oldest community based festival in Washington. In the 1890s, irrigation canals expanded farming out on to what was then called the Prairie, the open dry areas. Farms sprung up and the area became one of the State’s primary suppliers of dairy products. At one time there were nearly a thousand dairy cow farms.

Sequim has now become a popular retirement community. It’s peaceful living here on the Olympic Peninsula. Like any rural area, the pace of life is unhurried and where ever we go, there are beautiful vistas of mountains, open grass and farm land and water. We are surrounded by beauty. If for some reason we need a city fix, Seattle is just a forty five minute drive and half an hour ferry ride away.