Last Saturday, Dad and I took Benji on an all-day adventure to Fort Worden, a ferry ride and a couple hours’ drive away. Fort Worden is one of three forts that were built around the turn of the 20th Century to protect Puget Sound. This included excavating extensive underground or partially buried batteries for gun emplacements, as well as barracks and other supporting buildings. Today, all three forts are state parks, with parts of the buildings open to explore.
When I say “open to explore,” imagine hiking through the woods to suddenly find a cement wall, pocked with stairways, doors, and balconies. Inside, you find mostly empty cement and cinderblock rooms and passages, some extremely narrow, all pitch dark. Graffiti covers most walls, but no animals nest here and mercifully people don’t use the corners as urinals, so overall it’s pretty clean. Hallways connect in strange ways; echoes bounce back. You carefully avoid trenches or raised platforms in the floor and holes in walls that clearly played some part in the military activity at the fort, but now just add the frisson of excitement that only comes from the possibility of breaking an ankle on something in the dark. You wander the passageways and pop out in unexpected places. You climb hair-raising stairways, narrow, steep, and utterly without soft, modern safety features such as railings. You approach the edge of multi-story drops onto cement pads where enormous guns used to hide, again with nothing between you and a fall besides your own acute terror. You peek from spotting towers that once commanded a sweeping view, now obscured by a full-grown forest.