Day 1 Entry: We Made It… Barely
We left the airport ragged that morning, eyes bloodshot, body curdled, our pores pouring out the night before. Milla and I managed to miss our flight, but the misfortune quickly gave birth to fantastic timing. Due to the tardy, Stephen Perdue would be touching down in SEA-TAC from SF only moments after our new arrival.
Our crew may have started small, but we came in strong—and that really depends on how you define strong. After packing our crew into a small compact rental, we were off… and I was the captain, baby. Here we come Bremerton… or Silverdale… or Kingston… or wherever we’re going… Although our destination was not fully certain, one thing reigned prominent: we were coming in hotter than a falling fire ball in a midnight, Mid-Western sky.
After a few wrong turns here and there, we finally made it back on track. I had managed to transform an easy hour-and-a-half cruise to Kingston into a seven-hour-tour of Seattle; call it the scenic route. By the time we finally arrived Kingston’s hidden Pilot Point—that pleasant plot perched high above the Puget—dusk had swallowed the sky, but the festivities were far from dim.
"Our crew may have started small, but we came in strong—and that really depends on how you define strong" | photo: Knight
It was not long before we found Adam Crew and his iconic Patriot. The old beast of a machine was half-covered by a thicket, grill right upon an old tree, looking like it just made a crash-landing out of Whistler’s Bend. A fire cackled in the center of close friends, among them a very jolly Jake Jones—legend, if you’re not acquainted—who had just road in from who-the-hell-knows. Immediately, he started feeding me gummies that he called Illegal—however, he assured me they were 100% legal. Within minutes, my stomach began pulling at my shirt and my face began to stupefy. It was official… I was zorched.
"It was official… I was zorched." | photo: Crew
Milla and I found the food in no-time at all. This setting was very much different than the sleepy part of Pilot Point where we had just set up camp. This was it—the place—the epicenter of the small, magical universe in which we had recently inhabited. A ferocious fire blazed right alongside the festivities, a group of people were on a starry, brambly stage jamming out, and the smell of homemade pozole filled the air; bringing smiles to the many bright faces. And there it was—a bubbling black cauldron of goodness, blasted right over the fire… Austin Iles style.
"A dutch oven keeps food warm over the fire, next to a bounty of slurped oyster shells | photo: Illes
As Perdue, Milla, and I made our way back to camp—bellies bursting at the buttons—a strange shadow flew by us—whooshing in the darkness. At first, I thought I had imagined the phenomena, but Milla and Due saw it, too. Then again… whoosh! This time much closer. Before I could further register this strange happening, a shadow-man sidled up next to us. Was this a Sasquatch? Or was this some strange Forest Spirit? Without a word, the figure cloaked in mystery motioned us to hold out our hands, and in our awaiting palms, it dropped these little delicious, chocolate morsels.
“Ooooooo,” Perdue cawed, “Oh yeah, I’ll take a bite.” Down the hatch went the little morsel and the Forest Spirit whooshed off as fast as it had appeared. By stature, I suspected the figure to be one of Bremerton’s finest shredders–a beast on the board whom I had never met in person–but my wandering prediction crossed no further than suspicion.
"I suspected the figure to be one of Bremerton's finest shredders--a beast on the board..." | photo: Martin
Right before the shadowy creature dissipated into the rambunctious throng about, he turned around and smiled wide at us. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I immediately recognized the shit-eating smirk staring us down from afar. Everything became clear, and quickly, I knew that who I had suspected the shadow to be was correct…
…I had just met Connor Ferguson.
Finnegan and Jake find a relaxing spot | photo: Illes
Trav, Milla, and Nate (of Titan Leathers) sharing some treats in the camp kitchen. The kitchen being a fireside gathering space, for water views, live music, food, conversation, and warmth | photo: Illes
Some folk passing by join in on a late night jam session, where many voices and instruments mix into a euphony of music | photo: Illes
Day 2 Entry: Pigs, Shamans, & Forest Spirits
It wasn’t light out, but it was definitely morning. I awoke in a strange sweat lodge. Next to me, Milla was passed out cold and I could here a mixture of voices popping out from the still, surmounting darkness about. Patterns on the ceiling collided with the ample light flickering in—dancing and contorting shades and colors before my very eyes. I began feeling a bit claustrophobic, and after many attempts to awaken my slumbering wife, I gave up and left, only to realize that I had been in my tent the entire time.
The Patriot slept next door, a fading fire at its tail, sputtering its last lifeline into the abyss above. I could hear faint voices nearby, so I followed my ears. As I walked, I peered up, and the crisp sky brilliantly presented its dazzling display of cosmic gems; magnificence twinkling in my eyes’ reflection.
Campers find a calm spot to rest under the multi-colored tapestries of the tepee shroud | photo: Illes
It almost looked as if they were bleeding onto the overhead canopies—those very same canopies that attempted to conceal them from sight. As I wondered deeply about it all, walking along, voices getting louder, I found myself drifting away—a solid feeling of freedom, fear, and infinity all swirled into one. Then I saw my destination—the fire—the epicenter of Pilot Point. No time for madness, I thought, so, with a shiver, I shook the feeling off my shoulders and continued to the three silhouettes guarding the fire ahead.
It was Adam, Perdue, and a fellow covered in soot and sweat, knee deep in the fire’s ash with an oyster in one hand and a shucking knife in the other. Charlie was his name and shuckin’ was his game. Eyes glued to the steaming oyster in his calloused hands—garnished with melted butter and delicious garlic—Perdue could hold himself no longer.
“Hey, Charlie,” blurted out Perdue, “let me get a bite!” He would pronounce “bite” more like “by-eet,” and exclaim the request more than, well, request it. Perdue’s rhetoric at first confused ole’ oyster-shuckin’ Charlie, but after a moment of registration, Perdue’s point made it across, and Charlie tossed the tasty half-shell into his eager fingers. Perdue slurped it down no problem but nearly choked as a loud eruption thundered across the property. Something was happening over yonder, off on a lonesome hill with a sleeping tee-pee snoring on its side. Whatever it was, whatever the hell was taking place, it looked bad ass.
Flames leap out of the ground, as the coals begin to pile up in the pit where the pig will be put to roast | photo: Illes
That was the first time I saw Austin—over there, about 50 yards away from the oyster pit and main stage—over there, across a small ravine where a large tee-pee sat upright—over there, where the shit was going down. As Perdue and I scoped out what all the activity was about, we found ourselves amidst a group of warriors—ten or so strong—ready for battle. A large boar lay lifeless in a bed of banana leaves, and men were frantically trying to get this beast into a deep pit of coals. Austin led the troops—that savage band of soldiers who trekked on through, all the way ‘til 3:00 a.m. just to make sure that everybody had food the next day. As the large pig rolled into the coals, Perdue nudged me with his elbow, batted his eyebrows up and down and said,
“Ooo-wee, I can’t wait to take a bite of that!”
Tensions were high at this point and trash-talk was imminent. Perdue and I were way out of place, standing there dumbfounded as all hell. From the outside looking in, we looked like Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie if they had been plopped into an action film. At one point, I thought WE might get knocked into the pit. Then, as fast as it all began, and thereafter the final shovel-load of dirt was laid upon the resting pig, the warriors tiredly dispersed back into the darkness—back into the vast land of Pilot Point. Suddenly, a roaring motor sliced through the silence. It was coming from the front of the property—at least two-hundred yards away—and it sounded like a dirt bike.
A single headlight came sputtering into Pilot Point at 4:00 a.m. Adam had reappeared from the deep forest, joining Perdue and I’s curiosity. It was kind of random that two mysterious figures on a 250cc came storming out of the ruralness at such an hour. As they got closer, and the bike sputtered its last breath, I could faintly hear a familiar voice. Could it? Nah, couldn’t be? The bike finally died, and the two figures hopped off, laughing hysterically as they did so. A moment of suspense washed over the three of us as the two helmeted figures approached. As the figure in the front took off his helmet, I knew then that my initial suspicions were correct. It was mothafuckin’ Bobby Dodd and his badass Uncle Boogie.
Beau, Adam, Boogy, and Bobby repairing a drive chain, to get Bobby’s bike road ready for the return trip home | photo: Illes
If I were to begin the tale of what Bobby and Uncle Boogie went through to make it to Pilot Point, well, I’d have a story longer than this one here. Let’s put it this way: our seven-hour detour was nothing in comparison to what those two went through that night. So, what better way to relax after a long journey than slamming back some cold ones? And I mean oysters.
Although the day was surely upon us, the night had not yet halted. Adam and Perdue dissolved into the surrounding forest, and Uncle Boogie long said, “Fuck it” and turned in. For a while, it was just Bobby and me, catching up, sharing laughs, beers, and oysters. Then a sudden rustling caught our attention. Both our heads jolted to where the sound derived and out came a slithering shadow—pacing up to us full speed. It was Connor.
There I was with a Shaman and a Forest Spirit, sipping on oysters and slamming back beers, sitting patiently with hopes of the approaching sun—and all the while, the morning’s first Seattle-Kingston Ferry was off in the distance, lazily sliding across the Sound, bellowing a lullaby as it reached its final port.
Day 3 Entry: A Day to Cherish
Daylight spliced with a soft and distant serenade splashed me awake. By the way, my head felt, I knew I had missed breakfast. I wasn’t worried. Instead, I just laid there, listening to Cory Bennett Anderson start the day off right with magical sounds. Eventually, I pulled myself out of the tranquility of my tent and found Camila sitting nearby on the bumper of the Patriot. She instantly grabbed my hand and off we were—down to the festivities—down to the center of Pilot Point.
The warm day poured sunshine down onto the crowd. Seeing everything in the light really put the size of this event into perspective; we were standing in the middle of a music festival. There was a live DJ who would also sporadically go up on stage and play an acoustic set, kill it, and then go back to DJ-ing. Activities of all sorts were going on amidst the family-friendly environment; live music, painting in the big tee-pee, and all kinds of food—I knew Perdue was getting his bites in. Or if one was feeling a bit restless, a hike down to Austin’s beach may have been the way to go. At low tide, you could walk a football field’s length out where the water once rippled, and at high tide, you could curl up in a hammock and listen to the waves tickle your soul from just below. Amazing was all the eye could see.
We spent the day drinking beer and staring at the water, each of us sun-ray-basked to perfection, the vast Pilot Point plains inviting us to forget about our own homes and adopt this sacred place as a new abode; too buzzed to care but not buzzed enough to blow it. Before an eye could blink, the sun was already bidding its goodbye, and commotion was stirring over by the food. It became apparent that the pig had made its grand debut.
As I slowly made my way to the large beast, I turned back to see Perdue eyeing me; all the traffic caught his attention and he had hunger in his eyes—I knew what was coming. His confused gaze silently asked me what was happening—he was about twenty-yards off—so I slowly lipped the word PIG. Even though we were at a great distance from each other and were separated by a thundering crowd of people, I could still hear his cries:
“Oh… YEEEEEE-AH! LET ME GET A BITE!”
Our bellies were stuffed in no time. It wasn’t hard to accomplish figuring that there were about 200 lbs. of pork prepared to perfection—I mean, the meat would just peel off the bone and melt ever so gently down into your stomach. It was truly one of the best damn meats I have ever tasted in my life.
And that’s how the day continued—mellow—relaxing—perfect. As the stars began peeking out from their hiding places, Mike Jack came on stage to end the final day with a bang. Just a man, his guitar, and his profoundly moving songwriting. People were dancing—grandmothers with grandchildren—fathers with daughters—husbands with wives—while others like Camila and I just lounged back and spaced into the music. I believe that when the day comes when I meet my death bed, this mesmerizing evening will be one that makes an everlasting appearance before my fading eyes.
Back at our camp, and as the night grew rowdier, I decided that I was going to take it easy. So, I reached into my pocket, pulled out the pack of Jake Jones gummies, popped one in my mouth, and handed the rest to my lovely, Camila. From there, I laid down on the soft earth, pupils fixated on the stars above and my hearing entranced by the fire below. Perdue must have seen me pass the gummies off to Milla, because all I can remember, before dreams drowned out the world around, was Perdue heckling my wife for a bite… just a bite.
Final Entry: Fare the Well, Eagle Friend
With the following sun came sad goodbyes. Bobby and the Dodds loaded up their gear and took off—Bobby trailing behind solo on his 250cc that he somehow managed to fix. The once full lot littered with cars, smiles, and good times had dispersed—leaving behind the beautiful forestry of Pilot Point. As I helped Adam load a camper onto his truck, I saw a red cup labeled DERF sitting on the bumper of no one we knew. Hmm, I wondered, that’s right, where was Fred Zahina this whole time? As if the Universe answered my call, across the lush lot, standing by our camp was not only Fred Zahina, but Bremerton legend, Jesus Duque lurking about. Whether they had just arrived or had been there the entire time will forever remain a mystery to me.
Our final goodbye was to Austin and Michelle, the two who took their home and turned it into a festival—who took hosting and culinary to a new level—who shared with us an experience of a lifetime. I reckon there is many out there who will never cross paths with two souls as great as theirs, a reminder of what a true blessing it is to know such folk.
I held back my tears because I knew it was time to depart. The beer was extinct, the porta-potties were way past full–all the way to the top–and the final fire was smothered. As the final tent went down, we took our last deep breath of Pilot Point’s magic. Then it was on to the road.
Perdue was driving because I was beyond burnt. Camila was dozing off in the back seat, and I could feel my own eye lids gaining weight. And then it happened.
Deep from the bowels of nowhere, a huge object flew overhead our car, stopped mid-air, and bomb-dived back at the compact rental. The wingspan must have reached five feet or more and the body stood at three feet—easy. I had seen Bald Eagles before, but never this close, and never had I witnessed one full-on rush toward me. This thing was so huge that if there had been a collision, I am pretty sure the bird would win.
Time slowed down as the large eagle plummeted towards the windshield. I could see it’s brilliant white crown so vividly that the feathers were gallantly trembling in the wind—it’s wise, missile-like stare drove right into my own stunned eyes—it’s prehistoric talons big enough to grab a good-sized dog. At that moment, I felt a single tear slither down my cheek as the eagle’s face began to rapidly change. I saw the soldiers of the pig roast, Bobby Dodd and Uncle Boogie, Connor the Forest Spirit, oyster-shuckin’ Charlie, and finally Austin the Mountain Man. When I feared the worst—just feet away from a disastrous collision—time sped up and the huge bird swerved off to the right; its wings flapping bravely, eloquently, freely–America as fuck. During my final glance at the wonder, I knew deep down that the spirit of Pilot Point had bid its last farewell.
Everyone in the car was speechless. However, merely a moment passed before an excited Perdue abruptly broke the silence.
Perdue paused in his panic and I feared that our pilot was on the brink of hyperventilation–or a mental breakdown. I looked over at my comrade and realized that he was actually looking right back at me. A zorched-glaze washed over my friend’s face and I could see a mischievous grin curling into a half-crooked smile. Calmly, he finished his sentence:
“I mean, that thing was coming at us like…
“…like it wanted to take a bite.”