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23 February, 2009

Punawai o Cypress

Now and then, being called out of a sickbed to get up at 3:33 AM for a 3 hour drive for a boat commute to monitor cowboys on heavy machinery (then hitting reverse until arriving home at 8:30 at night) turns out to be a good thing.

Besides the general fact that island time tends to be good time, this trip carried the reward of a visit to the Secret Harbor Spring. Nearly a century ago, what now looks like a concrete abutment was the holding tank for a spring that was used not only by the Cypress locals, but Fidalgo Islanders and a bottled water company. A dock and pipe extended from the pool, dispensing cool fresh water year round; even during winters when the saltwater bay froze over, the constant pour melted a small spot where the ducks would congregate.

This is what remains. The tank no longer holding water, dock long gone, Fidalgo fish cannery tender Cypress having last pulled up for a refill generations ago. But the water still flows. Staff of the school who most recently lived at Secret Harbor say it flows best during the dry summer months, which would make this an especially great treasure, for the islands more than anywhere else defy the myth of the perpetually wet northwest. The pilot estimated a 15 gallon per minute flow on this February day (after a week with no rain).

Any source of fresh water is a gift, but one which can be accessed by a canoe or boat, pouring cool clean water straight from the mountain seems worthy of the special reverence I learned in Hawai`i for special springs, punawai. I've be fortunate enough to drink from some of these places, and although my job is to document historic and cultural places such as this, my pleasure will be to help malama this place, and maybe one day be rewarded with a drink.

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