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Underexposed: Port Gamble, WA

Underexposed is a self-filmed and produced series by PEARL iZUMi athlete Brice Shirbach dedicated to showcasing trail advocacy and stewardship in places that may be unfamiliar to some. Join Brice as he explores the personal motivations behind trail advocacy while sampling the dirt they work so hard for.

The ferry ride from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island quickly became one of my favorite parts of this trip. Historically I haven’t always fared well on boats, but throughout the 4 days I spent traversing the Puget Sound, I managed to avoid any whiff of sea sickness and was instead able to absorb the sights and sounds that came with this rather distinctive commute. I could have stayed closer to the trails if I’m being honest, but the ferry ride provided a welcome dose of geographical context on a daily basis and I happily dealt with the additional travel time as a result.

The commute didn’t end once the ferry arrived in Bainbridge. From there it was another 25 minutes across the island, over a bridge, and along the Kitsap Peninsula to Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park in Port Gamble, WA. Port Gamble is a small, unincorporated community on the northwest corner of the peninsula. The area is part of the ancestral territory of the suq̀ʷabš “People of Clear Salt Water” (Suquamish People). The Suquamish thrived here for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans and Americans. In the mid-19th century, settlers began constructing sawmills throughout the peninsula, including those found at Port Blakely, Port Madison, and Port Gamble. The Suquamish cut and delivered timber to help support themselves. The tribe lost much of the land they inhabited during the “allotment period”, but in recent years have actively campaigned to repurchase much of what was lost and with some success, owning more than half of the land on their reservation currently.

The timber available in and around Port Gamble would thrust the small maritime community into a global powerhouse during the turn of the 20th century, with timber from the local forests shipping to 37 ports around the world at its peak. In 1966, Port Gamble was declared a National Historic Landmark. There is still active timber harvesting in Port Gamble, but the town leans much more heavily on tourism these days, with visitors enjoying the beautifully maintained downtown area, much of which is still owned by the timber company having restored and renovated the architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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