Steely Beauty

The first time I can remember crossing it, I was in awe. When I was little, I crossed over it many times and my mom would retell its story and the importance of it, just like her father did for her. I just never really focused on it as a child.

It took on new meaning in 2018 when we made a quick visit to Whidbey Island. Emerging from the thick forests of Fidalgo Island, you first notice the rocks jutting out, a mixture of grey, rugged brown and claylike red. Interspersed among the craggy landscape is a rich display of trees, from Madronas to Firs. You see the intricate railings that travel the 1,400-foot expanse, a beautiful shade of evergreen. The trees part up ahead, revealing the dramatic beauty that is the Deception Pass Bridge. To both sides, the views are breathtaking. Crystal blue waters, steep cliffs, and endless forests greet passersby who can’t help but gasp at the bridge’s steely beauty and its indescribable views. Built in the 1930s, the original idea for the bridge can be traced back to the mid-1800s. Championed by early settlers, lack of funding meant it would take many decades for the pioneering idea to become reality.

My mother grew up hearing stories about the bridge and its iconic name. My grandfather, having lived on the island before the bridge was more than an idea, would regale my mother with tales about the origin of its name. How the narrow pass and its currents were so deceptive, many ships ran aground or sank. Whether these stories are true or not, it’s clear the bridge was a prominent part of my grandfather’s life, as it was for many of the pioneers living on the island. It was a chance for connection to the mainland, for ease of travel, and for a modernization that would take Whidbey into the 20th century.

Today, Deception Pass Bridge is part of the beautiful Deception Pass State Park, acres of forests and beaches that pay homage to the land where the iconic landmark was built. On a recent hiking trip, we had the opportunity to stand underneath the bridge. I’ve walked under historic bridges before, but something felt different here. Staring out at the underside of the bridge, you see the intricate yet delicate steel latticework. You see the power of the bolts, the thickness of the beams, and the beauty and craftsmanship that created this masterpiece. I was in awe thinking about all that went into this bridge, and the effort that has gone towards preserving it. Staring at the bridge, I was surrounded by trees that climbed up towards the sky, trees that were much younger when the landmark was new, trees my grandfather would have known.

Standing under the bridge, I can’t help but think of the grandfather I never met, who grew up on the island, hearing about a bridge that didn’t exist yet. The grandfather who left the island as a young man to fight in a far-off war, only to return a very different man. The grandfather who, in his older years, hoped to one day make it back to this place he called home. He never did, but being on this island, I feel a sense of pride knowing how happy he’d be to see we are finally here.