{explore} Elandan Gardens, Bremerton, WA

We’ve only lived in the Pacific Northwest for a couple of years, so there’s still a LOT that’s new and shiny. I like to just go out and wander whenever I can, even in the winter, because there’s always something amazing to find. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten back from a day trip and gone, “well, that was meh.”

(Well, except for the beach where we found the decomposing whale. That was distinctly meh.)

At any rate, on Saturday we left the house around 9 am and drove west. It was raining, because of course it was, but I figured if nothing else, it’d get us out of the house for the day.

The first place we went was Kopachuck State Park, which as far as we could tell from the car consisted of bathrooms + a hike down a steep hill to the beach. Since it was raining and I didn’t really want to get soaked, we moved along and noted it to come back to in better weather.

When we got back on the road the weather started clearing up, so by the time we got to the next place it was just 
cloudy, which suited me just fine. And place #2 was…weird, in the coolest way.

Once upon a time, there was a trash dump. This trash dump was located on the shore of a little bay on Puget Sound outside Bremerton. As the baby dump grew, the intent was to simply keep filling in the bay with trash.

Thankfully, times changed, and the landfill was moved elsewhere. The existing trash was buried, and on the surface, the land remained empty for many years.

Then, along came Dan.

Dan was a master bonsai artist. Over the years, he and his wife had picked up all kinds of exotic treasures in his travels around the world to seek out new trees for bonsai. Their home was full of treasures and their yard was so full of beautiful bonsai trees that people came from all over to stand in his yard and gawk.

Dan and Diane needed somewhere else to keep their treasures, and they found the sad little ex-dump by the bay.

Now, 30 or 40 years later, the little piece of land is a bonsai garden, museum, shop, collection of artifacts/junk, and all-around weird beautiful amazing place. They sculpted the land by the water into a tiny wonderland that’s not cute so much as eclectic. There’s a miniature henge, and mossy marble cherubs playing instruments, and a dozen Buddha heads, and stories about the bonsai laminated and stuck to the stands on which their pots rest.

The bonsai are interspersed with native plants and trees, found items, sculptures, chunks of lava, and the stark, massive trunks and roots of trees dead long before the gardens existed. It’s the accretion of one man’s lifetime, carefully placed and cared for.

The combined museum and shop is a similar experience; you can see the many years of love, good taste and adventure that went into choosing jewelry, figurines, dolls, fabrics, clothing, gemstones and other items from all over the world. I didn’t take any photos inside because, honestly, I was champing at the bit to get to the gardens, but be sure to pat the friendly dogs and cat and take a look around inside as well.

Even in the winter cold we spent several hours here before hunger drove us off to Bremerton to find lunch. (There are no bathrooms open to the public here, as well, so be aware of that before you go.) Admission to the garden was $6.00, I believe, and well worth it. We’re already planning a spring trip — I’m betting the garden will be stunning in bloom.