KITSAP PENINSULA -- Fuel up on a breakfast of quiche made with local duck eggs.
Walk along a boardwalk through forested wetlands.
Meet the artist whose work appears on Costco's smoked-salmon boxes, and the fireman who transformed a city landfill into a waterside bonsai garden.
Before shipyards and shopping malls, farming and logging dominated the central Kitsap Peninsula, an arm of fertile land and maritime communities west of Seattle across Puget Sound.
The pioneer spirit lives on among enterprising locals, drawing inspiration from the past to put a modern spin on rural living.
Hop aboard a ferry, spend the day driving short stretches of back roads, and see what new discoveries await behind this area's big-box stores and busy highways.
* 7:30 a.m. -- Old Town Silverdale: Not to be confused with the larger suburban Silverdale area surrounded by strip malls, Old Town Silverdale is a compact and flat waterfront area laid out in the early 1900s along Dyes Inlet, a far-reaching arm of Puget Sound. There are several choices for getting here. My favorite is a ride on Washington State Ferries to Bremerton from Seattle's Pier 52. Visible as the ferry approaches Bremerton is the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where thousands worked at the peak of World War II, building and repairing ships.
* 9 a.m. -- Breakfast at Monica's: There are bakeries, and there are destination bakeries. Eleven miles from the Bremerton ferry dock is Monica's Waterfront Bakery & Cafe (www.waterfrontbakery.com), in a bright-yellow building across from Silverdale Waterfront Park. Owners Mark and Monica Downen source most everything locally, from the salt to the coffee, honey, eggs, meats and flour. Their specialty is a rotating selection of quiches, including one made each day with local duck eggs.
* 10 a.m. -- Waterside walks: Walk off the calories with a waterside stroll, starting on a paved path at Silverdale's Waterfront Park. In the late 1800s, part of the fleet of boats known as the Mosquito Fleet ferried farm products and passengers from here to Seattle. The site of the former commercial dock is now a marina, with a covered picnic area, playground and a Tuesday-afternoon farmers market. Follow the beach trail to nearby Old Mill Park (during a construction project, detour around the Silverdale Beach Hotel) where birders report spotting herons, osprey and kingfishers. Continue across Northwest Bucklin Hill Road, near the Silverdale Plaza mall, and find an estuary and the entrance to the Clear Creek Trail (www.clearcreektrail.org). Here, five miles of wooden boardwalks, gravel and paved paths wend through wetlands and upland forest along a meandering, salmon-bearing stream a few steps away from Staples and Home Depot.
* 1 p.m. -- Local art: Kitsap County's retail hub shifted from Bremerton to Silverdale in the mid-1980s with the opening of Kitsap Mall. Hair salons and offices occupy most of the remaining original Old Town buildings, but a short walk around town will uncover a few finds. Rest up with a cup of chai tea at Herban Gardens Cafe, 3332B Lowell St., then peek into Linda's Knit N' Stitch (www.lindasknitnstitch.com), in what was a Methodist church built in 1909.
* 2:30 p.m. -- Elandan Gardens: Double back along Highway 3 toward Bremerton, then veer off onto Highway 16 to the town of Gorst, a few miles west of Port Orchard. Find Elandan Gardens (www.elandangardens.com) on what was an abandoned landfill on the shores of Sinclair Inlet. Bremerton firefighter Dan Robinson, his wife, Diane, a former newscaster, and their children, Will and Shanna, leased the six acres in 1993. Set in a landscape of waterfalls and ponds created by hauling in fill dirt and boulders is Dan's collection of several hundred bonsai trees, miniature junipers, cedars and firs trained and pruned to produce tiny leaves and needles.
IF YOU GO
Take the Bremerton or Bainbridge Island ferry from Pier 52 on the Seattle waterfront. From the Bremerton ferry terminal, follow signs for Highway 3 North to Silverdale. Or, for those who prefer a shorter ferry ride and longer road trip, take the 30-minute ferry to Bainbridge Island, then drive to the peninsula across the Agate Pass bridge and past the waterfront town of Poulsbo. Take Highway 305 North from the Bainbridge ferry dock to Highway 3 South. Ferry fares and schedules at www.wsdot.com/ferries.
CLEAR CREEK TRAIL RESOURCES:
For a map and guide to the plants, wildlife and birds found along the trail, contact the Great Peninsula Conservancy, 866-373-3504, www.clearcreektrail.org.
Build a stop at a farmers market into your day trip. Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula yield an abundance of organic produce, dairy products and artisanal foods.
Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau, 800-