Saturday, February 27, 2021


Big Leaf Maple leaves at Erinswood

The closest I came to playing in the leaves this year was hiking over the leaf-covered trails at Erinswood, outside of Index, WA.  The leaf coverage was just enough to make the trails and surrounding wooded area seem like autumn, without being too deep to impede passage.  Autumn is the perfect season to view the colorful big-leaf maples before they drop and the leaf-covered woods thereafter.  It is also the perfect time for the exhibits of fungi on display.

Even without the color of the maples, however, the hike would be beautiful, because of the many stands of western red cedar trees, as well as the ubiquitous moss and ferns of the western Cascades.  If you time it right, you can also find salmon- and thimble- berries.

The .8 mile (round trip) trail is located outside of Index, WA, across from the rock-climbing mecca of the Town Wall.  There is a medium-packed gravel parking lot.  There is no outhouse, and I don't remember there even being Honey Buckets there.  The first .1 mile of the trail is accessible, but not officially ADA, leading to a turn-off to Heybrook Ridge.  

After that junction, the trail narrows and is encroached upon by brambles and bushes for about .1 mile.  

The trail then reaches a .4 mile loop which is wide and relatively flat, with a few short/steep hillocks.  I could wheel the entire trail by myself (but I have levers, a large third wheel, big tires, and some muscles).  The trail, named after a local resident-hiker with a disability, is intended to become a truly ADA trail, with the addition of a hard-packed gravel surface on top of the dirt.  Until this layer is added, the trail has a few roots sticking up, but it is mostly smooth.   

There is a small creek, which comes close to the trail at one point, presenting a rocky section and a possible wash-out point.  

My biggest question, however, is how one is supposed to get to the ADA trail, since it seems that the only access is down this .1 mile overgrown and narrow trail.  If that is resolved and the ADA portion of the trail is completed, this will be a wonderful wheelchair-accessible trail -- short, but full of a variety of beauty.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Deception Pass State Park

Driftwood at Deception Pass State Park

I know I've said this before, but it bears and even demands repeating: I live in a beautiful place. Especially when viral pandemics and closed borders keep you close to home, it's all the more important that your home is a place offering opportunities and beauty.  Hooray, Washington State!

Lookout onto Strait of Juan De Fuca

Taking advantage of a sunny -- but very cold -- day, we headed to Deception Pass State Park and the Sand Dunes Trail.  The trail is located at the main entrance to Deception Pass State Park on the Whidbey Island (south) side of the bridge.  Follow the signs to the large, paved parking lot at West Beach.  The trail begins at the south side of the parking lot.  There were disabled parking spots, and I assume the restrooms were disabled, as well, but they were locked, so I couldn't confirm that.  Parking requires a Discover Pass; however, vehicles with a disabled placard or license plate are exempt.

The trail can be accessed from the parking lot either by a paved trail that goes past the beach on Cranberry Lake, with a beach house, outdoor showers, and a large picnic area.  There is even one picnic table with space cut out for a wheelchair and a paved path leading to it.  The trail can also be accessed by a wide unpaved road next to the water.  Either way, the Sand Dunes Trail, officially designated an ADA trail, is a paved 1.2 mile loop.

West side of Sand Dunes Trail

One side of the loop goes along Puget Sound, with views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands. The beach is covered with driftwood, and trail name (Sand Dunes Trail) is reflected by the small dunes along the trail.  There are several informative interpretive signs.  I've read that in the summer, porpoises, eagles, and osprey can be seen.

South-east side of
Sand Dunes Trail

The other side of the loop goes along Cranberry Lake and then through a stretch of mossy trees.  

Among the trees, and perhaps best seen from the Puget Sound side, is a tremendous, twisted 850 year-old Douglas Fir.

This root is easy to bypass
The thing about trees is that they have roots, and big trees have correspondingly big roots.  Unfortunately, at the south end of the trail are two large roots crossing under the trail which have seriously broken through the pavement, causing an upheaval which makes the trail impassable.  I was able to get around both of these obstacles by going on the side of the trail.  Even if I hadn't been able to, I would have gone down and back on both sides of the loop, because the views were so stunning.

This root is harder to bypass,
but possible

Padilla Bay Shore Trail

PBST looking out at Padilla Bay and the Salish Sea

"Where the Skagit River meets the Salish Sea." This trail description on The WTA website sounds so romantic and foreign.  However, the Padilla Bay Shoreline Trail is really just about 72 miles north of Seattle.

South entrance
North entrance

The directions to the trail can be found on the WTA trail description webpage, along with a prosaic description of the trail.  The trail can be accessed from either the north or south trailheads, but the south trailhead is a little easier, since it provides a parking lot with Honey Buckets.  The trailheads are guarded at both ends by barriers to keep out motorized vehicles.  Fortunately, they are both wide and long enough for wheelchairs to fit through. 

PBST along the estuary

The trail itself is 2.25 miles each way, built of hard-packed gravel on top of a dyke.  It is fairly well trafficked by pedestrians and bikers, most of whom are wearing masks.  The southern half runs along the Skagit River estuary, and the northern half runs along Padilla Bay.  If you are a birder, you'll want to bring your binoculars.  Others will be captivated by views of water, islands, mountains ... and, of course, the Shell Oil Refinery.

As an extra treat, the route from Seattle to the trail winds through the small towns of Bow and Edison, allowing a stop or two at The Farm to Market Bakery and/or The Breadfarm.