Friday, January 3, 2014

Wanderings: First Day Hike at Deception Pass State Park

On the first evening of 2014, I was tending to my slightly blistered feet and achy knees after spending the day pursuing my goal of getting outdoors and hiking more in the New Year.  Despite the abuse taken by my seasonally out-of shape limbs, I thoroughly enjoyed the Washington State Parks “First Day Hike” at Deception Pass State Park. 

North Beach and Deception Pass Bridge
Even in wintertime, it is impossible not to enjoy and appreciate the impressive natural scenery that is so abundant in Washington State.  Having previously visited just the North Beach area, I knew that Deception Pass State Park would offer soothing beach views and deep, quiet forest scenery and was eager to explore areas of the park I hadn’t experienced yet.  And thus… on a mild, overcast January morning, I made the trek north to Deception Pass, along with my ever-supportive husband who is always willing to join me for outdoor adventures.

Upon arriving at the park, we headed toward the West Beach parking area, passing by serene Cranberry Lake along the way, with my husband looking wistfully at the glassy water and wishing he had brought his fishing pole.  After stepping out of the car, I was immediately agape at the stunning view before us: a wide-open vista looking out over Rosario Strait, with the Olympic Mountains jutting out above a bank of clouds in the hazy distance.  

Where does the sea end and sky begin? Looking out over Rosario Strait with the Olympic Mountains in the background

Cranberry Lake
We gathered our gear and snapped a few photos, then departed on the trail toward North Beach.  Walking through the forest and pausing now and then to photograph particularly impressive old-growth trees (okay, I actually photographed every single one. I got a little excited…), we eventually found ourselves gaining elevation and arrived beneath the Deception Pass Bridge.  There were stairs leading up to the bridge, but I had no interest in setting foot on the bridge itself, as dozens of other people were doing, taking in the dazzling view from the stomach-churning heights.  (It’s not that I’m afraid of heights—it’s just that I’m afraid of crowds and someone shoving me off the bridge.  I admit, I do have some irrational fears, but I prefer to think of them more as endearing quirks!) 

Love the forest!

Hubby standing in front of an old-growth tree. Just for reference, he's 6'5"... that's a big old tree, right there!

Towering giant

This part of the forest was very cool: lichens were dripping from the conifers and coating the bare branches of the deciduous trees, making them appear to be coated with green frost.
Heading uphill toward Deception Pass Bridge

Breathtaking views emerge as we gain elevation.

Deception Pass Bridge behind a thin veil of trees

After passing beneath the bridge, we continued along the Goose Rock Trail, which skirts along a bluff overlooking Strawberry and Ben Ure Islands.  We came across very few hikers on the Goose Rock trail, which was a pleasant respite from the more-populated North Beach trail, and it was at this point that my mind could fully settle into the scenery around me.  The sound of my clunky hiking boots was dampened by the fragrant carpet of humus on the trail (that would be humus as in decaying leaves, not hummus as in the yummy spread for crackers… Unfortunately, we did not bring any sustenance along with us on the hike, so I definitely could have gone for some hummus at this point!), and in moments where we paused along the trail to take in the view, it was so quiet and still that I could almost feel the forest breathing; inhaling the damp, salty air and exhaling that sweet, slightly intoxicating fragrance that is so characteristic of Northwest forests.  With water views on one side and old-growth forest on the other, we continued on the trail as long as we dared until daylight began to wane, signaling it was time to turn around and trek back to the West Beach on the other side of the park.

This view of Mount Baker from Goose Rock Trail was a pleasant surprise!

Can't you just smell that damp, clean, forest-y fragrance?

Goose Rock Trail was lined by even more towering trees

More views of the water, which was a lovely turquoise color that day
On the return hike, we skipped back and forth between the forest trail and the beach, enjoying the best of both landscapes. On the last leg of the trail, I bade farewell to the old-growth trees for the final time as we descended toward the beach.  Progress was slow as we made our way through the deep, loose pebbles covering the shore, stopping every dozen yards or so to pick up any perfectly smooth, flat stones we spied – ideal rocks for tossing out over the water to see how many times they will skip! I managed to top out at four skips, but my husband beat me soundly with multiple tosses of eight or more skips. Looks like I have some practicing to do.  At the end of the beach, we clambered up an outcrop of rock, and then continued onto the trail past an amphitheater for a brief jaunt through the woods before emerging into the West Beach parking area, bringing our wanderings full-circle.

So, would I venture out into the woods for another January 1st hike? Absolutely!  Although hiking may not be at the top of your list of wintertime activities, I would highly recommend trying it—even if you’re hiking in the rain!  Not only does it do your mind and body good to get exercise in the great outdoors during a time of year that for many people tends to be more sedentary, but it also affords the opportunity to experience exhilarating scenery completely unique to the winter months.   With the variety of weather we experience in wintertime—rainy, foggy, overcast, or dazzlingly clear and cold—you’re sure to be in for a unique view on any given day.

Just a few tips for short wintertime day hikes that I learned from this experience: as always, use common sense and be prepared! In our excitement to hit the trails, my husband and I forgot to bring a light “emergency snack” along with us, and—believe it or not—we didn’t bring any water bottles with us, either. That’s a big no-no, as hydration is of the utmost importance! When considering clothing, keep in mind that you’ll get warm as you hike, but you should be prepared for unexpected rain or dropping temperatures, so be sure to dress in layers with a waterproof jacket being the outer layer.  It’s also a good idea to bring along a fully-charged cell phone in case of emergency.  Lastly, keep in mind that daylight hours are short this time of year, and your hikes should be planned accordingly.  As we were leaving the trail, my husband and I passed by several people who were just beginning their hike, even though it was late afternoon and the daylight was already growing dim.  To ensure a safe hiking experience that you can enjoy to the fullest extent, plan on starting your hike in the morning and keep track of time to ensure you arrive back at your vehicle well before dark.

Our First Day Hike at Deception Pass was the perfect way to start 2014-- a year which will hopefully be filled with plenty of outdoor adventures!

I don't usually hug trees... but when I do, it's a giant old growth behemoth that I cannot get my arms around!


  1. Fabulous hiking experience and extraordinary painting with words. Now I want to go on that hike!

    1. Thank you! One of the goals of my writing is to inspire people to get outdoors and appreciate this beautiful planet we've been given. :)