Monday, May 2, 2016

Wanderings: Deception Pass State Park

Bowman Bay, Deception Pass State Park

Those who have visited Deception Pass know it to be a stunning place, with lush coastal forests and churning turquoise-green water breaking on rocky beaches. It is also a place filled with mystical wonder and native stories, such as the tale of the Maiden of Deception Pass, about a lovely maiden of the Samish tribe who went to live in the sea to save her people and ensure they have plentiful seafood to sustain them. As the legend goes, you can still see her long hair flowing in the currents around Deception Pass, in the form of the plentiful kelp that grows there.

Last weekend, my sister and I joined our book club for a hike around Deception Pass, and on that day the Maiden of Deception Pass had her arms open to welcome a gusty storm moving ashore. Her hair swirled and swayed in currents that were truly "ripping" that day.

After parking at Bowman Bay, on the north side of Deception Pass State Park, we geared up to hike in the light drizzle, but anticipated that we might encounter a downpour at some point, given the ominous dark skies and chill wind. I broke out my rain pants right away. We met up with the group and then headed out for the trail to Rosario Head. We passed the Maiden of Deception Pass, then continued along the trail that looped around a high bluff at Rosario Head. Here, we encountered winds so strong that my hair was immediately blown into disarray, and I had to stand with my feet staggered to brace against the gusts buffeting us as we paused to take photos and admire the view of the stormy ocean, with its rip currents and whitecapped, choppy waters.

Feeling brave, I crept to the edge of the cliff and knelt to peer over the edge. Far below, there were the Maiden's kelp-strand locks trailing in the current.

We followed the trail around Rosario Head for more breathtaking (literally, in that wind!) coastal views before passing the Maiden of Deception Pass once more and heading back into the dripping forest of wind-wrought Doug firs and twisting madrona trees in bloom. There were so many things blooming: we spotted some camas on the bluff and thimbleberry and Nootka roses along the trail. I had never smelled a Nootka rose before... they are heavenly! We also found a fairy slipper orchid and a few chocolate lilies, along with what I'm tentatively identifying (after doing a Google search) as indian paintbrush in the most vivid orange hue I'd ever seen. It was a good day for wildflowers!

Purple camas
Nootka rose
Fairy slipper orchid
Indian paintbrush
Chocolate lily

After passing back through the parking lot at Bowman Bay, we continued on the trail toward Lighthouse Point and Lottie Point. We picked our way across seaweed-slick, barnacle-covered rocks and followed the sandy beach toward the trail, which wound through lovely coastal forest that was green as could be! As the trail traversed around the point, it revealed magnificent views of the Deception Pass bridge, and the narrow, stomach-churning Pass itself.

Upon emerging from the forest onto the exposed trail around the point, we were immediately hit by those exhilaratingly gusty winds. Following the trail through wildflower-sprinkled bluffs and rocky headlands adorned with moss frothy and white as sea foam, we enjoyed more views of the churning ocean. A hazy white horizon was moving ever-closer to us. The rain was on its way.

The trail left the point and wandered back through the verdant forest, where we passed by some impressively large cedars and Doug firs before rejoining the loop trail and heading back toward the beach and parking lot. The tide had gone out during our sojourn around the point, so we were able to amble along the sandy beach and avoid the slippery rocks.

As we waded through the damp clover-sprinkled lawn back toward the parking area, the rains that we'd seen on the horizon arrived in full force. We made a beeline for the Depression-era stone picnic shelter built by the CCC, and ducked inside to shed our dripping coats and soggy packs before digging into our lunches and chatting about the book we'd read. After awhile, we began to feel the dropping temperature, and thoroughly chilled, decided to call it a day and head home. I went home feeling refreshed, as though those cold coastal winds had blown the stale air and cobwebs from my spirit, my hair as wild and wind-tossed as those stormy seas.

If you go: be sure to take your Discover Pass, or plan to pay the $10 day-use fee. Also note that these trails have steep (unfenced) cliffs that drop straight into the ocean, so keep a close eye on children and keep those pets on leashes!


  1. Enjoyed your take on that exhilarating morning! As usual you present such interesting angles and words to describe what you're experiencing. Your shot of the Nootka rose is especially wonderful!

    1. Thank you, Jill! It was a great rainy day hike. I love it when the flowers have raindrops on them. :)