I’M BACK ON THE ROCK after a whirlwind, no-time-to-smell-any-darn-roses field trip to top-tier recreation sites around Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. I put more than 500 miles on the Civic. Whew.
Retirement can be hard work, especially if you’re not very good at committing to doing nothing, I’m finding.
The good news is I’ve landed a plum project with Seattle-based Mountaineers Books. One of their imprints, Braided River, is working in cooperation with the Washington Environmental Council on a new book about Puget Sound, aimed at furthering discussion of the need to clean up the Sound (as Washingtonians said we were going to do about 50 years ago). I will be a contributing author on the project, with my section spotlighting about 30 top recreation spots around the Sound and the Salish Sea.
I’ve been to most of the places on the list we’ve come up with, some of them multiple times. But there were a few I’d never quite gotten around to, and others that I needed to revisit to take some fresh photos.
So I packed our car-camping gear and caught the water taxi on Monday morning. My first night was camping at Deception Pass State Park, where I explored some trails I’d never trod and got lots of new photos. (High point: Sunset light on North Beach and the arching bridges. Low point: Being kept awake until midnight — along with everyone else in the campground — by the thundering jets from nearby Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. With new much-noisier aircraft and more and more day-and-night training sorties, the previously innocuous “sound of freedom” is sadly spoiling a gem of a park.)
The next day I started the real marathon. My Whidbey Island stops for quick exploration and photography included Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve and Fort Casey State Park, before catching a 9:30 a.m. ferry from what’s now called the Coupeville dock (formerly known as Keystone) to Port Townsend.
From there, I was on the clock to catch a noontime minus tide at Clallam County’s Salt Creek Recreation Area, 16 miles west of Port Angeles. I’d never been to Salt Creek, but I’d heard of it (and edited stories about it) and its phenomenal tidepooling. Marine biologists and students from across the nation come there to study marine life.
Not only was the place a Disneyland of intertidal-zone wonders, I found a bunch of water-view campsites definitely worth a return trip.
From there, I drove back east a few miles to find the newly developing beach where the now-undammed Elwha River meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I’d visited the spot a couple years ago, and I was wowed now at how much more beach has been created as the newly free-flowing river continues to flush sediment to its mouth.
Then I burned up the road back to Sequim for a stop at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and a half-mile hike down a woodsy trail to get good photos of 5-mile-long Dungeness Spit.
Then it was on to my second night camping destination, Dosewallips State Park, on Hood Canal (the resident elk herd wasn’t at home, more’s the pity).
Next day: Dosewallips to Poulsbo (for snaps of Liberty Bay’s waterfront and Sluy’s Bakery pastries), to Suquamish (and Chief Seattle’s 19th-century Agate Pass homesite, and his nearby gravesite), to Bremerton (whose waterfront is home to one of the more innovative fountain parks, with an apt Naval-vessel theme), to Belfair’s Theler Wetlands Nature Trails, to Gig Harbor’s lively waterfront, and finally across the Narrows Bridge to Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, a classic (and classy) urban park that, in my Seattlecentricity, I had shockingly never visited. I could easily have spent a full weekend exploring Point Defiance alone.
I ended that day with a stay with my friends Daniel and Jean Farber in their delightful home overlooking Olympia’s Budd Inlet (and a pretty nice view of Mount Rainier). It was great to have a real bed, delicious home-cooked food (Moroccan recipes!) and a long hot shower. (Thanks, you two.)
Next morning I hiked to the end of the verrrry long boardwalk at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. It was the first time I got a little damp, from a heavy drizzle, after several days of warm sunshine, but it meant a quieter outing with more birds. A fellow walker said she saw a weasel by the barns. Sorry I missed it; I’d have liked to compare it to our Center Island mink.
Then it was a long and tedious drive back up I-5 to Anacortes and the boat ride home. For more details, you’ll just have to read the book, which will likely publish in time for Christmas 2019.