The Ebey’s Landing Hike on Whidbey Island, Washington

Ebey’s Landing, on the west side of Whidbey Island, Washington, (near Coupeville, Washington) is one of the last undisturbed saltwater-influenced lagoons of the Puget Sound’s coastal lowlands. Above the lagoon towers the arid bluff with its fragile plant life unique to Ebey’s and only a few other areas in the world. It is managed and protected by a number of agencies, including The Nature Conservancy. Here is a little information about that.

A little history of Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island, Washington

This hike has been a longtime favorite of Aaron’s and mine. In fact, we were married about a mile from this dramatic historical headland at The Jenne Farm, which is a preserved farm within the Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve. The ceremony was on a gorgeous day in June seventeen years ago and we all came over to the beach at Ebey’s Landing afterwards to continue celebrating and to enjoy this amazing place.

The Ebey’s Landing hike begins in the parking lot, ascends a series of steep wooden stairs to the field above, continues to climb up the bluff to a gently rolling trail along the bluff, and descends on the far end via an elaborate series of switchbacks to the beach. The hiker walks back to the parking area along the beach. We so appreciate loop trails like this one, which is 3.5 miles in total. It’s perfect for packing a picnic lunch on the beach or take the short drive into Coupeville for a steaming bowl of Penn Cove mussels after your hike. Coupeville is located right on Penn Cove, which is famous for its mussel industry. It is also just a super quaint little town. Very touristy all year long and offers a fun Musselfest in March every year and Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival every August. Can you tell we really like it here?! ( :

Parking Lot at Ebey’s Landing with the headland in the distance
A Discover Pass is needed to park in the lot but if you turn around, you can park on the road without one! See next picture!
Road parking at Ebey’s Landing…no Discover Pass required!
Aaron took the pictures for this post so I got to be in some of them! Yes, I’m hiking in my Keen sandals…easy on and off for walking in the waves!
Stair climb!
Ascending the Bluff
Looking back towards trailhead…what a view!
Ferry from Coupeville going to Port Townsend with Mount Ranier in the distance. We had just crossed on this ferry coming from Port Townsend on our way home from Olympia, WA and decided to stop for a hike on this absolutely glorious day!
Okay, last one of us! Aaron holds the phone and I push the button. Teamwork!
The bluff is super steep!
Looking straight down the bluff at the beach below. You really want to stay on the trail here!
Looking southwest, across Admiralty Inlet, to the snow-capped Olympic Mountains of Olympic National Park.
Looking back one more time before the parking area disappears around the bend.

The next three pictures are Aaron’s artistic pictures of the beach at Ebey’s Landing. This hike is a great day trip from Bellingham or anywhere in the Puget Sound really. There are two campgrounds nearby, Fort Casey and Fort Ebey, plus numerous Inns and B&B’s in Coupeville, if you want to make a weekend of it. This is just as good as it gets!

Happy Walking and thanks for reading!

~Ann

 

The Turtleback Mountain Walk

For the last few years, Aaron and I have made it a tradition of taking a long walk over New Year’s somewhere in the San Juan Islands. Last year, we walked on tiny Shaw Island and the year before that, San Juan Island. This year we traveled to Orcas Island to walk over Turtleback Mountain, which through the efforts of the San Juan County Land Bank, the San Juan Preservation Trust, the Trust for Public Lands, and more than 2,000 private donors, is one of the largest protected natural areas in San Juan County. It is comprised of 1,718 acres of woodlands, grasslands, quiet forests, and scattered wetlands. It provides the walker with the occasional fabulous view to the north, west, and south.

From the ferry, one can see why Turtleback Mountain was named Turtleback Mountain!

We walked on the Washington State Ferry at Anacortes bound for Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, where we lodged at the Earthbox Inn for two nights. Early in the morning on our one full day, we hopped on the smaller inter-island ferry bound for Orcas Island.

Early morning ferry in Friday Harbor, WA
Walking on an almost empty ferry bound for Orcas Island.

Turtleback Mountain has two trailheads; a northern and a southern. Since we were on foot, we decided to take a taxi to the northern trailhead, through-hike to the southern trailhead, and walk back to the ferry from there. I had arranged with Eric from the Orcas Island Taxi to meet us at the ferry and drive us the 5.7 miles to our starting point. He was waiting and knew exactly where to go! Eric told us he had a big night ahead…since it was New Year’s, he would be offering free rides home to folks between the hours of 12 midnight and 2 a.m…pretty sweet of him.

The trail immediately climbs and doesn’t stop until the highest point on the Raven Ridge Trail at 1519 feet. It was a crisp, clear morning and we were soon warmed through and through by the effort this trail required. We stopped at the North Valley Overlook and could see the refineries at Cherry Point near Birch Bay and the Canadian mountains beyond. We also stopped at the Waldron Overlook, which offers amazing views of Waldron Island and beyond to the west. We skipped the Turtlehead Trail due to time constraints. We had to make it back to the ferry by 4 pm and had roughly 4 additional miles of trail walking and about 5 miles of road walking back to the ferry. From the Waldron Overlook, we chose the Raven Ridge Trail, which took us to the summit and from there it was downhill all the way to the south parking lot/trailhead.

The trail is very well marked. Even so, in addition to food, water, layers, and rain gear, I would suggest bringing a map. Be prepared for a real workout. There are very few switchbacks and the trail is steep. We experienced the kind of post hike soreness that had us going down the stairs in our home backwards for a couple days, if you know what I mean. Also, the 2.5 mile section of road walking along Deer Harbor Road back to the main Orcas Road was the kind of road walking that no one should really do and I can’t recommend. There is virtually no shoulder and many blind turns. But, we made it and in the end had a wonderful day!

Turtleback Mountain Map

We arrived back at the ferry dock about two hours before our ferry. We grabbed a sandwich from the Orcas Village Store and took it to a newly opened wine bar called Champagne, Champagne. Since it was New Year’s, the owner was serving everything bubbly. We ate our sandwich with a glass of fizzy Pinot Noir, played a few hands of cribbage, and watched the sky turn to an amazing pink. The sun had long set as we arrived back in Friday Harbor.

I’ll close with a video of our day! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Happy Walking and Happy New Year!!

Ann

The Shaw Island Walk

Friday Harbor ferry dock from top level of ferry just before setting sail to lovely little Shaw Island for one of two New Year’s weekend walks!!

Getting There (with this walk, getting there was half the fun!)…

This walk begins at the ferry dock on Shaw Island, Washington. You can park your car at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal for $5.00/day, buy a ticket inside, and off you go. Be sure you’re on the correct ferry as this is a busy place, with many ferries coming and going. Also, be sure you know what time you need to be back at the ferry dock on Shaw Island to catch the ferry back to Anacortes. The ferries to Shaw Island are fairly infrequent compared to the other islands, especially in the winter months. Aaron and I were staying on San Juan Island and caught the smaller inter-island ferry over to Shaw Island in the morning and back to San Juan in the afternoon, which was super fun and added to the adventure!

Early morning in Friday Harbor, WA
Boarding an almost empty inter-island ferry at Friday Harbor bound for Shaw Island.
A couple cars loading the ferry at Friday Harbor.
The unmatched sunrise beauty of the San Juan islands at New Years 2017.
Orcas Island Ferry Dock. Our ferry stopped here on its way to Shaw Island.
Arriving at Shaw Island. The dock has retained an original hand-carved sign over the landing.

Shaw Island…

Washington State Ferries serve four of the 172 named islands of the San Juan Islands: San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw. Shaw Island is the baby in size and population. It has a year-round population of about 250. There is a historic general store at the ferry dock (closed for the winter), a post office, and an active community center. In a word, it is idyllic, making it the perfect venue for any walk.

The Walk…

I had a fairly good idea of where we were headed, “from the ferry dock, walk south along Blind Bay until you come to the Community Center, turn left, walk some more until you come to Shaw Island County Park, check out the beach at Indian Cove, then continue, in the same direction, to Squaw Bay, where you’ll see the trail head leading north into the Graham Preserve. Follow the trail through the Preserve back to the Community Center and walk back along Blind Bay to the ferry dock.” And that’s pretty much what we did…easy peasy. A few cars passed as we walked and we met two other walkers, who were on holiday on the island. Other than that, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Oh, I musn’t forget the two cats at the ferry dock, who entertained and kept us company as we awaited the ferry back to Friday Harbor.

View along Blind Bay. That’s the Orcas Island ferry dock across Harney Channel
Traffic sign along Blind Bay
The junction of Blind Bay Road and Squaw Bay Road at the Community Center
Community Center, Shaw Island, Washington

Beach at Shaw Island County Park, a rustic campground.
Squaw Bay
A curious llama at Squaw Bay…he/she was BIG!
Trailhead marker at Graham Preserve

At the terminus of the trail just behind the Community Center…we’re still trying to figure out where to look when taking selfies! ( :
The warming hut at the ferry dock. It had a heater!
“Open the door or else!”
Our new Shaw Island friend…
Shaw Island Ferry Dock and Marina
Arriving back in Friday Harbor just as the BIG ferry from Victoria BC was leaving on it’s way to Anacortes

This walk could easily be made longer by continuing west on Squaw Bay Road, turning north on Hoffman Cove Road, which brings you back to Blind Bay Road. We were constrained by ferry times and actual hours of daylight, which are few at this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. We’ll save that walk for one of our long summer days perhaps.

Thanks for reading. Happy Walking,

Ann and Aaron

 

 

 

 

The Birch Bay Walk

Getting away without getting away…

These warm September and October weekends are perfect for a walk along Birch Bay, a small protected, shallow bay located just north of Bellingham. Aaron and I often think of Birch Bay when we want to feel like we’ve gotten away without getting away. We take our Westy, a picnic lunch, a good book or a deck of cards, and make a day of walking and relaxing in this warm, walker-friendly community. We estimate our walk on this day at about 6 or 7 miles. We parked our van just across the street from the Birch Bay Visitor’s Center and walked south, through the town of Birch Bay and on to Birch Bay State Park, where we turned around and walked back. Going in this direction, we were walking against the wind, or uphill, first and with the wind, or downhill, on the way back. We appreciate doing the work first.

Our 87 VW Westfalia with Birch Bay behind
Our 87 VW Westfalia with Birch Bay behind

During the first few miles, the bay is on the right and summer homes, condominiums, and restaurants line the left side of the road. You can access the shore all along the way in this stretch.

A place to pause in Birch Bay
A place to pause in Birch Bay
boats on Birch Bay
boats on Birch Bay
Condominiums on Birch Bay
Condominiums on Birch Bay
Small stream flowing into Birch Bay
Small stream flowing into Birch Bay
Restaurant at Birch Bay
Restaurant at Birch Bay

Just after the restaurant/condominium stretch and before you get to Birch Bay State Park, there is a section where houses, small motor inns, and condominiums line both sides of the road. I had the thought that I wouldn’t see the bay again until we reached the state park. I was delighted to discover that about every 6 – 9 houses was a public access to the rocky beach.

Public Access to Birch Bay
Public Access to Birch Bay
And another!
And another!

Birch Bay State Park is a wide open area dotted with picnic tables and fire rings. Parking passes are required to park here. Many groups were out enjoying the sun and surf.

bbsp

I’ve seen so many rose hips on our walks this fall. I think it’s a good year for them. They line a section of the road in the park.

Rose Hips at Birch Bay
Rose Hips at Birch Bay

On our way back to our van, we saw volunteers scouring the beach for trash. Cool.

Volunteers at Birch Bay
Volunteers at Birch Bay

The drive to Birch Bay is about 40 minutes from Bellingham. The warm temperatures, fresh salty air, and relaxed community atmosphere make this walk a perfect autumn day trip.

All the Best,

Ann