Winter at Deception Pass

It’s 2016! I started the year with a familiar, but fulfilling little adventure. Last year around this time Hubs and I took a weekend on Whidbey Island and spent 90% of our time wandering around outside. This year we wanted to do it again with our daughter to show her a few of our favorite places.

There are some great spots on Whidbey for day trips. Double Bluff Park is perfect for sand castles and long walks along eroding cliffs; the beaches of Langley and Coupeville are nice to muck through at low tide before heading up to the tiny towns for a snack; the historic Ebey’s Landing Reserve has beautiful walking trails at any time of year; Fort Casey is an interesting trip to an old military base, and the nearby Crockett Lake is a birdwatcher’s jackpot. Deception Pass State Park is the biggest park attraction, however, and for good reason. 38 miles of hiking trails through old growth forests and past lakes, ponds, and saltwater beaches; the park spans two islands and is connected by a massive bridge whose crossing is almost worth the trek on its own.

The beauty starts the second you get on the ferry:

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Walk: 35°F | 12PM-4PM | 2 miles | Deception Pass State Park

We set out with a plan to stop by as many places as time allowed to break up the long car ride, but once we got out there we found that Deception Pass took up our whole day. The drive is part of the trip though – Whidbey is so incredibly scenic for such a developed island. A stop in Coupeville for brunch was also entirely worth the time – check out Knead and Feed if you’re in town for a view of Penn Cove and great food.

At the park we chose the easiest “hiking” option (strolling would be more accurate). We parked at the West Beach parking lot and walked along the beach to Cranberry Lake, and then took the interpretive trail which follows the lake/bog through the forest and then loops around some scrubby sand dunes. In my opinion, one of the best parts of living in the PNW is the variety of environments available to visit in a matter of minutes. This is, of course, very apparent when you’re walking along  a sandy beach and have a clear view of the heavily snow capped mountains and foothills that are less than an hour’s drive away. Although, that honestly didn’t seem like as big a change in environment as it usually does, because it was FREEZING!

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Daytime temperatures in the 30°s are only an occurrence around here several times a year. While it may be a common sight in other parts of the country, it comes as a shock to us to see frost on the beach and a lake half-frozen. Along with a small crowd of other people, we took turns throwing chunks of ice across the frozen swimming area, trying to jump the floating dividers. That’s one more thing that I love about living here – despite the cold with the wind coming off the water and the icy roads getting there, the park was still about half packed with people, most of them with families with children. We even saw a woman in a bikini taking a “polar bear” dip. There’s a fair amount of complaining about the weather around here, and we say that it keeps people from catching on to how beautiful it is here most of the time, but I think most of the complaining comes from the non-locals – we never let the weather keep us from enjoying nature.

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The walk was just what we needed. A break from being stuck indoors, lots of animals to see. I don’t know if it was the cold, or just the number of visitors the island sees every year, but the animals we spotted didn’t seem bothered by our presence at all. We got quite close to a pair of deer in a field and a crow while he was smashing a shellfish open on a rock. The most exceptional moment, though, was when we spotted a few golden-crowned kinglets feeding in the grass by the lake. We crouched down to inspect them closer, and they hopped right up around our feet. I could have easily scooped one of them up, and they were so tiny – no larger than a chicken egg, but they just kept poking around in the grass, never looking up at us once.

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This was a nice day spent outdoors for us. We took our time, inspected everything, fully wandered. I enjoy a difficult hike every now and then with a push to get from one place to another, but I think it’s important to spend days just meandering through, seeing whatever you see with no real plan.  Just what we needed, and a beautiful start to the new year.

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We drove over the bridge and took the long way home, the mountains to the east glowing pink as the sun set. We planned for hot chocolate and warm blankets when we got there, and as always, I started thinking of where we should go next.

Placed visited: Whidbey Island via Mukilteo ferry, Coupeville, Deception Pass State Park.

Species observed: Snow Goose, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Black Oystercatcher, Glaucous-winged Gull, Pigeon Guillemot, Rock Pigeon, American Crow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Varied Thrush, Harbor Seal, White-tailed Deer.

 

 

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