Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hoypus Point:  The CCC Crossing Trail

The other day I took my first hike out to Hoypus Point in Deception Pass State Park.  I wanted to get my bearings for the upcoming First Day Hike for 2016.  As I mentioned, I had never explored this section of the park.  Since then, the skies have cleared and the temperatures have dropped.  With a day off work and and perfect weather, I decided to return to Hoypus and explore a little more territory.

I arrived about 8:30 a.m.  The temperature was 30° F (-1° C) with clear skies and a rising sun.  How different the Deception Pass Bridge looks today with the morning sun just starting to hit it.

Today, I planned to explore the CCC Crossing Trail which would take me deeper into the Hoypus forest.  From the Cornet Bay Road Trail I took the first right and found a gently rising slope into the woods.  I noticed the trails had been freshly groomed, no doubt by the guys from SWITMO.  Is this an indication it will be part of the itinerary for the First Day Hike on New Year's Day?

The junction to the CCC Crossing was clearly marked.  Next time I want to follow that West Hoypus Trail and hike the complete loop around the point.  The name "CCC Crossing" remembers the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps who built this park in the 1930's.

I found several clusters of Deer Ferns along the CCC Crossing.  It is a less common fern than our ubiquitous Western Sword Ferns.  It prefers moister conditions, so that might reveal something about spots where they are growing.

The CCC Crossing is in deep woods and it was quite dark.  This really tested the limits of my camera.  The fern was shot at ISO 3200, f/8, at 1/6 second and I was certain it would end up dark, blurry and not usable.  The editing software kept trying to over-brighten them.  I had to crank back the brightness and highlights to make them look more like what I saw.

It looks like the whole family has gathered for the holidays.  In the lower left is a peculiar moss, or perhaps a liverwort, that I have never seen before.  I didn't find it in my Pojar.

This was another challenging photo for bad lighting.  I spotted several nurse logs (or in this case a nurse stump) which is an important botanical feature in the Pacific Northwest.  Western Hemlock, seen in the photo, relies on nurse logs for its propagation.  I have also seen Pacific Rhododendrons, Red Huckleberry, Salal and Thimbleberry growing from old fallen trees and stumps.

When I completed the loop back to Cornet Bay Road, I was startled by the sight of Mount Baker in the morning sun.  She was completely obscured by the heavy overcast on my first visit last weekend.

At the end of Cornet Bay Road, once again, is Mount Erie and Dewey Beach on Fidalgo Island.  They also looked very different in the bright sun.

I am looking forward to my fifth First Day Hike in Deception Pass State Park on New Year's Day.  This year we will explore Hoypus Point, but the exact route will be a surprise.  If you like what you have seen in these posts, come and join the party.  The Park Manager and naturalist guides will be there to answer questions.  Meet at the State Park docks on Cornet Bay at 10:00 a.m.  From State Road 20 on Whidbey Island turn onto Cornet Bay Road and follow it to the end.  Plan on sunshine and 34°, so dress warmly and bring your camera.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Boots

New Boots

I hate wet feet.  Whatever I am doing, wet feet ruin the experience.  There are a couple of places I don't hike right now because I know I will end up with wet feet.  These include Telegraph Slough near Anacortes and the West 90/Samish Flats site near Samish Island.  The latter is one of the best birding sites in the area.

I have been shopping for waterproof hiking boots, but I am having trouble finding what I want.  I am looking for something comfortable, not exorbitantly priced and that will fit my weird feet.  I have high insteps and they are not the same length.  I like sneakers because they quickly adapt to my feet.  They work great on dry ground, but if there's any wetness around, I end up miserable.  I have also had trouble finding shoes that didn't end up hurting.

I have learned a lot reading the review sites for hiking boots.  As is often the case, however, they seem to be all over the place with recommendations.  Most of them are out of my price range.  I am not a super stud elite hiker.  Shoes costing $200-$300 and up seem like overkill for me.  I just want something comfortable that will keep my feet dry.

Deception Pass State Park

I was at Macy's the other day and noticed a pair of $75 waterproof hiking boots on sale for $35.  They weren't a brand I'd ever heard of, but the price was right.  I decided to give them a shot.  The clerk found a coupon that took off another four bucks, so I ended up paying $31 for them.  I donned my new boots and headed over to Deception Pass State Park to try them out on the Bowman-Rosario Trail.  With my sneakers, the rain-soaked lawns of the Bowman picnic grounds would have meant instant wet feet.  I made it all the way across the lawn to the trail head with dry feet.  So far, so good.

Restless Wind

From the trail, I spotted this sailboat moored all the way across Bowman Bay.  Restless Wind was her name, but not today.

Cormorants in Bowman Bay

The cormorants were resting and drying their wings in their usual spots out on the rocks in the bay.

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet

I had some usual experiences with Golden-crowned Kinglets.  There were dozens of them along the trail all the way to Rosario and they were fearless.  Busily foraging on the ground, they would skitter right around my feet.  One acted like he was trying to run me off.  They are extremely difficult to photograph.  I have been trying for a long time.  They are tiny, never stop moving and they're fast.  I managed a couple of shots that weren't blurry, but I still couldn't catch their eyes in the photos.  It's the eyes that engage viewers of bird photos.

Fungal Recyclers

Out at Rosario, I found the recycling crew still working, even in late December.

Kayaker in Rosario Bay

A lone kayaker was paddling in Rosario Bay, adding a bit of color to the shadowy overcast day.

CCC Worker Memorial Statue at Bowman Bay

When I got back to Bowman Bay, I took a photo of the CCC worker statue.  There are several of these around the country commemorating the heritage of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Bowman Bay Shoreline Restoration

Before heading home, I checked out the Bowman Bay beach restoration work done last month.  The rip-rap seawall between the boat launch and the fishing dock was removed.  This will allow improvement and normalization of the nearshore habitat.  The bark mulch areas have been replanted with native plants and a new log fence erected to protect the site.  I read that new interpretive signs will be added to educate the public about the value of preserving these habitats.

Bowman Bay Shoreline Restoration

The area south of the fishing bridge shows how the restored beach will eventually look.  Natural soft armoring with grasses and driftwood accumulation will stabilize the shoreline and allow upland sediments to nourish the beach.  Park Manager Jack Hartt has made it his mission to preserve both the natural environments and the historical heritage of the park.

My new, cheap boots worked out well for the hike.  I happily made it home with dry feet which was my goal.  But after I sat for a while to look at the photos I took, an old familiar sensation returned.  My right foot began to hurt in the instep.  The foot was telling me, nope, not these.  So, I am still looking for comfortable, waterproof hiking boots.  If you have recommendations, I would enjoy hearing them along with your experiences wearing them on the trails.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

First Day Hike 2016:  Terra Incognita

First Day Hikes have become an annual tradition in Washington state parks.  For 2016, I counted twenty-eight hikes planned throughout the state.  The hike at Deception Pass State Park this year will be out to Hoypus Point.  For me this will be Terra Incognita.  This is a section of the park I have not yet explored.  I am really looking forward to the hike on New Year's Day with knowledgeable guides.

I don't know the exact route we'll be taking, but I believe we will set off that-a-way.  To preview the hike and get my bearings, I ventured out the Cornet Bay Road trail to the end of Hoypus Point.

The route I hiked began as a paved road.  Where the road ended, a wide, comfortable trail continued out to the end of Hoypus.  For the entire course, there was not a single hill to climb.  It was easy hiking on level ground the entire way.  Even with the torrential rains we have been experiencing, there was only one small section where the path got a bit muddy.  A big Douglas Fir had fallen across the trail (you can see it ahead in the photo), but it was easy to scramble under it.

There were several spots along the way where the Deception Pass Bridge could be viewed.  For the best viewpoints, look for the memorial benches.  Don't forget to bring your camera.

I found two more trail heads on my route.  This one is the West Hoypus Point Trail according to the map.  The other was the East Hoypus Point Trail.  I see there is a connection between the two called the CCC Crossing.  My curiosity is whetted.

Yesterday brought a dark overcast, but I didn't get any rain on this hike.  At the end of the trail, Mount Erie and the Dewey Beach community on Fidalgo Island came into view.  Looking northeast, I could see Skagit and Kiket Islands in Skagit Bay.  Hoypus Point on Whidbey Island and Yokeko Point on Fidalgo mark the inner gateway to Deception Pass from Skagit Bay.

On my way back out, I was serenaded by a Raven.  According to local lore, Raven created this world and gave it to us as his gift.  I also met Pacific Wrens, Northern Flickers, Belted Kingfishers and from the tree tops, I could hear Bald Eagles calling.

For this year's hike, meet at the State Park docks at Cornet Bay on Whidbey Island, Friday, January 1, 10:00 a.m.  I am reading that the hike will take place rain or shine, so dress for the weather.  A Discover Pass will not be required on New Year's Day.

Actually, the weather has been perfect for all four previous hikes.  Deception Pass is in the Olympic Rain Shadow, so I am expecting a cold but rain-free morning.  I will see you there.

If there is a cancellation, it will be posted at the Deception Pass Park Foundation website.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Between the Storms

Black Oystercatchers at Deception Pass

We just finished a solid week of windstorms and record rainfall.  Seattle received its normal December rainfall in the first eleven days of the month.  We were under high wind warnings almost every day during the week.  Then last Friday, the weather gods relented and gave us a really nice day with sunny skies and moderate temperatures.  I had been itching to get outside, so I headed over to West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  My first stop was "Fraggle Rock" at the north end of the parking lot.  As I expected, a parcel of Black Oystercatchers had gathered to preen and take a snooze.

Preening Gulls at Deception Pass

At the opposite end of the rock, these gulls had segregated themselves to the cool kids' table.  They were also here to rest and preen their feathers.  These appear to be Glaucous-winged x Western Gull hybrids, but I could be wrong.  Gulls are hard.

Deception Pass Bridge, Washington

A short path leads over to the Amphitheater on the Deception Pass shore.  From the trail, I caught this view of the Deception Pass Bridge.

Deception Pass State Park Amphitheater

From the posted building permit application, it looks like they are planning to remove the movie screen and replace it with a covered stage.  They have an eclectic variety of music concerts at the Amphitheater all through the summer.

Olympic Mountains from Deception Pass State Park

I moved to the opposite end of the parking lot and viewed the Olympic Mountains still engulfed in rainy weather.  From where I stood, the mountains were about 50 miles (80 km) across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

P-3 Orion Aircraft over Deception Pass State Park

It is common to see U.S. Naval aircraft in the skies over the park.  The Whidbey Naval Air Station is just down the beach to the south.  Sometimes campers complain about aircraft noise.  Keep in mind, however, personnel from the air base frequently volunteer to maintain trails and facilities in the park.  This is a P-3 Orion turboprop.  Its mission is anti-submarine and maritime surveillance.

Dune Forest Bald Eagle, Deception Pass State Park

I headed clockwise around the Sand Dune Interpretive Trail.  As I entered the Dune Forest, this is what I spotted directly above me.  I wonder how many people walk this trail and never notice what is right over their heads.  I see the resident pair of Bald Eagles here almost every morning I visit.

I am fascinated by this house south of the park boundary.

Dune Forest Bald Eagles, Deception Pass State Park

As I came around the other side of the Bald Eagles' perch, I got a better look at the pair together.  While I was photographing, the second bird suddenly moved to a higher branch to be closer to its mate.

Northwestern Crow at Deception Pass

In the Cranberry Lake picnic grounds, this Northwestern Crow appears to be full of himself.

Northwestern Crow at Deception Pass
Northwestern Crow at Deception Pass

Fluffing and folding, it's a lot of work to be this handsome.

Trumpeter Swans over Cranberry Lake

On my way out of the park, I stopped at the head of the East Cranberry Lake Trail.  Hiking the trail, I caught this flock of Trumpeter Swans flying over the lake towards me.

Mount Baker from the Deception Pass Bridge

Heading back home, I made a quick stop at the bridge.  From the deck, I could see a cloud-shrouded Mount Baker over Yokeko Point.

Lighthouse Point from the Deception Pass Bridge

On the other side of the bridge is Lighthouse Point in the park.  I am told there was a real lighthouse here at one time.  Now there is just a small mechanized navigation light.  Beyond the point are the San Juan Islands.

Deception Pass Bridge

As usual, traffic was heavy on the bridge, even on a weekday.

It was a beautiful morning with perfect weather to get outside and take some pictures.  The next day, on Saturday, high winds and drenching rain would return for the weekend.