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Showing posts from 2016

Cairns at Lighthouse Point

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Back in March of 2015, I found these beautifully constructed cairns on the beach at Lighthouse Point in Deception Pass State Park.  Lighthouse and Lotte Points are the grassy stone outcrops that can be seen from the Deception Pass Bridge looking west.  The Lighthouse Point Trail runs from Bowman Bay to the shore of Deception Pass.  As I always say, when you go hiking, you never know what you might find.


Humans have been piling stones for various reasons since prehistory.  The Vikings built stone altars called Hörgar.  The word cairn comes from Scots Gaelic càrn (plural càirn).  The ancient Celts built cairns to mark important places or events or to commemorate the graves of loved ones and important people.  The Arabic word rujm (رجم) appears in place names and refers to piles of stones.  In the Sinai Desert, stone piles or altars are thought by some to mark the path of the ancient Israelites in their exodus from Egypt.


In North America and Greenland, native peoples built cairns as la…

Previewing the First Day Hike 2017 at Deception Pass

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The route for this year's First Day Hike at Deception Pass State Park has been announced.  Starting at the Cornet Bay Retreat Center (above), the route will take us around the Goose Rock Perimeter Trail, up and over the summit, then back to the Retreat Center.  At the end of the hike, Jeff Kish from the Pacific Northwest Trail Association will present "Experience the Pacific Northwest Trail."  This 1,200 mile scenic hiking trail extends from Glacier National Park in Montana to the Pacific Coast of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.  The First Day Hike will include a part of it which passes through Deception Pass State Park.

After being shut up in the house for more than a week by the weather, I was itching to get outside.  Christmas Day delivered clear skies and sunshine, so I decided to preview the route for this year's hike.


The Goose Rock Perimeter Trail begins with a walk in the woods along the shore of Cornet Bay.  Here, I was serenaded by the calls of Ravens …

Big Cedar Trail, Deception Pass State Park

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There is a brand new trail in Deception Pass State Park called the Big Cedar Trail.  The photo shows just the base of its namesake, a Western Redcedar, Thuja plicata.  I find it is difficult to portray the size of a big tree in photos.  Without a person standing next to it for reference, it could be run-of-the-mill.  Let me say, if a six foot man was added to the photo, he would easily fit in the frame.  The tree is 8 feet (2.4 m) in diameter and 26 feet (8 m) in circumference at shoulder height.  It is truly a very big tree.

This past summer, I recall seeing a line of ribbons tied to shrubs heading off the left side of the Ginnett trail.  I wondered if something like this was planned.  We can thank the volunteers of SWITMO (Skagit-Whatcom-Island Trail Maintaining Organization) for clearing and cutting the new trail.  Anyone hiking it will appreciate the labor that was required.


The new trail, shown in red, is in the Pass Lake section of the park.  It connects the Ginnett Hill trail …

Bowman Bay Beach Restoration

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This past week, I attended a special event at Bowman Bay in Deception Pass State Park.  We gathered to celebrate the restoration of the beach and near-shore habitat there.  This was a multi-agency project that included:
The Northwest Straits FoundationSkagit County Marine Resources CommitteeWashington State ParksSkagit Fisheries Enhancement Group

New interpretive signs tell the story of the beach's history.  This includes a fish hatchery built in the 1940's and a rip-rap sea wall installed to protect it.  Unknown at the time, this kind of armoring disrupts natural beach processes and biological habitat.  Driftwood, shore grasses, overhanging trees and normal upland runoff stabilize and nourish a healthy beach.  Forage fish spawn there providing food for young salmon.  Insects inhabiting the vegetation attract the forage fish as well as birds.  Seawalls interfere with these processes rendering the shoreline and beach lifeless.


I had to go back to 2011 in my files to find photos…

Madronas of Deception Pass

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This past week, I took a short hike at Hoypus Point in Deception Pass State Park.  Driving over there, I was astounded by the Pacific Madronas(Arbutus menziesii) along Highway 20.  On the Fidalgo side of the pass, the trees on both sides of the road were ablaze with clusters of berries.  In nearly thirty years living here, I had never seen anything quite like it.  I had to return to get a closer look and some photos.


It is normal for some of the trees to sport a few clusters of berries in the fall.  But not like this.  The unusual fruitfulness of the Madronas is undoubtedly the result of the equally spectacular bloom that I posted about last spring.

The berry-like fruits are called drupes.  Other examples of drupes are coffee beans, cherries, coconuts and peaches.  The red color in the photos is not the result of editing.  In fact, my camera tends to over saturate reds and I had to subtract a lot it from the photos to get them to look right.


The photos I took of the flowering last sp…