Freeland Wetland Preserve
This Hike of the Week is close and yet a world away. Just a short stroll from the corner of Scott and Newman Road in Freeland lies a pocket of quiet and serenity. Take the bus or park near the old barn and then walk toward the trees to find the trail. The hum of nearby traffic is hushed as the trail leads to the waters edge under a canopy of alder and maples. Their leaves provide a crisp carpet underfoot. A log bench awaits with a view of the wetland. I'm struck by the cycles of life around me, the small trees planted as part of this wetland restoration, along side the huge old growth cedars that would take 3 or 4 to stretch their arms around. One giant stump from long ago logging has new growth on top with roots reaching over 4 feet to the ground. A few fallen alders and some still standing are providing homes to insects, birds and a Douglas Squirrel that jumped at my approach and then returned to have a word. Fungi grows on the base of a tree. Ferns that were fresh and green last spring, are turning yellow and withering, becoming compost for next year's growth. Even a short 15 minute walk is refreshing. As I return to the barn, a young deer watched me come out of the woods, cautious and curious, before joining it's mother and disappearing into the trees. One last moment of magic just out of sight of Main Street.
Hiking Close to Home page 28.
Join us here for a Work Party, 10-Noon, Saturday, Nov. 9. Bring your work gloves and yard tools, rakes, shovels and loppers, and join a team of dedicated volunteers from the Whidbey Watershed Stewards.
Take Highway 525 to Freeland and turn onto Main Street at the light which turns into Scott Road on the east end. From Scott Road turn onto Newman Road for 500 feet. Look for the Freeland Wetland Preserve sign on the right.
Or take the Route 1 bus (Mon-Sat) to the corner of Scott and Newman Road and walk about 500 feet to the preserve. There's a bus shelter on Scott Road about 600 feet from the Preserve.
A light rain falls. Gentle waves fold on the beach, a line of storm-tossed seaweed highlighting the high-tide line. Widgeons like nervous tugboats motor a few feet offshore. Hikers scurrying along the sandy beach and upland trails, dodging occasional puddles and clumps of fallen maple leaves, embracing the richness of the marine air, and hurrying back home as evening falls.
When the fall air turns moist and light rains fall, I love hiking on beaches. The skies seem more open than forests, the views farther reaching and beckoning, the colors more saturated, the sand light and playful, but not muddy.
And one beach I turn to frequently for a half hour stroll is the Ship Harbor Trail and its companion in the other direction, the Guemes Channel Trail. These two twins of different mothers offer choices of which way to go, which experience to enjoy. From the parking area you can go east on the paved Guemes Channel Trail, about a two mile round-trip hike between the maple forests and the boulder-covered water’s edge. It’s perfect for strollers, wheelchairs, bicycles, or a short run or an easy walk. The views are expansive towards Guemes and Cypress. Someday parks planners hope the trail can connect with the Tommy Thompson trail on the other side of Anacortes. Lervik’s boat center is an obstacle at this point.
I tend to go west more often, along the graveled Ship Harbor Trail, but I quickly step off the trail onto the sandy beach for the rest of my westward wanderings. I got almost to the ferry terminal a half mile further before I turned back and enjoyed the interpretive trail going the other direction, passing through roses and alders and maples, past signs highlighting the wildlife all around, and overlooking the views of old pilings now almost gone, the ferries beyond, and the San Juans even farther beyond. And maybe someday this trail will connect with Washington Park to the west. Crossing the Shannon Point Marine Center property is a challenge right now.
Speaking of right now, the maples are nearly bare again, the rosehips turning black, but the pleasures of the trail remain in the memories for hours and days down the road, and through the rain-filled nights to come.
Hiking Close to Home, page 96
Getting there: From Anacortes take 12th Street west which becomes Oakes Avenue. A half mile before the Washington State Ferries turnoff, turn right on Ship Harbor Boulevard and then left on Edwards Way. Follow it down to the parking area at the water’s edge.
Accessible by Skagit Transit 410 bus from the Washington State Ferry terminal.
The Hike of the Week is Monroe Landing. If you're looking for a sunny beach walk, I would recommend this one. It's on the north side of Penn Cove and offers a distant view of both the Olympics and the Cascade Mountains. The micro-climates on Whidbey are such that if it's raining on the south end, chances are you can find some sun around Coupeville or Oak Harbor. This walk is halfway between the two. Even on a winter day you'll need sunscreen for this beach. And if you don't mind a half mile walk before you get to the beach, you'll be able to get there by bus. Take the fare free Route 1 bus that goes from Clinton to Oak Harbor and ask the driver to let you off at the Monroe Landing and Arnold Road intersection. Walk down the hill to the water and you can access the beach at the boat ramp. There are interpretive signs to tell you about the early Native American villages and another sign says this is a good spot for bird-watching. Bring your binoculars and you can also get a good look at sailboats or the Coupeville Wharf directly across the water. If you're really lucky you may see the occasional whale from here. You can walk west toward the bluff for a mile or more. Be sure to check the tides before you come and if you brought your canine companion, please bring a pet poop bag to help keep the water and the beach clean. There's a porta-pottie in the parking lot and a log bench by the boat ramp, but most of the amenities are natural. So fold up your umbrella and visit Monroe Landing for a bit of sun.
Take Highway 20 north of Coupeville 5 miles and turn right on Arnold Road. Then turn right at the stop sign at Monroe Landing Road and it's a half mile to the beach park. Or starting from Walmart in Oak Harbor, go south about 2 miles and turn left onto Monroe Landing Road and go straight to the beach. Or take the fare free Island Transit Route 1 bus Monday-Saturday and ask the driver to let you off at Monroe Landing and Arnold Road intersection. You'll need to walk another half mile to the beach. Get a bus schedule here: www.islandtransit.org/
Anacortes Senior Activity Center
10-Noon Saturday, Nov. 2
Join us at the Anacortes Senior Activity Center for our book release party. For just $15 plus tax you can get a signed copy of Hiking Close to Home for yourself and another for a friend. You'll have a guide to over 50 trails on Whidbey, Fidalgo and Guemes Islands, which ones are accessible by bus, which are wheel friendly and which are dog friendly. Enjoy refreshments, slides of all the trails and trail talk with your friends and neighbors. Visit with Maribeth Crandell and Jack Hartt while you're there and browse through their other books, including Jack's books about Deception Pass State Park and his latest, and possibly greatest, book of photography, hot off the press.