Winter is draping his coat on the back of a chair and rolling up his sleeves. It’s getting a bit too warm for him. Pausing by the punch bowl, he scans the dance hall. His eyes lock on the door. Spring has just swept in with her light flowered dress flowing in a soft breeze. Winter watches her glide tentatively into the room. He’s been dancing all night with vigor unmatched. Now he grows weary. But perhaps, one more.
The music starts. He takes her hand. Shyly, she follows him, and the dance begins. They are stepping forward, turning back, swinging this way, swaying that. His arm finds her waist. She turns her head. They skip and sway in a circle, then in a line. They come together, then apart. She is smiling, spinning, dazzling. She moves with grace and strength. Surprised at her spirit, he feels his energy leave him. She twirls with delight. He collapses into a chair.
After a chilly night, morning dawned on the equinox pink and perfect. It was a fine spring day, warm enough to find folks going barefoot on the sand and testing the waters.
As I entered the park the sign overhead read, “Double Bluff Beach Park,” and in one corner in smaller letters it said, “FETCH!”. What an interesting word, I thought, with so many definitions. I pondered it as I walked.
verb: 1. To go for and then bring back (someone or something).
2. To achieve (a particular price) when sold.
Noun: 1. The distance traveled by wind or waves across open water.
I’d learned that from sailors. From Double Bluff across Puget Sound is a long expanse of water with plenty of room for winds to stir up waves and wreak havoc for boats and sailors.
Then I thought of the term, fetching, as in attractive or appealing. This weather was appealing to me, and this beautiful beach was certainly attractive. I walked on and enjoyed hours of watching dogs, birds and people. All of us basking in this spring day at the beach.
When I got home and googled it, I found out why the word, FETCH appeared on the park sign. This particular FETCH stands for Free Exercise Time for Canines and their Humans. (I wonder how long it took to come up with that acronym.)
FETCH is a non-profit group with hundreds of two legged members and roughly twice as many four legged friends. The group formed when someone who had let their dog run off-leash at Double Bluff had a run-in with the law.
There are responsible dog owners who pick-up after their pets and try to keep their dogs from bothering other people. And then there are irresponsible dog owners who give all the others a bad name.
FETCH are the good guys. They petitioned the county to let them have a certain part of Double Bluff for off-leash dog play. They struck a deal. The county said they’d try it for a year if FETCH assumed responsibility for providing pet waste bags and monitoring behavior. That was in 1999. And it still works. FETCH partners with Island County Parks to maintain the off-leash dog park.
When you go to Double Bluff, you’ll find pet waste bags and trash cans, a dog water fountain and a rinsing station, a fenced in picnic area with no dogs allowed, vault toilets for people, and miles of beautiful beach, bluff and bay to explore with your best buddy.
Dogs must be kept on a leash for the first 500 feet of the park before letting them loose. The border is marked by a bedraggled wind sock. If you let your dog off-leash any sooner, you may be fined $500. For details about FETCH, whether verb, noun, adjective or acronym, google it!
Learn more about FETCH! here.
Directions: From Freeland, take Highway 525 south about a mile to Double Bluff Road. Turn right (south) and follow it about 2 miles to the end. If the parking lot is full, park along the shoulder outside the park and watch for traffic.
By Bike and Bus: Island Transit Route 1 fare free bus will stop where Double Bluff Road meets Highway 525. Double Bluff Road has a very gentle grade down to the beach with a good shoulder for bikes. Two bikes fit on a bus bike rack. Please wear something bright when walking or biking along the road.
Mobility: There are picnic tables and benches overlooking the beach at the park entrance. To get to the water, one must get over a logstacle course of driftwood. The beach is sandy for miles with logs to sit on along the way.
Ringing in the New Year
One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner…, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.
Dylan Thomas, from A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
I like to read certain stories as we move through the holiday season. This one is special to me as my ancestors were Welch. Years ago, local poet, David Whyte, used to read it for us in his authentic British accent. I can relate to some of the characters, like the old man who “would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he would take it wet or fine on Christmas Day or Doomsday…” It always makes me smile, even though our snow had melted.
I was stuffed after my holiday feast of food, family, and friends, but unlike the uncles in the story who were content to sit by the fire smoking their pipes, I felt the need for a walk. I knew a wall of rain and wind was just hours away, so I headed for Trillium Woods. Hunting season was over, and with over 700 acres, I knew I could walk for hours without running out of trail.
I’ve walked through Trillium Woods countless times with its green and grey trees and lush underbrush. But I was surprised and delighted to see gold glowing fungi on the trail from Smugglers Cove Road. I walked to Patrick’s Way and turned left toward the red gate at the Pacific Dogwood trailhead. Several trees had fallen across the trail and a crew with a chainsaw had cleared them leaving bright orange cut log ends like faces smiling as I passed. A wet spruce cone and a dried fir twig lay at my feet sharing the same golden pallet. Later, on a side trail I noticed willow leaves beaming yellow. Three colorfully clad ladies, trekking and talking at a fast clip, emerged from behind a toppled tree on the Raven Trail. At one spot I was surrounded by golden crowned kinglets and chestnut backed chickadees. All added color to an otherwise grey day.
I made my way to the Bounty Loop entrance where there’s a trail accessible for wheelchairs. A large tree had fallen there and been cut into sections that now sat beside the trail. I counted the rings. The tree and I were about the same age. Some rings were broad indicating years of great abundance, and some were thin, just getting by.
I reflected on my own life. The year I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail was a very good year for me. A couple of rings later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer while my mother was dying of pancreatic cancer. That was a hard one. I thought about the phone call I’d just made to my father back east. He’s 95 and suffers from dementia. He said he had to pack to go to his mother’s house. His mother passed a long time ago and I knew he wouldn't be leaving home. But I realized after the call that when we were kids, we’d pack up and go see his mother for Christmas dinner. I thought of the concentric circles of the cut trees, and my Dad’s mind circling through all the Christmases of his 95 years, “One Christmas was so much like another”.
I thought about my own Christmas memories, gathering with extended family in the 200-year-old homestead, or stuck in an airport as many were this year. Lately, I’ve celebrated at home with a few friends and family. We eat too much, share stories, sing and play by the fireside. And we walk together “wet or fine on Christmas Day or Doomsday”. After the guests departed, the dishes were washed, and food put away…
"I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept."
To hear A Child’s Christmas in Wales read by the author click here.
To learn more about Trillium Community Forest, find a trail map with wildlife guide on the back, and get directions to all three entrances click here.
Bus and Bike: Smugglers Cove Road is the best approach by bike with wide shoulders and less traffic than Highway 525. Island Transit’s Route 1 bus runs both north and south along Smuggler’s Cove Road. Check here for the bus schedule.
Mobility: The Bounty Loop Road entrance has a .2 mile loop trail that is wheelchair accessible. Patrick’s Way, the main trail down the middle of the park, is a wide, gently sloping old forest road. It is most easily accessible from the Pacific Dogwood entrance which starts with a paved but hilly road. The other trails are narrow with some puddles.
To read a story of a man who tries out the trails in his wheelchair click here.
Stopping by woods On a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though.
He will not see me stopping here,
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
There had been flurries and rumors of snow all week, but I had seen none at my house. So I wasn’t expecting to find any as I went for a walk nearby at the Whidbey Institute. I was looking for a forest walk and hills to climb. What a surprise to also find a light frosting of snow on this winter day.
I parked at the top of the hill and walked down the old road. The snow had settled in the ravine where the sun cannot reach this time of year. The split rail fence had a few inches on top. Around the bend, Thomas Berry Hall looked festive with a light dusting on the ground. I recalled the holiday concerts I’d attended there with the Rural Characters and a community chorus 80 voices strong. But the windows were dark and the hall quiet on this late afternoon.
I passed by the Appletree Garden and the West Garden with their tall stalks bent low and beds tucked in. The Farmhouse was solemn and the sauna stone cold lacking only a fire within to be warm and welcoming again.
Climbing the hill toward the cabins, snow hid behind trees and snuggled down among ferns. I took the Farm Loop into the woods and then the Wetland Trail that I’d helped build long ago. Storms had rearranged things since then. Limbs were down so I practiced my kick-a-stick-a-day trail maintenance techniques as I walked. The sound of trickling water followed me as ravens threaded their way through a tall tangle of trees. Kinglets, juncos and chickadees peeped from the upper canopy. There was light up there somewhere.
I circled the hill behind the farmhouse, crossed the snowy bridge and climbed through the woods toward the Story House. Woodpeckers chipped away at leaning alders. Cedars stood tall on the slope. I wandered from one loop to another. Thick evergreen huckleberry and salal bordered the trail. I walked in circles not really knowing where I was. Signs at trail junctions and the photo I’d taken of the trail map below were helpful, but I found I preferred not knowing.
At the top of the hill the snow disappeared. I found myself in a dark forest with no undergrowth. I came upon a glacial erratic like an elephant laying on the ground. Would it rise up and follow me in the twilight? I glanced over my shoulder to see. As I stumbled upon the road I turned toward my car. In the gathering darkness the last lines of Frost’s poem emerged.
These woods are lovely dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
For a map of the trails click here.
Directions: From Highway 525 at Ken’s Korner shopping center near Clinton, turn south on Cultus Bay Road. In ¾ of a mile turn right on Campbell Road and look for the Whidbey Institute sign on the left. Drive to the bottom of the hill and park across from the trail kiosk where you can take a picture of the map with your phone. No dogs are allowed and please don’t enter buildings uninvited.
By Bike and Bus: The closest bus stop is at Highway 525 and Cultus Bay Road about a mile away. There are steep hills along the route. The road has very little shoulder for bikes. Please wear something bright and use lights for visibility especially in this dark season.
Mobility: The Wetland Loop at the bottom of the hill, and trails at the top near the Story House are nearly level, but in between there are steep slopes with narrow trails.
Duck, Duck, Goose!
I was planning to bike and hike to Guemes Mountain with friends last Saturday. The forecast said there was a 20% chance of rain. But one friend was sick on Thanksgiving day, and another the day after. Jack and Kath would be babysitting a grandchild. So it was just me and my niece, Deb, visiting from Seattle.
We drove up Whidbey as I watched the clouds grow more threatening. On our way, Jack texted to say he and Kath had been relieved of their babysitting duty and would meet us on Guemes Island. So Deb and I took our bikes on the ferry. We met Jack and Kath and began to ride the shoreline road. It was cold. It was windy. It was threatening rain. Jack said the forecast had been changed to a 60% chance of rain with a downpour at 2pm. That bit of news percalated in my brain for a minute before it spit out a response. “Abort! Abort!” This was not a good day for a trip to Guemes Mountain.
Instead we caught the ferry back to Anacortes, biked to a café and had a nice lunch and a good visit. Then we all headed back to our respective warm, dry homes like sensible people.
Sunday dawned bright and cold. There were a few clouds and a cool breeze, but the day held far more promise than the day before. I drove a few miles to Deer Lagoon. The clouds gathered again, but as I walked through the trees at the start of the trail, the skies cleared. I needed that vitamin D!
I met Libby who lives nearby and keeps an eye on the birdlife. She handed me a heart shaped rock, a good omen. Walking on, a kingfisher announced my arrival. Pairs of mallards and coots hid among the cattails and duck weed. I passed some downed trees from wind storms. Folks had stacked the limbs into loose piles which provided shelter for wildlife. In the channel I saw tubby little buffleheads and elegant pintails. Colorful hooded mergansers glided by showing their broad white crests. On the marsh in the distance were a dozen Canada geese. A pair of Northern Harriers swooped this way and that. Gulls made a white line across the blue water. But most of the birds I saw were wigeons. Wonderful wigeons! Hundreds, maybe thousands of wigeons!
I thought about Kevin Costner dancing with wolves. He can dance with wolves if he likes. I would much rather go waltzing with wigeons, though walking with wigeons was fun, too.
Just being around wigeons makes me happy. Like when you walk into a room full of friends that have just shared a good joke and everyone is folded over laughing? That’s what it’s like to encounter wigeons. They have such a hearty laugh. It makes me smile, even if I didn’t hear the joke. There must be some good storytellers among them. Of course there are. I mean there are so MANY! There must be some clowns. The males have that bright green eye patch set off by their white forehead like a duck in clown face. And the word “duck” is funny, too. Lucky duck. Just ducky. Duck, duck, goose!
There were other birds, too. Eagles swooped down and scattered the ducks into giant cloud of wings. One eagle perched on a post to dine on take-out. There were sparrows and towhees hiding in the blackberries, and hawks soaring between the trees. There were people, some with dogs, walking the trail, too. I met a charming fellow named Smokey. Double Bluff framed the scene to the west. The skyscrapers of Seattle stood out to the south, and a line of beach homes circled it all. But the wigeons ruled the wetland. It was a sunny, funny day for a walk with the wigeons.
Hear recordings of wigeons here.
Directions: From highway 525 just south of Freeland, turn south on Double Bluff Road. In about a half mile turn left on Millman Road. Then turn right on Deer Lagoon Road. Drive to the end and park without blocking any driveways. Please be considerate of the neighbors, stay on the trail, and properly dispose of your dog's waste.
Bus and Bike: The Island Transit Route 1 stops at the corner of Double Bluff Road and Highway 525. There is room for 2 bikes on a bus. The road is almost level and the distance is less than 2 miles to Deer Lagoon. Please wear something bright for visibility while walking or biking the road or waiting for the bus.
Mobility: The entrance to the Deer Lagoon trail has been modified to make it more accessible. It is nearly level with a surface of small gravel and dirt, wide enough for 2 wheelchairs to pass.