On an Un-Cruise Adventures Washington Coastal Cruise, the Wilderness Adventurer sailed under the Deception Pass Bridge into a peaceful cove. Currents at Deception Pass can get a bit wild, so the captain had to time the coming and going under the bridge according to the tides and currents. The bridge was built in the 1930’s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Repainting the bridge in later decades cost more than building it did originally.
Following a tasty breakfast on board anchored not far from the bridge, passengers grouped for the morning’s activities. Choices included a guided kayaking trip, an all-day hike in the forest, a morning jaunt on a forest trail, or a short nature walk on a paved path. We picked the medium-length hike, labeled as the Hoypus Forest Jaunt.
We landed on a beach at Hoypus Point in Deception Pass State Park. Quite the perfect spot for a landing as a couple stairs led from the beach to the trail.
Someone from a drier state commented on how they couldn’t believe how green everything is in Western Washington. That’s what plentiful rainfall will do. It’s not that far in miles from the Olympic rainforest where we hiked in a downpour the other day to Deception pass, but the difference in annual rainfall is distant. There are a lot of microclimates on and near the Olympic Peninsula. Where Hoodsport gets around 70-90 inches of rain, the much drier Deception Pass area on Whidbey Island only gets about 20-26, which is about half the amount of rain Seattle gets each year.
We hiked a loop around a forest trail. This area still has some massive old growth trees, which is defined as anything older than 200 years. Even old growth trees here don’t grow as big as in some other places because the islands are mainly rock.
Stinging nettles lined both sides of the trail at the start of the hike, which definitely encourages people to stay on the trail to avoid getting stung. Further into the forest ferns and huckleberry bushes dominated the underbrush. It’s nice that ferns often grow near nettles because fern juice can ease the itching of an accidental nettle sting. The trees mainly consisted of douglas fir, spruce, and hemlock. They are all evergreens, but have differences in the bark and needles.
Eventually our trail joined up with the paved path to take us back to the beach. Little daisies grew alongside the path and in wetter areas we found skunk cabbage. Not all flowers smell sweet and skunk cabbage is aptly named. It mainly grows in swampy areas, but here was in a drainage ditch. The paved path ran along the water’s edge and in places offered a nice view of the bridge between the trees.
The paved path is actually an access road for park personnel. A truck came down the path and stopped before the narrower trail leading to the beach where we landed. A fisheries guy with rubber boots and a fish net walked along the beach parallel to the trail. When we arrived at the beach we saw him at the water’s edge dipping his net.
A few curious people wandered down and found out he was a fish counter from the state fisheries department. Lots of tiny pink salmon fry bunched up near the gravelly beach there. They hatch in a nearby river and make their way into the salt water. Then they hang out near the beach for a few weeks to grow and mature before heading out to sea. They stay in the shallows because the things that want to eat them need a bit deeper water. One of the reasons natural growth areas with trees to shade the shallow water is so important to the survival of native fish runs.
Deception Pass State Park is a very popular place, but it also sprawls out over 134 acres, mainly on Whidbey Island. It has a campground, picnic area, and 38 miles of hiking trails. We did not see many other park visitors on the trail we took so it seemed remote. Deception Pass was named by early explorers who initially thought they had found a bay by a peninsula rather than a pass by an island.