Most days, when we can, we drive a few minutes to the low bank access at North Beach and walk a loop – the beach walk. Depending on the recent tide, the shore is hard packed sand, gravelly sand, or slippery cobble and kelp littering exposed clay. Only very high tides prevent our heading toward the lighthouse, at the point where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets Puget Sound. Whidbey island is to our left, the cliffs of Fort Worden to the right above us.
Winter wind and rain squalls give way in June to early sunshine, low, low tides and good footing. Crows, gulls, and eagles, nearly always keep us company. Some days we see a blue heron standing on one leg or a sanderlings scurrying on skinny legs. Seal heads might bob just offshore.
Before the lighthouse a trail through tall beach grass leads to the campground – completely full in the summer, sparsely occupied in January. While there are big motor homes – there are also little cars and little tents and kids so excited to be sleeping out. We smell pancakes cooking and get to remember camping with our boys when we see sleepy parents by the campfire clutching mugs.
The trail climbs a south facing, heart pounding hill through big maple trees. Winter wrens and robins sing above, fir needles and maple leaves carpet the path.
We reach the top out of breath, and walk back on the top of the bluff with glimpses of the sea on a wide trail, good for talking or companionable silence.
The route through trees opens into a perfect wedding site with the Strait as backdrop, the lawn spangled with tiny daisies, and surrounding hedges of wild roses perfuming the air. This time of year, weekend mornings find white chairs stacked up or set up in wedding day anticipation.
Our route drops down off the bluff through beautiful Washington forest: madrona, cedar, Doug fir, with understory of salal, Oregon grape, false Solomon’s seal, wild roses, and fern. It skirts a bunker blocked off these spring months – we assume because of the huge eagle’s nest above nearby.
The trail emerges into a meadow with lagoon and Olympic Mountains view, and the sweet fragrance of wild roses. We walk on mowed paths under the swoops of cliff swallows. White-crowned sparrows call from the top of ocean spray and wild rose near the parking lot.
What a privilege this walk is – and maybe best when the wild roses bloom.