Last week, for the first time during the decade I’ve lived on Whidbey Island, I made my way to South Whidbey State Park, located between Greenback and Freeland. The Washington State Parks site says, “South Whidbey Island State Park is a 347-acre camping park with 4,500 feet of saltwater shoreline on Admiralty Inlet. Park features include old-growth forest, tidelands for crabbing and clamming, campsites secluded by lush forest undergrowth, and breathtaking views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains.” It’s shown in green to the far west on this map. I arrived at 8 o’clock on a Monday morning, hoping to have some alone time on the beach and trails.Minutes later, another vehicle showed up, probably with the same idea in mind. I cut my informational kiosk viewing time short and followed the sign towards the Beach Trail.
The first thing I noticed was the greenery. Sword ferns and maple trees lined the well-packed path. The sign said “moderate to steep climb” but, except for the last bit before the beach, it was an easy hike. Although I didn’t see any birds, I heard them, including what I think were juncos.
I’m used to seeing Doug firs, but here were more maples that I remembered seeing elsewhere.
Salmonberries, which range from ruby red to yellow and everything in between were ripe for the birds and people like me who don’t mind their supposed insipidness.
Ten minutes later, I exited a set of steep stairs that led to the beach. (This is looking back up.)
Once there, I checked out the shoreline in hopes of finding some shells, but as is typical of a lot of beaches along Whidbey, I found mostly rocks and different species of seaweed.
Towards the south, I noticed the horsetails and other grasses growing along a sandy hillside.
I experimented a little with my camera’s shutter speed while getting some shots of the water. For a short while, I was the only one there. At least I thought I was.
In fact, there was at least one seal swimming around in the water. Off in the distance, I noticed a Bald eagle, which is almost a daily occurrence around here.
The bigger surprise was the osprey that showed up and then spent nearly ten minutes fishing, diving into the water multiple times before it finally grabbed one. I took a bunch of photos, but the whole telephoto-lens-with-bird-in-motion can be a little tricky. I ended up with just a few cool shots, among them, this one of the osprey flying off to its nest with a fish. Except for the family that arrived not long after the osprey, the beach was deserted. It was a peaceful place to spend some time in the morning before the crowds arrived.
When the osprey left, so did I, returning to my vehicle which I drove to the entrance, then parked in a gravel lot.
Across the road, I found the Ridge Loop Trail head, shown on this map. Again, based on the wording on the sign, it sounded hard, but was actually an easy hike.
The first part of the trail was a little narrow with sword ferns growing tight up against it, but soon it straightened out and continued in a nearly straight path.
The grass and ferns became ferns and trees. At one point I noticed several fallen logs that extended across a dip to a bank on the opposite side.
I resisted the urge to try to cross without falling and continued along the trail.
Since I’d recently learned about the Twinflower, actually a shrub, and am a little obsessed with them, I stopped to take photos of a patch of the plants. According to the USDA site, “Linnaea borealis was reported to be Linnaeus favorite plant, and was named by his close friend and teacher Jan Frederik Gronovious in honor of Linnaeaus.”
The next section of the trail was lined with salmonberry bushes, so I stopped to eat some (my preference being the yellow ones). Although they’re a bit bland, I don’t mind them, nor do the birds. While walking, I heard the calls of the Varied thrush and Spotted towhee.
Further along, buttercups grew along both sides of the path.
I scrunched down to get a rabbit’s eye view of the trail.
I had already decided to take the detour off-loop to see the Ancient Cedar. So, when I noticed the signs, I followed them, hoping I wouldn’t get lost.
I noticed the smell of the skunk cabbage plants before I saw them, the ones with the large leaves surrounded in this area by sword ferns.
Numbered stakes mark cedar trees of interest. The one on the left is is not one of the famous Cedar trees, but I couldn’t resist stopping to photograph its neat roots.The one on the right in this shot is a Douglas Fir that appears to be suffering from root rot. I didn’t stop at every marker, but did at a few, numbers 5, 7 on my way to the special tree.Finally, I found the Ancient Cedar, a tree that has been around for 500 years, which means it was just a youngster around the time Michelangelo completed work on the Sistine Chapel 9000 miles away, which I only know because I looked it up. I am, after all, geographically challenged.
I admired these ferns with fresh fronds that initially grew straight up towards the sky before ending up at at angle as I reached the start of the detour, returned to my vehicle (0.4 miles) and headed home. I checked my watch and noted that the Ancient Cedar encounter detour cost me about 0.7 miles but was well worth it. The entire hike was a mere 2.4 miles with about 400 feet of climb. I think it would also make for a scenic, easy trail run.