I gripped the insect’s head with sharp-tipped tweezers. Its tiny front legs held firmly, refusing to release even as my skin stretched with the pull. I dug in with its pointy parts as far as I could stand. Within a minute…success! I dropped the bug into a plastic sandwich bag, sealed it and began to worry. In nearly a dozen years of walking, hiking and running hundreds of miles along the trails of Deception Pass State Park, Ebey’s Reserve, the Anacortes Forest Lands and Washington Park, I’d never before encountered a tick.
The existence of this insect on Fidalgo Island came as a complete surprise to me. The CDC says, “Results of…studies suggest that the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the United States is around 300,000 [that is not a typo]…Lyme disease cases are concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with 14 states accounting for over 96% of cases reported to CDC.” A report of Lyme disease by county from 2000 through 2015 shows a mere 2 cases in Skagit County and 4 in Island County between 2011-2015. This eased my I’ve-lived-in-the-Northeast fears, but I kept the tick as a souvenir.
I knew exactly where I’d picked it up: Washington Park. During the previous week, I’d climbed over, under, around and through grasses, Salal and tree branches more than I ever had before. I was trying to track down the glacier scraped rock described in Washington Rocks by Eugene Kiver, Chad Pritchard and Richard Orndorff. The blurb at Amazon says, “Washington Rocks! is part of the state-by-state Geology Rocks! series that introduces readers to some of the most compelling and accessible geologic sites in each state. The 57 sites in this book are scattered throughout the state…” Four of the 57 are nearby: 46 FORT EBEY: Ice Lobe Antics on Whidbey Island, 47 DOUBLE BLUFF: Comings and Goings of Ice Sheets, 50 WASHINGTON PARK: View Into the Mantle and 51 DECEPTION PASS. The authors explain (p 100), “Along the west side of the park is a rarely exposed ophiolite, the sequence of rocks that makes up oceanic crust, including part of the underlying mantle. We don’t often get to see deeper parts of the oceans crust because they’re 3 to 5 miles below the ocean floor.” I believe this is the area at the base of the concrete stairs just north of Trail 518, which I’d seen, but “An unusually large glacial groove on the south side of the park was formed about 17,000 years ago, when a large boulder or group of rocks embedded in the base of the 1 mile thick glacier scraped across the serpentine surface,” was news to me.
Determined to find this “glacial groove,” I set out with the book’s photo and caption, which placed it at, “one of the trails on the south side of Washington Park.” Unfortunately, nearly all of the trails at the park are on the south side. Fortunately, there are only a few miles of trails and the City of Anacortes has marked and mapped them. On my sixth trip, I found the glacial groove. It is located along the southernmost part of Trail 505. To see for yourself, either walk or drive to the trail head at the last pullout before the open area with the amazing view which most folks think is the highest point of the park, but isn’t (by a few feet), and continue towards the water until you see the glacial groove, which will be on your left.
The peak of the park along the loop road is 250 feet above sea level, just past Trail 510. It feels like more to walkers and runners because the climb takes place in half a mile. I had spent several days in mid February running the loop to prepare for the Dallas Kloke Sunset Loop 10 Mile Relay Run on 11 March. Participants may form a four person/2.5 miles each relay team or run solo. The race starts near the parking area at the northeast point. Runners first complete a quarter mile loop through the campground, then return to the road for three-quarter miles of flat, a half mile of climb, a quarter mile descent, back up for another quarter…then downhill to the handoff zone. I joined three of my favorite runners on a team named for our combined age: 165! and awaited race day with equal amounts of excitement and dread.
Team 165! arrived an hour early for the 9 am start, surprised to learn that only 22 persons had signed up. A gal from Friday Harbor introduced herself as we awaited the start. Then we were off and I experienced my favorite ten seconds of the race (might have been five), while I was in the lead. During the nearly ninety minutes it took for our team to finish, we cheered on and chatted with other participants, formed human tunnels and made friends. Our biggest competitors were the family members that made up The Zodi Team, which had the dad running the first and final laps, son running second, daughter third. The Zodi Team led during the first three legs, but the dad injured his calf on his first lap, which probably cost them the race. At mile one of our team’s final lap, our team captain passed the dad and never looked back. We “won,” (air quotes intended), or came in fifth from last as we competed against only four other teams. While it was fun to run the loop as fast as I could…I prefer to walk it.
Some advice if you want to do same: arrive at the park no later than 9:00 am so that you can complete it before 10:00 when the narrow, one-way road opens to vehicles. April is the perfect time to encounter some of the most beautiful species of wildflowers on Fidalgo Island at Washington Park, so risk the ticks and take to the trails (but check for them afterwards). Besides the loop road and trails leading to amazing views the park boasts: a playground, picnic tables, a dock, a beach and lots of wildlife.