Saturday, April 7, 2012

Deception Pass State Park

Wow, three followers now - the pressure is on to provide a steady stream of quality content!  Did I just hear someone ask when the quality content would be commencing? Hey, I'm doing my best.

In early February, Van Kid, Westly and I were hankering for some adventure.  The Wet Westies were gathering at Deception Pass State Park, and we made plans to join them.  We could leave Friday evening and have two days and nights of camping!  Alas, we were thwarted in our plans.  I was scheduled to work early Saturday morning, and Van Spouse issued a decree that income tax preparation must take priority over recreation.

As it turned out, we didn't leave home until 7pm on Saturday.  Opting this time for a more direct route, we headed north on I-5.  After admiring the twinkling lights of downtown Seattle, we continued on through Everett and Marysville.  It was a cold and misty night.  The camp ground was at least a couple of hours away.  Did we want to pay $21 just to sleep there in the van?  Nope - this was an ideal time for some Stealth Van Camping.  We pulled into the Smokey Point Rest Area, walked around a little, picked up some litter, had a snack and called it a night.  We awoke Sunday morning to be teased by the sun; rays of light were filtering through the trees, but they brought little warmth.  The temperature inside the van was around 34 degrees f. (it was 3 degrees warmer inside the fridge).  I lit a stove burner to heat some water and not too long after the indoor temp was up to a balmy 50 degrees.  After a warm breakfast, it was just a short drive to the Park.

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On approaching the tulip-centric town of Mt. Vernon, we veered west on Hwy 536, then merged with SR 20 toward Anacortes (where you board the ferry to Sidney, British Columbia).  At Fidalgo Bay, we took a left turn and continued on SR 20 along Similk Bay, past Campbell Lake, Pass Lake and finally to the Deception Pass Bridge.  The bridge actually crosses Deception Pass and Canoe Pass with Pass Island separating the two.

Van Kid sprints over the railing...
To view the bridge (still a little morning mist)...

And impishly returns from the precipice

Deception Pass was named by Captain George Vancouver in 1792.  Looking for passage around the myriad of islands, bays and straights, he discovered a certain land mass to be an island, not a peninsula as he had supposed.  He felt he had been deceived, thus the name.  Apparently those early explorers were a bit touchy.   The pass is located at the north end of Whidbey Island, the 4th largest island in the contiguous United States.  The bridge is one of the more popular photo subjects in the state. We stopped to look before crossing and it's easy to see why.  The twin spans soar 185 feet over the water and afford expansive views from their flanks.

After crossing, we drove down to West Beach, a long sand and gravel beach laden with drift wood.  Nearby Cranberry Lake is just a couple hundred feet from the shore.  It was once a salt water inlet but the spit eventually closed completely and now it's fresh although they say there remains a deep pocket of salt water. Kind of strange, huh?  I wonder if some snails or something live down there forever cut off  from their ocean dwelling kin.  The lake and dunes are abutted by a very slow growing old growth forest where many of the trees are not more than 15-20 inches in diameter.  Each year, decomposing vegetation adds to the scanty topsoil, providing a bit of nutrient.  A trail runs through the dunes and the forest with interpretive signs explaining all kinds of interesting things you probably learned in school but have forgotten.

Van Kid is temporarily dazed in a thicket of Salal
Another trail winds back along the hillside to the pass bridge where you can then traverse the span on a sidewalk separated from the two lanes of traffic by a little handrail.  No fishing is allowed from the bridge, in case you were wondering.  Your bait would probably be picked off by a seagull long before it ever reached the water anyway.

West Beach parking - picnic tables and grills, no fire rings
Van Kid explores a hollow drift wood stump...
And scans the coast for pirates
A gnarly 850 year old Ponderosa Pine

Overall, West Beach was very clean, but we were inexplicably captivated by this collection of bright blue objects, all found within a short distance from one another.

The entire park covers over 4,000 acres and includes some small islands with miles of salt and fresh water shoreline.  There are several camping areas (some accessible only by boat)  and 40 miles of hiking trails, some through expansive stands of old growth forest.

After a full day of hiking and exploring several driftwood forts along the beach, we remembered the Wet Westies camp out.  By that time of course, they had all departed but I must say, they left a very tidy campground.  I heard later that a good size crowd of Westy's had been there including several new members and was sorry to have missed it.

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On our return trip we took a detour off Hwy 20 up Farm to Market Road to visit the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.  This intertidal bay is home to 8,000 species of eelgrass, a very important part of the local food chain. There is a smallish camp ground, the Breazeale Interpretive Center is informative, and miles of trails wind around prime wildlife viewing areas.  The late afternoon was fraught with cold, gusty winds and we were expected at home so, sadly, our time here was curtailed.


  1. I love that pic of Van Kid looking through the log.

  2. Thanks Val! Driftwood beaches provide unlimited possibilities for kid's imaginations to run wild.

  3. That's a douglass fir. Strange as it may seem. I'm from Anacortes and spent plenty of time climbing it, glad to hear you enjoyed your visit to the area!