Dec 21, 2016

Hiking the Dungeness Spit.

I knew when I woke up this morning and opened the blinds in my little cottage that I am staying in that I needed to do something ambitious with my day. The water and the mountains were definitely calling my name. I am embarrassed to say that I brought my textbooks for next semester with me on my little "get away." Not only that, I had plans to organize the songs I am teaching to my Primary kids for the entire next year (yeah, a whole year). I do know how to vacation don't I? :)  But don't be too hard on me because I grabbed my bag of clementines, bunch of bananas, wallet, scarf, hat and gloves and headed out. left the textbooks in my cottage.

In a folder in the cottage I am staying in there is a list of outdoor things to do on the Olympic Peninsula. I have stared longingly at the description of the Dungeness Spit the last two times I stayed here and it was finally time to act. 

I do love records, so the minute I found out the Dungeness Spit was the longest, natural, sand spit in the United States I knew I had to check it out. But there are some logistics involved in hiking this sand spit. The tide has to be low or on its way to low. I knew when I went to bed last night that high tide would be at 9 in the morning and low tide would not be until 4 in the afternoon. And even at that low tide was not really going to be that fabulous of a low tide. I also had the small problem that I am the sort of girl that gets up early and goes. I am not the sort of girl who waits around....not even for tides. I told myself I would head towards Dungeness Spit but I could just drive by and head out to the Cape Flattery hike again or follow highway 101 until it ended in LaPush. You know, do something until the tide was low enough for me to check out the Dungeness Spit. As I got closer to Sequim (don't you dare pronounce the e in Sequim. It is pronounced Squim) I could not resist and I set the Google map app on my phone up to take me to Dungeness Spit. But the app conspired against me and directed me to another sand spit so I figured it was a sign. This impostor sand pit was not a complete waste of time because there was the most amazingly huge barge stacked with containers heading out to sea down the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I watched it for awhile. But then I decided to head to LaPush on Highway 101. I got just outside of Port Angeles and turned around. I am not really sure why but I did.

This time I found the Dungeness Spit without using my Google maps app. I just deduced where it would be and voila. Something I never do. I was very excited to check this place out. You have to pay $3.00 to hike out to the sand spit and all I had was a $50 and there was no one there to give change so I scrounged in my change drawer in my car and found $3.00. The trail was empty, well maintained, and surrounded by woods. I did my best to not think about meeting Bigfoot, or the wolves and vampires from Twilight and headed bravely down the trail, alone. At the edge of the woods the trail goes down a hill to get you down to the sand spit. Are you wondering if sand spits? yeah, Why do they call it a spit? Does sand spit? This sand spit is 5.2 miles long so the sand spit more than it should have. I had to know so I looked it up and a spit is a land form, It is a "deposition bar or beach land form found off coasts or lake shores. It develops in places where re-entrance occurs, such as at a cove's headlands, by the process of long shore drift by long shore currents. ... These currents are caused by the same waves that cause the drift." Whew, did you get that?

As I came down the trail I had no idea what I would see when I first got a glimpse of the Stait of Juan de Fuca. There was a little platform and when you walked to the edge of it you could see this strip of sand going, going, going out into the water. It really was amazing. 

When I got to the bottom of the hill there was a ranger there and she was giving instructions. Waves were relentlessly crashing on the left side of the spit and the right side was calm...it was like being in the middle of a split personality. The wind was fiercely blowing. The waves were big. The spit was littered with driftwood. Not just small pieces of wood. Enormous trees just tossed year after year on this sand spit all 5 miles of it. Walking on the side without waves was the obvious choice to me but the ranger crushed my dreams when she said the calm side was for the birds (lucky birds) and people had to walk on the wave side. I asked a few more times to be sure I had heard her. She did not even flinch when she advised me to be careful of the waves and to remember that sometimes the driftwood can appear stable but it could have water under it and may not be stable. What? I was not turning back now so I smiled at her and headed off. The wind whipped my scarf out to the side of me. The waves raced right up to the edge of the driftwood and every 50 feet or so there was a metal post with a sign posted reminding me that I could not cross the line onto the bird side. I confess, I stepped behind the sign a few times. I would be walking on the logs, avoiding the waves, climbing over the logs and I would look up and realize that I was on the wrong side of the signs. I am a rule follower. I would furtively look around to see if anyone saw me but not many people think that hiking the Dungeness Spit on the 20th of December is a great idea so I was alone in the knowledge of my crime. I finally stopped and looked back and was overwhelmed at the view. The Olympic Mountains were looming with snow on them. The water was this amazing green color but where the waves were breaking it was brown and muddy. The contrast between the colors was very cool. The wind was taking the spray from the ocean and the foam from the waves and flinging it everywhere. It was exhilarating. The spit seemed to stretch on forever. But I decided I was going to the end to the lighthouse I could see way out in the distance. I had to. It was slow going. Around, over, walking along logs. All of a sudden I found myself facing a  row of signs telling me I could not go any further..... you know, the birds. Not going to lie. I would have kept going but I was okay with turning back. When I got back to the trail going into the woods I stopped and read the sign about the trail and saw that from October until March you cannot hike all the way to the lighthouse.

I will be back. I have to hike to the end. But maybe I will think about another month when it does not get dark around low tide. But don't get your hopes up.

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