Sunday, March 19, 2017

Oh Spit! Hike of the Week : Dungeness Spit

Hiking the Dungeness Spit all the way to the lighthouse has been a goal of mine for years. It's 11 miles roundtrip, and while it's mostly flat -- the only elevation change is getting from the trailhead parking lot down to the beach -- it's challenging because the walk is on sand. And in order to avoid spending your hike clambering over logs and rocks at the crest of the spit, you need to time your hike with the tides -- ideally at 6.0 feet or below.

I used the tide tables at which very helpfully identified in green days where the low tide is lower than 3 feet and at least 120 minutes after sunrise and before sunset, and pinpointed Saturday, March 18 as a good day to hike. The low tide was late enough that we could take the ferry over in the morning and have a relaxed hike.

The weather, however, didn't look like it would cooperate -- stormy skies on the morning ferry from Edmonds to Kingston.

But we arrived in Sequim plenty early, had waaaaaaay too much breakfast, and burned a little time at the local Wal-Mart where I picked up a whole mess of hand warmers and toe warmers that I think will come in very handy on Kilimanjaro. Did I mention they were on close-out? Woot!

The parking lot was empty when we arrived at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. This should have been a sign. We got our permit and started to head down the trail, which is nice and broad and well maintained. 

The skies had started to brighten up, but it was still super windy. How windy? Well.

Mmmmaybe the wind was all up on the bluff, and there would be none on the beach? Maybe?

We passed this cute sign asking people not to take things off the spit... and a bucket of things people had "returned".

"Sorry I took your stick."
A short way down the trail we got our first glimpse of the spit. Hmm, why do those waves look so big, and why does the beach look so narrow ... the tide is supposed to be going OUT ...  Oh, and as for the lighthouse, it's actually pretty close to the tree at the right-hand side of the picture. It's a long way out there...

Lighthouse? What lighthouse?
I'm sure that I'm not the only long-time Seattleite with this problem, but I seriously can't see the word "Dungeness" without hearing "Dungeness toooooooo!!!!" from the old Sea Galley commercial.

The video quality is terrible, but this triggers all sorts of childhood memories. Fun fact: when I was in high school, I did a one-week internship with the advertising agency that came up with the "We've Got Crab Legs" campaign for Sea Galley. They had the legs in the office and I even got to put them on one afternoon. So, yes, I've had crab legs, too.

We arrived on the beach and were thrilled that there was no wind.

Just kidding, the wind was nuts, and had whipped up huge, wobbling piles of seafoam.

So while it was beautiful, and dry (which was all I foolishly had hoped for...), the wind made for some pretty miserable walking. 

We set off along the spit, the wind coming from behind our left shoulders.

We watched big clumps of foam gather as each wave receded, and then, upon reaching some sort of critical mass, then catching the wind and flying up the beach.

Did I mention it was windy? However, we were warm and cozy in our down jackets. Wil added his heavy Gore-tex jacket and his Gore-tex trousers as added protection. Call him Captain Gore-tex...

At some point a truck taking volunteers out to the Dungeness Lighthouse inched past us. I thought it was remarkable how fast the receding tide still managed to cover up the tracks.

We were moving surprisingly slowly ... the walking was pretty unpleasant, given the crazy gusting wind. Wil wanted to remind me that wind is his least favorite condition. Rain, snow, hail, cold, heat, whatever. Wind makes him unhappy and angry.

But, but, it was super pretty!

After an hour, we were only halfway along the spit to the lighthouse. I just kept thinking about how unpleasant it would be to walk back, this time into the wind. So we called it a day ... well, just under half a day, since we needed to get back.
We're happy because we've decided to turn around.What, you can't tell we're happy???
So we turned to make our way back along the spit, resisting the urge to flag down one the lighthouse shuttle.

It was, indeed, very very windy. Amusingly, while I never felt any moisture, my coat was caked with a film of salt, and my Camelbak drinking tube tasted salty. Ew.

As we approached the base of the trail up to the parking lot, we saw a few people, including a few heading out toward the lighthouse. But most people were just standing within one hundred feet of the trail, marveling at the waves and the wind.

Before turning to go up the hill, we took one last longing look down the spit. I know these pictures don't capture it, but it really was pretty miserable out there. To go 2.5 miles out it took us just over an hour; to go the 2.5 miles back it took us a bit over 90 minutes. So 2 hours and 45 minutes to go 5 miles, and with just 130 feet of elevation change. But one day, lighthouse. One day I will see you in person.

Dungeness Spit

11.0 miles -- we made it 5.5
130 feet elevation gain

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