Thursday, June 1, 2017

Hike of the Week : Dungeness Spit, or To the Lighthouse

Yes, we'd been here before. 

Back in March we tried to hike to the lighthouse on the Dungeness Spit in a strong wind. How strong? 

Crazy swaying trees on the bluff:

Wobbling piles of seafoam on the beach:

We made it about halfway to the lighthouse before turning back. It was a miserable, if weirdly amusing day. 

This time we woke up in the campground to calm -- if a bit foggy -- weather. 

We had breakfast, packed up our camp, and drove over to the trailhead before 8. Things didn't look promising: 

But we headed down to the spit and started walking. Apart from the fog, the wether was fine. Calm breezes, a decent tide, and was that blue sky trying to peek through?

 We had the beach pretty much to ourselves ... other than the birds.

We walked along through the sand, listening to foghorns, and willing the fog to burn off. We did see something I'd never seen before, that I could only describe as a "fogbow":

Then, almost immediately after, the fog dispersed. 

I'm not sure whether it was caused by the curve of the spit itself, or by the ridge in the middle of the spit, but we still couldn't see the lighthouse, which made us both feel a little disoriented.

But then, finally, we caught a glimpse of it, still far away.

A few minutes more, and we reached this sign. Welcome to Serenity, indeed.

It took us two hours to go the five miles, between pausing to admire the scenery and walking in sand. We sat on a bench and enjoyed the view.

After a while, we turned and walked to the lighthouse.

The New Dungeness Lighthouse was first lit on December 14, 1857, and has been operating continuously ever since. In 1993, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Now operated by a volunteer group, the New Dungeness Light Station Association, the lighthouse welcomes Lighthouse Keepers for a week at a time to man and maintain the station. Lighthouse Keepers pay fees that go toward station upkeep, since the Coast Guard no longer provides funding.

Volunteer keepers clean the station, mow the lawn, and lead tours of the lighthouse. The main attraction, obviously, is the light itself -- which we happily clambered up to. It's a surprisingly small space, but the views were glorious!

Lighthouse keepers share this sweet little house, built in 1905.

But the real draw, of course, is the view... and the peacefulness.

After nosing around the historic trails by the lighthouse -- fog bells! radio towers! or at least their foundations! -- we started the long hike back to Reality.

We walked back along the other side of the spit -- well, as much as was open, since a lot of it is wildlife refuge. At one point I saw a dog and thought, oh, naughty, someone brought a dog! And then I realized it was a coyote, running at full speed, followed by three more.

Then back to the other side, where I noticed lots of tiny red starfish washed up with the tide. 

We had been alone most of the walk, but by the time we returned to the near end of the spit it was crowded with people enjoying the sun. Compare this photo of the end of our hike to the one from the same spot from the beginning! If you look waaaaay at the right edge of the photo, near the tree branch, you can just barely see the lighthouse.

Not much in terms of elevation, eh?

Dungeness Spit

11.3 miles
147 feet elevation gain

Post Script: 

We headed home around 2 on Sunday -- prime time for ferries across the water. Kingston and Bainbridge had similar wait times, so we just went for Kingston. Things hit a snag, however, when we approached the Hood Canal Bridge to see signed that the bridge was OPEN... and that delays of up to an hour could be expected. Oh. But the delay was shorter -- 15 minutes or so. I was more sad not to have been able to see what the "opening procedures" looked like. To be honest, I had to look it up, since I still wasn't sure just what part of the bridge opened.

This is what the process used to look like, complete with SUBMARINE sliding through. 

Now, apparently, three spans are raised on either side, and the floating spans are retracted underneath them so a boat can pass. Also, you'll never see webcam footage like this again; the webcams are turned off when the bridge opens as a security measure. 

Once across the bridge, we joined the ferry waiting line just outside of Kingston. At some point the "line" was directed off the road, where we picked up a "boarding pass" from an exceptionally bored policeman. Later, as we inched through town, I stopped so as not to block an intersection. A woman pulled in front of me from a side street, into the FERRY line. (Gasp! Tutting!)

Later, when we got to the ticket booth, we heard her arguing with the seller about the boarding pass. She was unable to shout / whine / beg her way past the ticket booth, and sped off in a huff. I felt a collective high five from the other cars around me. Sure, we still had to wait an hour, but fair is fair!

When we managed to get across the water we made a quick stop for unremarkable onion rings and an unremarkable shake at an unremarkable little restaurant in Edmonds. An unremarkable end to a very happy weekend!

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