Tuesday, January 9, 2018

In Celebration of Winter Hiking in the Pacific Northwest

When the weather is damp and cold, the sky is many shades of gray, and days are short, sometimes it's hard to fight our natural urge to hibernate. 

Fight it. Get outside on a dreary winter day and go for a walk or hike. Throw on rain gear, bring an umbrella, whatever.

For starters, you'll be rewarded with relative solitude and a healthy dose of nature. Within a couple hours of Portland or Seattle, solitude is an increasingly rare treat while hiking. 

And here on the west side of the Cascade Mountains, it's so green. When I lived in New England, I came home to Oregon for Christmas and was surprised at the lushness I hadn't fully appreciated while growing up. 

So last weekend I headed up to Deception Pass State Park at the northern end of Whidbey Island north of Seattle. I've blogged about hiking there numerous times before, but I'm drawn back often.

There are miles of low-elevation trails both north and south of the historic Deception Pass Bridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This day we wandered up and over Goose Rock, down through rich forest, and along bays and beaches. 

In the winter, the road down to the North Beach parking lot is gated closed, so we arrived early enough (about 9:30 am) to snag a spot immediately south of the bridge. 

We walked over 3 hours, and despite carrying umbrellas just in case (yes, real Northwesterners have been known to actually use umbrellas), had a rain-free hike.

Our route took us down toward Cornet Bay and back along the perimeter trail and under the Deception Pass Bridge. 

West of the bridge we dropped down to North Beach, where we walked until high tide forced us back up into the trail above in the woods.

At the end of the westerward point we scrambled over rocks for views up the Strait of Juan de Fuca before heading back. By this time, after noon, more people were about. 

But it still wasn't crowded. Come back on a warm spring/summer/fall day and it's a very different scene.

After Hike Eats
An abundance of excellent options are relatively close (generally speaking) to Deception Pass for some good chow.  Skagit County to the north and east is now well known as a farm- or sea-to-table food destination. Or down island en route to the Clinton ferry terminal, the Langley area offers some excellent places for a bite

We opted to head back north over the bridge to Highway 20 and cut south on Best Road through the heart of the Skagit farmland to Rexville Grocery. This deli/cafe in an old converted gas station has been a favorite stop for years, and locals often gather there at the counter. My half sandwich and cup of chicken noodle soup were just perfect on a chilly winter afternoon.

That evening I was "good" tired from all the fresh sea/forest air and walking for hours. Answering to hiberation mode, I fell into a deep sleep early and slept almost 10 hours. (Besides being outdoors in nature and moving, I always say one of life's greatest pleasures is a good night of sleep.)

I'd love to hear about your winter hikes/after hike eats in a comment below!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

When You Go
Deception Pass State Park is about an 80-mile drive north from central Seattle, and the drive there takes about 90 minutes in good/moderate traffic conditions (early!). Remember to bring your Discover Pass to park, or expect to pay a $10 fee. You can find a map of park trails here, or find one at the parking area by the bridge.


JoJo said...

Wow! What a beautiful trail! I miss living up there so much. I'm in New England.

jill said...

Hey JoJo! You're still out there! Thanks for you comment. I hope you can make it out again sometime for a visit. Hope you have a great 2018.

Patricia K. Lichen said...

Yes--umbrellas! I always think those people who say Oregonians don't use umbrellas must never walk father than from parking lot into store. Umbrella-toting, hiking Oregonians, unite!

jill said...

Hey Patricia! Hear hear (or is it here here?)!