Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Best Beaches

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have no end of gorgeous beaches.

City beaches and wilderness beaches.
Near and far beaches. 
Lake and Sound and coastal beaches.
Sandy beaches and rocky beaches and log-strewn beaches. 
Beaches for walking or beaches more suited for sitting.

I could go on and on, but my point is this:

After three decades of intensive research, when you come to visit me, I will take you to my three best beaches.

And here is exactly how our adventures will go down.

* * * * *

Deception Pass State Park

Head north, either up the interstate for maximum efficiency or across the water on the ferry and up Whidbey Island - both routes will take about an hour. 

Once we come upon the bridge, we stash the car on the side of the road and walk across this iconic engineering marvel. We keep to the west side for the best views and we will be rewarded.

^ From our vantage point atop the bridge, we gaze west and get our bearings. Straight ahead lies the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a straight shot to the wide open Pacific. To the left, the top of Whidbey Island, and beyond, views of the Olympic Mountains.To the right, Fidalgo Island, and on beyond, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Mhmm.  Expect some "Welcome to Canada!" network notifications to start ringing in on your mobile.

^ The green-blue waters of Deception Pass are notoriously chaotic and not for novice boaters; watch the eddies and whirlpools form and fizzle as the tides rush in and out. And keep an eye out for marine mammals - on a recent outing, we see sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters.

^ Ah, but there's more to this place than the bridge. See the sandy bits of beach tucked here and there among the forest, broken up by rocky headlands, along the curving cove? That's North Beach. We can hike down in five minutes and probably find our own relatively private piece of surprisingly soft and sandy real estate where we can spread out a picnic and wade out into the icy cold waves, if we're feeling brave.

^ But let's drive on, if you don't mind, just a few minutes more and explore at West Beach. With the bridge at our backs, we're now at the waterline facing down the Strait. Waves crash more exuberantly here, and the wind feels deliciously wild, so even though there are more people here, there's also plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the sea.

 ^  Picnic tables perch along the top of the grassy ridge above the beach, perfect for our windswept meal of fruit and cheese, bread and chocolate, and then we wander to our hearts' content. 

It's an easy drive south down the island to the ferry from here and though we feel a million miles away, with some good luck at the ferry line, we'll be home in an hour. 

* * * * *

Double Bluff Beach

Bring some good walking shoes because this Whidbey Island bad boy runs five miles along a south-facing stretch of the water. We'll be walking there and back, and just for extra good fun, we'll be accompanied by dogs who are also enjoying a nice stretch of their legs.

Because Double Bluff is also an off-leash dog park, and about the dreamiest one I can imagine. Gracie joins in all of our beach outings but I suppose this one must be her favorite, and we'll all smile to see her reaction when I click the leash off her collar and say, "Okay, let'er rip!"

^ Trudge, trudge, trudge. Is it easier to walk in the loose, dry sand, or hobble across the cobblestone patches of rocks and intermittent bits of slippery kelp? Or pray for a low tide, when a blessedly smooth strip of soft sand emerges at the water's edge? No worries - with ten miles to cover, we have ample opportunity to sample and debate all the options.

^ The protected cove and soaring bluffs make remarkable vantage points for birds, and we see hawks, osprey, heron, and bald eagles. Hopefully, we've remembered to bring along a couple pairs of binoculars, and there will be many breaks taken to discuss and deliberate exactly what each specimen might be.

^ Gracie enjoys her own form of bird-watching, which involves stalking whatever might be floating out on Useless Bay.  As the huntress stares off across the water, we take our cue to do the same, and realize that the Seattle skyline is clearly visible to the south. City meets sky and sea, and we shake our heads in amazement to think that these two staggeringly different worlds lie in sight of one another.

Our house is not quite visible from this spot, but it is close. Half an hour back to the ferry and fifteen minutes to cross the water. 

* * * * *

Lighthouse Park

Four and a half miles. That's the distance from my driveway to my hometown beach on Possession Sound and its resplendent views of sea and sky, islands and mountains, ferry and lighthouse.

^Sea lions pop up almost every time we stop by; jelly fish are a dime a dozen and every now and then, a grey whale accidentally wanders in. This little neck of the woods is a lively place, and that goes for human visitors too. I'll admit that on weekends, the crowds can be a bit much for me what with picnics and barbecues and campfires and volleyball games and family reunions and teenage hangouts and Quinceañera photo get my point. 

But we live so close that we can swing by on the random Tuesday evening, or better yet, on an afternoon when stiff breezes, cloudy skies, or a few sprinkles of rain keep the lightweights away.

^ The ferry terminal now sits about a mile north of  Lighthouse Park, which keeps all the infrastructure and traffic associated with the state's busiest ferry run - as measured by vehicles carried - out of harm's way. Thankfully, the historic little lighthouse still sits here with its clapboard siding and dainty railed tower, still operating its Fresnel lens and fog horn to guide ships safely through her waters.

^ Of course we can wander along the rocky beach, climb on the beach logs, or stroll out on the floating docks, but depending on our mood and how much time we care to spend, we might want to investigate the old lighthouse keepers' residences and the charming lawns and gardens on which they sit.

^ I'll be honest - Ivar's Fish Bar is a short dash from the lighthouse, and even if you're not hungry enough for a piping hot plate of fish and chips, I'll bet you can't say no to a soft serve cone. The chocolate and vanilla twistee is my go-to. And Gracie, with much regret, will lie quietly in the shade till we finish our snack. Then we will call her to her feet, and slowly walk to the car and head up the hill toward home. 

* * * * *

For sure, there are countless other Pacific Northwest beaches deserving of your time. I don't dare leave out my beloved Kalaloch Beach, though with a four-hour trip each way, that gem must be saved for special opportunities. And while I hold no quibble with locals who might make some other recommendations to you, I stick by my list.

These three beaches are my tried and trues. They've stood by me as I've introduced round after round of house guests to their particular charms, some just as recently as this summer. I promise that you will love them.

Now all that's left is for you to come visit me and let me show you my best beaches. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please comment...I'd love to hear from you!