Ebey’s Landing

I did a 5-mile loop around Ebey’s Landing in Coupeville, on Whidbey Island. Isaac Ebey was Whidbey Island’s first settler. We saw his fertile homestead, still being farmed to this day.

Farm at Ebey's Landing
Farm at Ebey’s Landing

Overlooking the water, there was the Lincoln log blockhouse he built to protect against raiding Indians. Ebey was assassinated by Indians before he turned 40, but he had accomplished much in his short life. He studied law, was an attorney, farmer, father, and well-respected leader in his local militia, even assisting in the separation of Oregon and Washington. Those early pioneers were so adventurous and diligent. Where is the frontier of my generation, what is left unexplored? Modern comforts are standard. People spend so many hours watching TV,  frittering life away in a semi-catatonic state.

The reflection of the bluff on the water
The reflection of the bluff on the water

Anyway, the hike was pleasant, beautiful views all around with no effort, only 300 ft. of elevation gain. The trail went parallel to the water along a grassy bluff, with offshoots into into thorny bushes and coniferous forest.

Posing on the grassy bluff
Posing on the grassy bluff

Then eroded trail went down along sand and rocky shore, then along the shore, the trail looped back to the beginning. The shore’s rocks were varied in size, color, and speckles. Driftwood lay scattered along the coast.

Rocky coast full of driftwood
Rocky coast full of driftwood

Afterwards, the group ate lunch on Front Street. I tried the local Penn Cove mussels. We drove back to the ferry terminal, thankful for the pleasant day. Somehow, it rained all day except for the hours we were hiking.

Deception Pass

I hiked 9+ miles of trails at Deception Pass, so-named by George Vancouver because he was deceived into thinking that Whidbey Island was a peninsula. There were steep sections, but overall elevation gain was minimal.

Oh, didn't see you there. Hi!
Oh, didn’t see you there. Hi!

First, I hiked to Lottie Bay and Lighthouse Point. The scenery was beautiful. In hiking all the trails, I saw Deception Island and the bridge from every angle. Tree-covered bluffs rose up out of the sea. The lighthouse was rather small and unconventional, a metal box surrounded by silver beams.

green waters and mountains at Deception Pass
green waters and mountains at Deception Pass

Below a cliff where I stood, there was a group of 12 sea lions (or a raft of sea lions, the plural form of sea lions on water). Their heads bobbed above the surface. Occasionally they would dive and disappear for a while. Sometimes they would spin on their body axis, revealing their speckled white bellies. On a rock far from the coast, sleek black cormorants rested idly.

the rock on the left had a climbable path
the rock on the left had a climbable path

The sky was cloudy, but towards the afternoon, the sun broke through. I ate lunch on Fidalgo Island. There was a wooden carving of a woman with flowing hair holding a fish above her head, the Maiden of Deception Pass. Some placards told her story, a story of the Samish people. A maiden was gathering shellfish, when a hand from the sea reached out and grabbed hers. This happened on several different trips. One day, the maiden requested to see this person, and a handsome young man rose from the water. He met the maiden’s family. He requested to marry her, but the maiden’s father would not allow it, saying she could not live in the sea. The young man said that it was his household that generously provided all their water and seafood, and so he stopped his generosity.  Having no more food to eat or clean water, the father relented, under the condition that his daughter visit every year. Each time his daughter visited, the family noticed she was becoming increasingly colder and inhuman, with scales and barnacles growing on her. She was sad to be away from her husband. So the father said she no longer had to visit if she didn’t want to. And though the maiden stopped visiting, she continued providing for her people.

scenery at Deception Pass
scenery at Deception Pass

As I crossed over the bridge, I could see Mt. Baker. The snow-capped mountain was in stark contrast to the darker mountains surrounding it. I dropped a stick and a rock off the bridge, and watched them fall and fall and fall. It was a long way down from the bridge into the swift currents below.

the green beams of Deception Pass Bridge
the green beams of Deception Pass Bridge

At Goose Rock, the sun was setting. To the left, I could see Mt. Rainier, a faint white mountain on the pink horizon. To the right, there was a sweeping view of trees, buildings, and water.

view from Goose Rock
view from Goose Rock

Seattle Aquarium

My brother visited over the weekend. We walked around the city with his co-workers. Coming from conservative towns, they were surprised by the massive turnout for the Women’s March. From the Space Needle, we could see the march stretching from the Seattle Center down south into the city until the view was impeded by skyscrapers. An hour later, after taking the monorail to Westlake, we saw the march was still going strong, with no sign of the tail end.

Marchers blanketing 4th Ave
Marchers blanketing 4th Ave

We visited the typical Seattle tourist attractions. For the first time ever, I visited the Seattle Aquarium. The aquarium was definitely geared towards small children. I found it rather small. Except for a Hawaiian fish section, the species were all native to the Puget Sound. In the tide pools where visitors could touch the invertebrates, I saw a familiar sight: the green anemones and pink algae from the Olympic National Park beach tide pools. The anemones’ tentacles gripped my finger when I prodded them.

Life on the Edge tide pool exhibit
Life on the Edge tide pool exhibit

There was a fish tank modeled after Neah Bay. A diver inside the tank talked about the ecosystem and fed krill to coho salmon. At the end of the talk, the diver asked if there were any questions. A boy raised his hand.

“What’s your question?”

“I like fish.”

Jellyfish
Jellyfish

The flounder glided with an awkward sideways grace. A crab methodically ate some kind of debris off the edges of the anemone. Everything underwater was so slow and unhurried, and so colorful. There was an octopus that remained suctioned to the glass all day. A caretaker gave it fish on a stick, and it grabbed the fish with one tentacle. Otherwise, it remained immobile. The octopuses, seals, otters— they were well-fed, but their tanks were so small compared to the natural environment outside the aquarium. Where would the animals prefer to live, or did they even know any better? I enjoyed watching the otters. They had a lot of energy, swimming on their backs, diving, harassing each other. And they would laze about in a relatable way.

Enjoy the Silence

I snowshoed a 5-mile loop in the Commonwealth Basin, walking through a dense forest of fir, cedar, and hemlock. Some trees were 700+ years old. Scientists took cylindrical cores of the trees, and counted the rings under microscope. I saw a couple trees with prism-shaped hollows. Early settlers carved these hollows and would lay there marten traps in them. There was even a tree trunk with spiral grain, theorized to be caused by the uneven distribution of nutrients in the soil and the changing location of where light broke through. I saw the tracks of a snowshoe hare, a perfectly straight line of footprints to conserve energy and get from Point A to Point B.

The snow had accumulated 7 feet above the actual dirt trail, the actual trail nowhere to be seen. I thought back to the time I had hiked in the snow without snowshoes, and was glad to be prepared this time. The snow completely transformed the landscape. There were tree stumps with mounds of snow on top, and trees whose trunks curved under the weight of the snow like spiraling ferns. I crossed over Commonwealth Creek on bridges of snow. Some snow bridges looked tenuous, with top-heavy piles of snow overhanging the creek on thin logs. The snow transformed the landscape, but at the same time, it made everything look the same. Looking one direction, snow, trees, and mountains. Looking another direction, more snow, trees, and mountains.

Snow mounds on trunks
Snow mounds on trunks

The mountains boxed me in at all times. I could see the Kendall Katwalk, Red Mountain, and other Snoqualmie mountains.

a view of Kendall Katwalk
A view of Kendall Katwalk

The best part of snowshoeing was the all-consuming stillness. There was no rustling of branches, for the trees broke the wind and the supple branches drooped under the heavy weight of the snow. There was only the crunch of snow under my feet and sparkle of the snow-covered ground in the sun. Like dust, snowy powder fell from branches and danced where rays of light broke through the trees. I mostly snowshoed in the shadow of trees. Whenever I was in a sunny clearing, the difference in temperature was palpable. The numbness left my face, and I basked in the warmth and brightness of the light.

Me posing in the clearing where I ate lunch
Me posing in the clearing where I ate lunch

I would say my greatest joy from snowshoeing is when all the ideal conditions simultaneously converge, and that is, going downhill breaking trail in fresh powder under the warm and blinding sun. My feet sank into the softness. Even if I fell, it did not matter, it was falling into a bed of feathers.