Sunday, January 26, 2014

Solving the Mystery of Protection Island

Hello. My name is Kelly, and I am a Groupon addict. For those of you who don't know what Groupon is, it's one of those websites that offers discounts on all kinds of things. (similar to "Living Social"; which I'm also addicted to) Although, I don't buy all kinds of things; I buy one kind of thing...getaways.
Quinault Beach Resort and Casino
Obviously I'm a sucker for a bargain; which I blame on my mother. We used to tease that the "I bought a piston engine" Monty Python skit was written with her in mind. (the joke being that of course unless one has a use for a piston engine, it's not such a good buy) Except the great thing about buying getaways is that I absolutely always use them. And the fact I get such good deals; well, that lessens the guilt about spending money on such frivolousness.
Checked in just in time to go and watch the sunset
You may be asking what does all this have to do with hiking? Well, it's winter; which means limited hiking options. Some of the best opportunities this time of year are beach hikes--which I've exhausted most in my area. So when I saw an amazing, can't pass it up deal for a night at the Quinault Beach Resort in Ocean Shores, I knew Damon Point would be my next hiking adventure.

I didn't read much about the Damon Point hike. I saw pictures of snowy owls, and something about them being there in January, and I was sold. I HAD to see the owls. I invited my friend Jewell to come along. We did a hike together a couple years ago and an owl swooped down right in front of us; so I figured she must be some sort of owl whisperer. Plus we didn't get to do even one hike together last year; so we were due. 
People playing in the water kept us entertained
Can you say "burrrr!!!!"
Even though I didn't read much about the hike, I printed out the description off of the WTA website to make up for the fact I had no sort of map whatsoever. You go around a point...I mean, how simple can you get.
Just a little windy
After we found the obvious parking area, we decided to read about how to go about doing this hike. Head east to Protection Island, across a narrow spit that connects the mainland to your destinationFirst of all, I have to confess I didn't know which way was east. Secondly, what exactly is a "spit" again? And thirdly, what the hell are they talking about an island for? We were both thoroughly confused.
So, we just started walking. East or not, we could see what looked like a point, so it seemed logical to head to the end of it. Neither of us could imagine any sort of "island", and we kept telling each other it would all make sense eventually. 
Accommodations at the end of the point.
I can get you a good deal.
We continued to read our "directions". After crossing the spit you have some choices: hike around the point along the beach or head down the old road to the point.This was even more baffling. Road? What the heck? We finally ran into some locals who filled us in. They told us if we ventured into the "brush" (the area between the beaches) we would run into this road , complete with road stripes and all. Okay...why not. We wanted to see this no longer functioning road to nowhere. (well, the directions said it used to go to "Protection Island"...whatever that was)
Lunch break
After wandering through the brush for a while, Jewell announces she needed pee. I told her to go for it; I mean, I was doubting we would ever find this stupid road and there was not a soul in sight. Why does it never fail that as soon as you squat, someone shows up? Two people walking on the just out of sight road...if only I still had my she-pee for Jewell to borrow, it wouldn't have been a big deal. (it fell out of my pack on my Buck Creek Pass loop hike. Yes, the same hike I lost my tent poles. Even though I was happy to get my poles returned, if you found my she-pee, consider it a gift. ;))

If we would have gone east and hiked the loop clockwise,
maybe we would have found the road straightaway.
(see it to the right?)
We walked on the road back until suddenly it was no more. We finished up the hike on the sand; and still pondering what this island that never materialized was, we came back to the access point to the beach (which was paved) when Jewell had an "Aha!" moment. "This is the road to the island. The point used to be the island, until the 'spit' grew and connected the two and destroyed the road." And sure enough, look what we found when we got to our car and looked at the road sign. Mystery solved. 
In case you didn't already guess, the owls never showed. I won't lie, I was pretty bummed. But, this is a hike I would consider doing again...if I can find a deal at one of the cute cottages right on the beach. No falling off the Groupon wagon just yet.

P.S. We threw in the "Sandpiper Trail" at Gray's Harbor Wildlife Refuge for good measure. I would recommend stopping if you have the time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hiking with Katy

My daughter's ex-girlfriend called me the other day to ask if I wanted to go hiking with her. That's right, "ex" in used to date. Being a religious family, getting past the gay issue has been quite a journey; but I'm thankful for it. Extremely thankful, actually; because being the mother of a gay child has changed me in ways I never thought possible. It's made me a better person, I hope. The people that I've met and the stories I have heard are a big part of that; including Katy.

Katy was "Kayden" when we first met. I haven't asked her why she changed back to her birth name, but I like to think it's because she is more at peace with who she has always been. It seems that way, anyway. Regardless of her reasons, I have certainly seen her grow and mature as a human being, and it's been wonderful to watch. I can only hope I've helped her a little on the way.

Lexi was not a fan of crossing the bridges!
So, back to the hike. When I picked her up, she had on a day pack that looked like a 10 year old's school backpack. (sorry Katy, but you know it's true) I had just run into her at REI buying her first real backpack the week prior, so I was confused. "It's too big for a day hike", she told me. When she confessed she was so excited about it being on sale (a girl after my own heart!) that she didn't even put the weights in it and try it out when she bought it, I convinced her she needed to load it up and test it out. Better to know if she hated it now than when she was out on a backpacking trip, right?
On the way I stopped at the Mt. Baker National Forest office to buy my annual Northwest Forest Pass, because when I was there last time I was so confused as to why they didn't sell the "Discover Pass" that I left without getting one. Too bad they are closed on weekends...when everybody is out hiking. Not that I'm whining about it or anything. ;)

Thankfully Katy had her own NW Forest Pass, so we were off to do part of Baker Lake's East Bank trail. This trail has both a northern and southern trail head; and even though it's less of a drive to the southern one, I really wanted to check out the northern end. Someday I plan on doing the whole thing as a two day group backpack, with a car at each end. (why backtrack when you don't have to?)
The lake was pretty darn low
I was hoping to check out Noisy Creek campground at 4.5 miles in, but we pooped out before we got there. (ugh, I hate not knowing how close we were...I bet it was less than a mile) Though, this day was really not about a destination or clocking in miles; it was about walking and talking. I just love the effortless of conversation when your hiking with someone; though I guess on some trails I have to think more about just trying to keep moving than talking--but this is not one of those trails.
Look at poor Lexi. She just wants off.
This bridge she can handle!
Katy was telling me about her desire to volunteer to help at risk kids, and how neat it would be to be involved in a program involving the outdoors. (nature has a way of healing the soul; I think this is true) I told her about running into two different groups while on different backpacking trips who were doing just that, when wouldn't you know it, we ran into another one. It looked like a boy scout group, and they had quite a lot of kids all set up with their tents when we got back to the parking lot. God bless them.
Profile pic worthy, I think

I believe Katy will find her niche and be a real blessing to people who are hurting; her own pain has given her such real compassion. I hope also to find my own place to help; in fact, I think I may already have. I'm giving a link to an article by a very courageous woman who has inspired me to try once again to start a support group for those who are struggling with faith and their sexuality, or that of a loved one. Get a tissue if your going to read it:
(don't know why I can't get that to work. You'll have to cut and paste, sorry!)
Whatever difficulties we have been through in life, the beautiful thing is it gives us opportunity to connect and help others who are struggling through the same thing. I haven't worked out the specifics yet, but if there is anyone out there who would be interested in a group like this, just email me at
A view of the suspension bridge from the river.
It's not difficult to get down to the water.

Nothin like the smell of wet dog for the whole ride home

Sunday, January 5, 2014

First Hike of 2014

This year came in with more of a moan than a bang. I was feeling depressed...2013 was an awesome year, and maybe I was just sad to see it go. I'm not exactly sure the reason; only that I was feeling a general foreboding about 2014. There is nothing like a jaunt in the wilderness to air out the mind, so I decided my hiking hiatus was over. It was time to get back out there.

At first I thought I needed something a little different...something new, exciting, and challenging. Come out of the gate running, as they say. Why not try snowshoeing? But the current conditions for the spot I wanted to snowshoe meant a chance at a little more excitement than I was ready in, "you may get buried by an avalanche" excitement. Not a good way to start off a year your having "foreboding" feelings over. 
I decided instead to just take my dog over to Rockport state park for a good old fashioned walk in the woods. I know, how tame can you get, right? I went from wanting to come out of the gate running to instead crawling; but I realized what I really wanted was solitude. Rockport has been indefinitely closed for anything but day use for some time now, and so most people only stop to use the restrooms. (which are quite nice, btw) The handful of trip reports on the WTA website raved about how the 3 mile loop there is an overlooked treasure, so I figured it was time to check it out. 
A new twist to my obligatory bridge pic...bridge with dog!
First of all, you need a "Discover Pass" to park there. (though there are signs saying you got 15 free minutes...just enough time to take a pee) So I stopped at the Ranger Station to buy my very first annual Discover Pass. Guess what? You can't buy them there. I'm sick to death of people whining about the government, so I'll just say I found this a little baffling. No matter, I bought one at the Red Market and determined not to let it bother me. 
Lexi soaking in a little sun
Lexi was so afraid of this monster root that
she growled at it...which sort of scared the crap
out of me until I realized what she
was growling at.
When I finally arrived, I was concerned that my solitude plans were ruined as there where quite a few cars there. Though, a closer look revealed no passes; which meant everyone was probably just using their free 15 minute potty break. 

Outer Evergreen Trail, and inner Fern Creek Trail
And sure enough, in my leisurely two hours of strolling both the loops there, (see map) I did not see a single soul. The abandoned campsites had an eerie sort of apocalyptic feeling to them which I actually really enjoyed. When I came to the end of the large loop I found a beautifully designed interpretive trail that is completely wheelchair accessible. It was here that the full weight of my foreboding feelings and sadness hit me, with the realization that one of my best friends might be needing to use this before the year is out. It's quite a story, but all I will say is muscular dystrophy is not something you would want, and there are rare forms that you REALLY don't want. I tried not to cry, but instead thought about how wonderful it was that this trail is available. I determined that I would take my friend back here with her wheelchair when it comes to that, and it will be a good day; a good day of not thinking about what tomorrow might bring, because none of us really know. But we all know that a simple, old fashioned walk in the woods is a good thing any day, and I was certainly thankful for this one.