Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ebey's Landing Preserve National Historic Preserve, April 26, 2013

EBEY’S LANDING PRESERVE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PRESERVE (Whidbey Island) Mention “Ebey’s” and hikers ears perk up; it is a year-round favorite. Hike as little or as far as you wish, clockwise or counterclockwise, view Perego’s Lagoon from the bluffs or the shore, (consult a tide-table before hiking the beach). Dawdle; daydream, watch ships come and go where water seemingly meets sky. Enjoy a Rip Van Winkle nap in a sheltered spot out of the salty breeze. The scenery alone will sate your appetite for beauty but there’s more – there are interpretive signs featuring early explorations of the region and the Native Americans who lived on Ebey’s Prairie before settlers arrived. You can also hike from the bluffs to Sunnyside Cemetery, a pioneer burial ground, one of the most beautiful, poignant cemeteries we’ve ever visited. Ebey’s Landing is not only protected by the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountain range it is also protected by land-management agencies including The Nature Conservancy, the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks. The reserve is also home to rare plants including golden paintbrush, a rare Indian paintbrush known to exist in only a few places. Be on the watch for gray whales, eagles and a variety of seabirds including harlequin ducks near Parego’s Lagoon. We suggest hiking a 3.5-mile loop (our favorite) starting at the bluffs with views of Perego’s Lagoon, the Olympic Peninsula, the Straight of Juan de Fuca, even Mount Rainier on a clear day. The trail skirts the edge of lowland forest as it parallels the beach. From the bluff trail you can also enjoy a short, easy walk to the Sunnyside Cemetery (the junction is signed). Unless tides prohibit, don’t miss out on the beach-walk. On our recent visit we noted that a couple of our favorite, wind-gnarled Douglas firs along the bluffs had fallen - no surprise given that such bluffs are prone to erosion in a silent, endless war between land and water. Past the lagoon you’ll come to a steep, obvious trail that drops down to the beach. Over the years feet have beaten shortcuts down to the beach; stay on the main trail - not only is it safer, it is gentler on the terrain. There are several ways to hike the beach; if you’re agile you can dance along the driftwood, otherwise along the beach when tides are low or a trail that skirts the lagoon. Notice the different shapes of driftwood - let your imagination go and conjure fearsome or magical shapes cast up by the sea. Root-balls have floated from afar and come to rest at the edge of the lagoon – hikers often decorate these root monsters with stones and pretty shells. On cloudy, rainy days it is often hard to tell where fog ends and water begins – in such conditions your other senses sharpen and you’ll hear the mournful wail of foghorns and the colors of rocks and seaweed will jump out at you in psychedelic shades. Don’t overlook the colorful views at your feet. Though it was a spring day we didn’t see many wildflowers along the bluffs; however, the beach was another story presenting a kaleidoscope of seaweed, driftwood, kelp, pebbles and stones of every shape, size and color imaginable. We marveled at their intricate markings, some so smooth they felt polished others rough conglomerates glinting with minerals and agate striations. Other rocks were black as obsidian with a white blaze running through them like a bolt of lightning, no two alike. In contrast yellow coils of kelp glistened on the damp sand like ropes, knotted and twisted by eternal moon-pulled tides. Since Time was fleeting we drove to the Sunnyside cemetery rather than hike the trail. Sunnyside is a pioneer cemetery dating back to the mid-1800s. Native American tribes lived on the prairie for thousands of years and established the burial ground. According to their custom, they usually interred their dead by burying them in chests or canoes up in trees but that custom was abandoned within a decade after white settlers arrived. Headstones date back to the 1850s, including that of Isaac Ebey, an early settler. Ebey chose the prairie as a homestead for its beautiful setting overlooking Admiralty Inlet and the Olympic Mountains. During the Indian Wars of the 1850s, Ebey was killed by Haida Indians in retaliation for an ambush of their people by whites. The Haidas needed to kill a “white chief” to avenge their loss of one of their chiefs. The historic Davis Blockhouse can also be found at Sunnyside; one of many such structures built as a refuge in the event of attack. Getting there from Mukilteo-Clinton ferry: take Highway 525 north -- it eventually becomes State Route 20. Continue through Coupeville on State Route 20 and take the first left after the pedestrian overpass onto Ebey Road. Continue straight – do not take the curve to the left. Go straight toward the water and as you approach the water the road descends right to trailhead parking and restroom. A Discover Pass is required. To drive around from Seattle: go north on I-5 to Exit No. 230 (State Route 20), past Mount Vernon. Get off there, turn left at the stoplight and continue on SR 20 for about 15 miles. Near Anacortes turn left at the sign for “Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, Deception Pass” and continue on SR 20 (about 20 miles). As you approach Coupeville turn right on Ebey Road – if you get to the overpass you’ve gone a bit too far. Trail data: Ebeys Landing Loop, 3.5 miles, about 200 feet gain. Additional information: For additional information visit the website for Washington State Parks at . For additional human and natural history of the region here’s some interesting websites: The Nature Conservancy at , the National Park Service at , or Sunnyside Cemetery at . Karen Sykes

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