People ask me which of the trails we write about is my favorite. I always joke that it is the last trail I just walked, whatever trail that may be, as I am captured by whatever that trail has to offer. But when given a choice, there are a handful of trails that always draw me back to them whenever I have a chance to visit. North Beach is one of those trails.
Morning commuters raced across the Deception Pass bridge, taking quick glances at the beauty of the Pass while bracing themselves for a full day of work. The muted summer sun fought its way through drifting morning clouds to highlight the smooth water of the Pass. The tide was almost done ebbing, with slack an hour or so away.
I parked at the empty parking lot at the south end of the bridge, put my Discover Pass on my dash, and strolled down the trail toward North Beach. Immediately I found a quieter world away from the traffic, and an amazing world of wind-sculpted trees, rocky headlands, and a sweep of beach stretching out before me for over a mile. I dropped into the shadowed, cool old-growth woodlands next to the beach and had to choose: hike the beach westward and the trail back, or trail first and then the beach? I’m a beach guy. I walked out onto the beach and felt the sun warming the day, smelled the life of low tide, heard a dozen bird songs in my first dozen minutes on the beach, and saw a wide open beach-way leading westward on sand and stones.
There isn’t much life in this intertidal zone, as it is swept four times a day, ripped more precisely, by tides racing by at up to 8 knots. So I wandered from the edge of the beach to the edge of the woods and back again, finding a myriad of sparrows and warblers and creepers in the forest and the gentle swishing and lapping of water at the shoreline.
I turned frequently to see the changing view of the bridge, rising above me and silhouetted by the sun. The water glistened as I approached West Point. The tide was low enough that I walked completely around the point on beach cobble, coming out on West Beach where an eagle looked from his perch toward the Navy base a few miles south. No one was here either. The parking lot was empty. The campground was empty, scheduled to open soon I hear. But for now, there was only the sound of yet more birds, calling to each other in this urgent time of spring.
The trail parallels the shoreline all the way back, sometimes close to the water, sometimes a dozen feet from the cliff edge, but with peek-a-boo views all along the trail, especially at the west end. Again I heard the choir and chorus of all the bird species around me. The AdventureTerra climbing tree stood alone but inviting to ascend to its top once again, a magical adventure the last time I did that. Old-growth Douglas fir trees fill this corner of the park, creating a cathedral far grander and holier than anything made with hands.
Soon I was back in the lower parking lot where an open restroom awaits those who need it. I wandered back out to the beach – I know, that’s not a surprise. The tide had just turned, but the beach was still wide enough to walk underneath the headland that usually separates Little North Beach, directly under the bridge, from the main stretch of North Beach. A family of geese that had played near me at West Point had made their way here too at the same time. I let them be as I walked inland, back to the trail, and back to the parking lot at the bridge.