Dungeness Lighthouse

<< Salmon Off A Truck

08/09/04 - To The Lighthouse

Last week we took a walk on the Dungeness Spit which is an unusual sand formation jutting out from the North Olympic Peninsula into the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. It is basically a sandbar shaped by the prevailing current from the west meeting the silty flow of the Dungeness River. The hike is about five miles each way, from the parking lot to the lighthouse and back, 4.5 miles of which are along the sand bar. You often see seals, cormorants, loons, and other wildlife, along with the sea traffic along the strait. There are excellent views of the Olympic Mountains and Vancouver Island, and a great sense of isolation being both so close to short and so cut off from it and surrounded almost completely by water.

On a cloudy day, the driftwood forest and the sky seem to be the same color. We tend to try and walk close to the water, so we can smell the sea and watch for washed up kelp and shells. The footing is also better closer to the see, since the wet sand holds one's weight better, and sand is easier to walk on than the lumpy, polished rocks that are deposited by the tide. The less determined hikers drop out by the one mile marker, which is next to the remains of a beached dinghy perched with the driftwood well above the sea. The bluffs vanish behind one as the spit curves between mile posts two and three. Then come the sandy tide pools stranded by the sand bars. By mile four, you often find a pod of seals who seem to hang around out towards the lighthouse.

It rained on our last trip, but the real challenges are the rocks and sand. You can wear a raincoat and broad brimmed hat, but the trick is to find the right low tide. Since our last trip, we've put together a little driver for finding tides using the XTide program. It is a really dinky little program, and in retrospect it seems kind of obvious. You might want to check it out before your next littoral adventure.

Keywords: dungeness spit, trails, dungeness, tides