Steam Donkey Trail


Steam Donkey Trail in Dosewallips State Park is one that I’ve been looking at for much of the winter, simply because of its low elevation. We kept putting it off because reviews made it seem a little basic. I do suspect that it is not nearly as much fun in the summer. It starts right out of the campground and it’s pretty easy, so I bet it’s packed with people and dogs all summer long. On a sunny day in February, however, it was just delightful. We only ran into two other groups–one a group of friendly twenty-somethings; another, two older guys with a pack of rather vicious sounding tiny dogs.

The trail has quite a bit of debris from recent bad weather, but most of it is smaller branches and such. It’s also pretty wet still. My guess is that during rainy spells, the trail itself becomes one of the many creeks in the area. We wore hiking boots and stayed perfectly dry, but I wouldn’t wear tennis shoes at this time of year! The water features were the highlight for us. Lots of creeks, the sound of water everywhere, glimpses of the river toward the end (the Maple Valley Trail side), and some lovely little waterfalls. Phantom Creek, which you cross twice if you do both trails, is gorgeous right now. Not sure what it will look like by the end of the summer.

For a complete change of scenery, you can hop over Highway 101 to the Canal side and catch the beach life (though it’s not a sandy beach). You can hike out quite aways at low tide, but probably not so much when the tide comes in! It’s interesting, but I would save it for after the main hike. We did see several sea lions and tons of birds. This is also where our boots got wet–with lovely (not!) sea-smelling mud from the tide flats. The boots are now hanging out in the garage for awhile!

Since we had some time left, we decided to head up river to the Dosewallips Rec Area. We haven’t been there in years, long before the road washout. We had no intention of hiking up there so late in the day, but we did want to check out the parking situation for later in the year. Even at this early date, there were five other vehicles at the end, and not a whole lot of room. Again, it could get pretty crowded on the summer weekends. Also, please note that it is still definitely winter up there! Snow on the road for the last mile or so. There have been lots of people up that way so it wasn’t too bad, but we did put the Explorer in 4-wheel drive just in case. We saw a small herd of elk in a pasture on the way up.

All in all, a very good day, especially with a stop at the Hama Hama Seafood Company Oyster Bar on the way home!


Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit February 2, 2017

Our first hike for February was the 5.5 mile trek out to the New Dungeness Lighthouse on Dungeness Spit in Sequim. We’re not hard core winter hikers or snowshoers, so we were looking for a nice winter hike that doesn’t require any specialized winter gear. This is a good one. One bonus for this hike at this time of year–far fewer people! It’s easy to get to and very popular in the summer, so if you like a bit of solitude, avoid it during summer vacation.

I will say this about the hike. If you have not kept in great shape over the winter, it’s not quite as easy as it looks! Hiking in sand and gravel always gives you a bit more of a workout than you may have been expecting. This is 10 miles of nothing but sand and gravel (or practicing your balance beam moves on driftwood), with a bit of a slant so you feel like one leg is shorter than the other by the time you reach the lighthouse. It also looks much closer than it actually is. If you are hiking with kids, there may be a lot of “are we there yet?” There may be some of that even if you are not hiking with kids!

It can also be very windy. Very, very windy. This might actually be helpful on your way back from the lighthouse. Spread your arms out and see if that wind might help propel you a little bit! Guess it will depend on how baggy your coat is. I am sure the wind is generally worse in the winter, but we went there several times in the summer when our daughter was young (and no, we never made it to the lighthouse then!). I always remember it as being windy. Anyway, be prepared for it. I wore just about the same clothes yesterday as I did to Crystal Mountain last week, minus the ski pants (though I still had on two bottom layers). I was colder at the beach than I was at Crystal.

It was, however, very clear. The views were amazing. The Olympics in all their glory behind us. Vancouver Island to the north, and Mt. Baker, looking like you could just reach out and touch it. The views were even more spectacular from the top of the lighthouse. That’s the reward for going the whole way. They have guest keepers out there who will show you around and take you to the top. There is a lovely lawn and several picnic tables, and a clean bathroom with running water (it’s even hot, which is really nice when you feel like you might be close to frostbite!). Lots of history too. Bring a few dollars if you think about it. Donations help keep it in good shape. If you are so inclined, you can also rent the place for a time (there is a house too; you won’t be sleeping in the lighthouse). You get a unique experience for a reasonable amount of money in exchange for showing people around and general upkeep.

The tip of the Spit past the lighthouse, and most of the south side, is a wildlife refuge, so it’s off limits. We saw a few sea lions in the water. Depending on the time of year, you might see whales as well. And always lots of birds. Since most of the beach is as much rock as it is sand, you won’t find much in the way of whole shells, but we found a few pieces of beach glass and quite of few agates (at least I think that’s what they are!). And there is a ton of driftwood. Do watch the weather and the tides though. You’ll want to head out to the lighthouse when the tide is going out, not coming in!