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04/30/13 - The Dungeness Dike

The Dungeness Dike Trail has its trailhead along a pretty stretch of Towne Road, not far from the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse. It's a pretty tame walk, but it offers spectacular mountain views. The trail follows the river, as it is a dike, and there are side trails that lead down to the river proper. We saw a few adult bald eagles flying around the fields, possibly a mated pair, and, by the river, we saw a group of three young bald eagles who posed for photos.

It's like something produced by the Swiss National Tourist Board.

Welcome to Switzerland.

The Dungeness Dike Trail

The Dungeness River

Two young eagles

A third young eagle

Another view of the river

The blue sky

California poppies

Keywords: dungeness dike trail, spring, birds, eagle

02/22/13 - Morse Creek West

We often drive out to Morse Creek and park near the old railroad bridge. From there, we walk west towards Port Angeles. It's maybe a mile down to the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, and depending on time and energy, we'll walk for another mile or two towards town. Lately, we haven't been getting as far, but we have been seeing some amazing things.

Indian plum blossoms

Mount Baker framed by dark cloud and water

One of the many eagles

Keywords: morse creek, mount baker, port angeles, eagle

01/31/13 - Dungeness Spit - Let The Good Tides Roll

We're having some good tides at Dungeness Spit this winter. For example, there was a low tide below three feet around 12:30 today, and there was a lot of sand on the beach which made for easy walking. We saw a few eagles, a number of sea birds and the usual assortment of kelpies, that is, blobs of kelp that look like sea birds. There is another round of good tides coming up in mid-February, around Valentine's Day in fact, so we'll be watching our tide tables and hoping for good weather.

Keywords: birds, dungeness, dungeness spit, tides, winter, eagle

07/28/12 - Cape Alava

We went back to Cape Alava and took a long walk, but we didn't do the full nine mile loop. We had intended to. Cape Alava is a two hour or so drive from Port Angeles, so we always try to spend a full day there, hiking as much as we can. People tend to think that Seattle is on the west coast, but then, you have to drive another three hours west to get to Port Angeles. By the time you've driven another two hours west, you expect to be on the ocean, but at Cape Alava there is another hour's walk.

It's a beautiful walk through forest and meadows. Back until the 1980s, it was a walk through mud. Then the park service put in a boardwalk, but more recently they've been replacing the boardwalk with a gravel aggregate. The trail is lined with salal and ferns and skunk cabbage and every other type of northwest rain forest plant. If you pay attention, you'll see some big old trees that rival any in the Hoh. The meadow is old grassland with the grasses going to seed and a few pacific dogwood blossoms still showing.

The beach itself is at the end of the earth. We made our way down and were pleasantly surprised. The waters of the Pacific were still a fair ways off, but we were on the water's edge following a good path of sand, stones and dried out seaweed. We headed south towards Sand Point, but all too soon the trail dissolved into large rocks and small stones decorated with wet seaweed. It was rough going, and we were more tired than we had thought. We gave up well before the first headland.

So, we stopped and ate our lunch and watched the eagles on the rocks. We explored a bit, but the trail ahead was rough going, more than we could take for the hour or so it would take. We weren't even sure we could make it around the headland. Sometimes you have to accept your limits, so we made our way back to the car for a seven mile hike, rather than the full nine plus. All told, it was a good day's outing, and it was great to see the Pacific Ocean at Cape Alava again.

Through the woods

Across the meadows

Still some pacific dogwood in bloom

View from the beach

Half decent footing on the beach at first

But it got rougher

And even rougher

Eagles on a rock

Reflected sea stack

The headland

The Ozette River

Keywords: cape alava, trails, eagle

01/31/12 - Very High Tides at Dungeness Spit

The winter storms a few weeks back led to very high tides at the Dungeness Spit. We looked at our tide table and saw a seven foot tide, falling, so we imagined a narrow beach, but a passable one. When we got down to the beach we saw something else, no beach at all. The stormy weather had brought in an extra foot or two of water.

So, instead of a hike along the spit, we walked along the bluffs, and things were different here as well. We had noticed some serious erosion on our last visit, but it appears that an entire chunk of the old trail has collapsed into the strait, and a new trail has been routed inland.

So, on one nature walk, we were reminded of both the beauty and the power of nature.

The view back south

The view out on the spit - You can see how little beach there was.

Another view out

Another view of the spit, or what's left of it

The eagles don't seem to be bothered.

Some frost on the ground.

The new trail a safe distance back from the crumbling bluffs

A view of the mountains from the bluffs

They have a fence closing off the old trail, and it's just as well.

Keywords: dungeness spit, tides, weather, winter, eagle

05/30/11 - Dungeness Spit Update

It was a five foot tide, not exactly low, but the beach was surprisingly walkable. There was lots of sand, and the sand was firm, so we walked for a couple of miles, bird watching and beachcombing.

One of the eagles we saw

The view out

A dried starfish

Two mystery birds - Our bird atlas is no help.

Lush green along the redone trail to the spit

Keywords: dungeness spit, birds, eagle

04/15/11 - Morse Creek Eagles

We saw two bald eagles at Morse Creek, a young one without the distinctive "bald" head and a fully mature one. It's spring, so there was a lot of water flowing under the old railroad bridge, and further down the Olympic Discovery Trail towards Port Angeles the bluffs have been crumbling and blocking the trail with mud and fallen trees. The professional maintenance team has been doing a good job keeping the trail passable, clearing out branches, removing the mud and redoing the drainage. We should also put in a good word for the amateurs who have been collecting litter and keeping the trail clean.

Can you see the bald eagle perched on a branch over Morse Creek?

How about this close up? (What do you expect from a point and shoot telephoto camera?)

A younger bald eagle was nearby.

The downstream creek

The trail

Keywords: morse creek, port angeles, spring, eagle

03/16/11 - A Gathering of Eagles

The trees were full of bald eagles at the Dungeness Dike Trail. There were at least eight, more likely a dozen of them. Was it the season? The river in flood? We had seen a couple in one of the trees along Towne Road, but the spotting was even better along the dike itself.

A Bald Eagle

Another Bald Eagle

There's scenery too (and probably bald eagles in those trees).

Keywords: dungeness dike trail, birds, eagle

12/13/10 - Winter Eagles

While we aren't the biggest fans of winter, we do like the way it reveals things. Most of the trees around here keep their leaves, but there are enough deciduous trees so that the forest seems to open up for the season. There are all sorts of things hidden in the canopy, like this eagle nest near the Dungeness River, shown with its two proud owners.

Keywords: dungeness, winter, birds, eagle

02/04/10 - Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit is not always an easy hike. The tides vary by eight feet in a typical day, and during high tide the beach is not only small, but rocky. In the winter it is worse. Not only are there fewer good tides, but the winter tides often wash out the sand, so even at low tide, it can be rough going.

This year, however, is a good year for hiking the Dungeness Spit. The beach is broad and sandy, so it is easy to avoid all the rocky patches. The strait is full of seabirds, loons, scoters, cormorants and many others beyond our limited identification skills. Oh yes, there are eagles, lots of eagles. There's no point in waiting for spring to hike the Dungeness Spit. It's good walking even now, and, as a bonus, the Indian plum is already in bloom.

An eagle

Dungeness Spit

Indian plum in bloom

Keywords: birds, dungeness, dungeness spit, spring, tides, winter, eagle

08/07/08 - Return To The Lighthouse

There have been some good tides at Dungeness Spit lately, so we wandered out to sea dryshod. The going was fairly easy, so we walked and walked, and before were knew it we were approaching the light house. The Dungeness Spit lighthouse hike is always a bit dreamy, but we were well rewarded with eagles, seals, gulls, terns and sea and sand.

Near the lighthouse we heard the gulls in an uproar. There was a cloud of hundreds flocking about. Then we saw the cause of this commotion. Two young bald eagles were being mobbed with gulls flying low over them and trying to force them from the sky. It wasn't exactly a concerted action, but it was effective. The young eagles were driven east.

Then the skies quieted. We walked onward to visit the lighthouse and pay a call on the seals who were not far off the spit near the lighthouse walkway. As we noted earlier, the Dungeness Spit lighthouse hike is always a bit dreamy.

Keywords: dungeness, dungeness spit, tides, eagle

Low tide, but the beach is rocky.

06/24/08 - Good Hiking Tides at Dungeness Spit

There have been some good hiking tides at Dungeness Spit lately. Yesterday, there was a -0.6 foot tide around one o'clock, so there was lots of beach to walk on. Check our tide tables, or our little notice on the left banner of this page, to find some other good tides in the near future. We have to be honest and report that the beach, while broad, was a bit rocky, with lots of small stones that kept us hopping. Still, we made it pretty far down, and we'll try for the lighthouse later this season.

Looking back at the mountains.

Dungeness Spit is more than just seagulls.

Keywords: dungeness spit, tides, birds, eagle

03/02/08 - Back To Second Beach - Driftwood Report

We were back at Second Beach yesterday for the low tide around two o'clock. The trail through the rain forest hasn't changed, but the first thing we noticed when we got down to the beach was driftwood. There is always a fair bit of driftwood near the base of the trail, but this winter a lot more big logs have piled up there.

The beach itself was rather wet, with flat sheets of water running over much of it. Still, it was good walking, as long as we kept an eye on the waves. Second Beach is a broad, flat beach, so a little breaker can run a long way.

That bald eagle below actually did look a bit ratty. He, or she, was molting, so the classic profile wasn't quite what one would find on a postage stamp.

Lots of driftwood

Even more driftwood, and a peek at the hole in the wall

The weather cleared up a bit

A molting bald eagle

Lots of water

Keywords: second beach, winter, eagle

02/29/08 - Dungeness Spit Is For The Birds

We've been getting some good tides at Dungeness Spit, so we decided to do a bit of exploring. The tide was low and there was a lot of sand on the beach, so it was easy going. The view of the mountains was stupendous as you can see in the picture to the right.

There were two bald eagles, maybe a dozen yards apart, perched on the driftwood on the high ground of the spit. The older eagle took off shortly after we started taking pictures, but the young eagle stood his or her ground.

The mature eagle

The kid
The sea was full of ducks and duck like birds including mergansers, loons, eiders, and cormorants. They're a bit hard to photograph since they tend to dive when they hear your camera focus. Still, they're fun to watch.

We also ran into this little fellow on the right. We aren't sure whether this is pheasant season or not, but this guy was hiding out in the refuge.

Another kind of bird

Keywords: birds, dungeness, dungeness spit, tides, eagle

Mysterious sea stack at Second Beach

09/03/07 - The Eagle and the Shark

Second Beach was hazy, gray and mysterious today. We went for a high low tide and managed to get to the sea cave but no farther. The air was thick, moist and salty, the sea silver and the tidal flats glassy. There was a bit of melodrama as if lifted from a nature documentary.

On our way south to the sea cave we noticed a small shark stranded on a sand bar. We considered helping, but were separated by a rather deep bit of water. It wasn't clear we could get to the shark without getting soaked. Besides, there had just been an article in the New York Times about a shark saved at Rockaway Beach. The shark had been "saved", but a day later it was found washed ashore, dead. Healthy sharks stay in the water.

As we returned from the cave and watched the rising tide, we saw an eagle swoop in the distance. We knew its target, the shark. The shark was still alive when we passed, but the eagle was guarding it. We kept our distance. There is no point in having a dust up with one's national emblem. While we like shark, we were willing to give him or her dibs on this one.

This sort of scene is part of nature's way. We know that, but it usually is done off camera.

The eagle and the shark

Keywords: second beach, beaches, birds, eagle

Cute little baby seal

08/01/07 - Dungeness Spit

We were out on Dungeness Spit today. Low tide was around 11:30, so we got an early start. We really didn't intend to walk all the way out to the New Dungeness Light, but the day was so bright, the air so clear and the water so blue that we just kept on going. Still, we didn't make up our minds until the three mile marker, with only a mile and a half to go.

Around the one mile point, we saw a large seal splashing about, breaching like a whale, and otherwise putting on a spectacular show, but the real charmer was the baby seal we saw on the beach on our way back. We also saw a bald eagle perched on a post, and the terns were having one of their raucous sabbaths.

There has been serious erosion out near the lighthouse. In the past, we have approached the lighthouse across the even beach, but today there is a long row of wooden pilings lining the beach, and a steep sand clip up to the lighthouse level. We assume that the posts were part of the ground work done to provide a stable area for building the lighthouse and setting up its grounds. It pays to explore. There is something new every time.

Perfectly parallel waves

The Dungeness palisade

Dungeness Spit scene

The lighthouse and the mountains

Keywords: animals, dungeness, dungeness spit, eagle

05/01/07 - Eagle Watching at Dungeness Spit

We took advantage of the morning low tide to explore the Dungeness Spit. It was a real low tide, with lots of beach, so we were able to walk out to the two mile marker and back mostly on nicely compacted sand.

In the winter, the tides tend to be high, so most hiking is done up at the high end of the beach near the piles of driftwood that collect there. In the warmer months, the tides tend to be lower, so we hike down towards the water, and driftwood is well up the beach.

That means that it's easy to get hypnotized by the sand and restless water, and not notice any eagles perching on the driftwood above. This time, we looked up, and there's a photo of the bald eagle we spotted on the left.

Keywords: birds, dungeness spit, dungeness, tides, winter, eagle

04/12/07 - Rialto Beach

We were able to get past the one mile crossing on our latest visit. There is much less water flowing in the stream there, so the water is only a few inches deep down by the ocean. Watch for the tumbling rocks, and don't stop for long. The water will undercut you.

We sighted several eagles, some starfish, and the crew, with tents, carts and cameras, out on a Tommy Hilfiger fashion shoot. It was quite a production.

Keywords: rialto beach, beaches, eagle

The Cave at Second Beach

07/01/05 - Solstice Tides

Thanks to the solstice, there have been some very low tides out at the West End beaches. This includes our favorite beach, Second Beach. At the south end of the beach there is a small cave that you usually cannot even get to at high tide. At low tide, the entrance is accessible from the beach. We went on a day with a particularly low tide, as you can see on the left, with only 0.8 feet of water. (If you want to plan your own low tide visit, check out our Tide Finder program, or our tide table for La Push).

Aside from being able to explore various caves, the low tide also brought up a lot of starfish. You can see them bunched up near the waterline on a mussel rock. We have never seen so many starfish stacked together like plastic toys. We could also see a lot more anemones, and not just the dull sand covered ones, but lovely blue-green ones, in the shallow tidal water. We only saw one eagle, but we were quite impressed with Second Beach nevertheless.
Seastacks at Second BeachHuge Number of StarfishBlue Anemones

Keywords: tides, second beach, beaches, la push, software, eagle

07/20/04 - Rialto Beach and Second Beach

Rialto Beach is one of the most accessible of the West End beaches. You can even park right at the beach and climb over some driftwood to get at the waves. They even have a wheelchair accessible picnic area.

Since we like to get some exercise, we usually head out to Second Beach which is just across the Quillayute River. There is some satisfaction with the 3/4 mile rain forest walk you have to take to the surf, but Rialto beach offers instant gratification.

Of course, if you do get a mile or two north of the parking lot, you'll find a nice little headland climb if you want to continue. We usually just turn around and check out the sea stacks again.

Rialto Beach
Aside from sea stacks, like the one shown below, and nice walking beach, you can also see pelicans, seals, cormorants, and bald eagles. They were near extinction back in the 1960s, thanks to DDT, but now they have made a comeback.  We  often find them high on the tall trees just beyond the driftwood line on the beach.

Sea Stack at Rialto Beach

Keywords: second beach, beaches, birds, rialto beach, eagle

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