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The Bluff Trail in Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve
posted by John : August 8, 2015

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Here we go again

Each year the girls head off to Girl Scout Camp and Henry and I plan our Man's Weekend. It usually entails hiking, eating badly, and all the sorts of things men do when the ladies aren't around. This year we kicked off Man's Weekend with a trip to Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve.

This unique National Park unit is a combination of private, local, and federal lands knitted together to preserve the history and culture of the area. It's the only one in the country and it also happens to be close enough to us that we could make a day of it. (Plus, we could combine it with a trip to see Henry's grandmother and do some yardwork for her. That's a manly thing to do, too.)

After driving and riding on ferries we finally arrived at the Bluff Trail on the southern shore of Whidbey Island, one of the San Juan Islands northeast of Seattle. Being hikers at heart, we needed to get a hike in. It was a requirement for Henry to get his Junior Ranger badge and we needed to do a quick shakedown of the Deuter Fox 40 pack (Amazon affiliate links help support he was going to use later in the week for our annual backpacking trip. (Where'd we go and how did the pack do? You'll have to read that story when it gets published.)

The trail starts at sea level and climbs a handful of stairs to parallel the shore on the low bluff. However, the low bluff quickly becomes a high bluff a few hundred feet above the beach. We had great views across the water to the Olympic Penninsula (home to Olympic National Park, of course) and although we scanned the seas we saw no whales. (We did see a few cruise ships, though.)

The trail runs between the steep drop to the beach and thick trees inland. The trees were the peculiar type and shape we only see on the storm-beaten coast. They're not so different than home that they seem alien, but different enough to be noticed.

The Bluff Trail can be hiked as an out and back, but we thought it better to make a loop of it by returning along the beach. That made it about four miles round trip.

The great thing about returning on the beach is it feels like a completely separate trail. On the bluff we walked along the trees and through high grass. The trail was packed sand and easy to walk on. On the beach we had to contend with huge piles of driftwood, rocks, and sand that alternated from loose and wet to full of rocks, but more stable.

Henry definitely preferred the beach half of the hike. He found monster tentacles (bull whip kelp), survival shelters (piles of driftwood on the beach), and a walking stick that was at times a bo staff, sword, and rifle.

By the time we got back to the trailhead we were too late to complete his Junior Ranger activities and get a badge. However, our manly week was just beginning and we were able to pick it up the next afternoon along with some ice cream in Coupeville. (Dog owner pro-tip: Kapaws Iskreme on Front Street has great ice cream and special dog ice cream. Treen approves.)

When you go to Ebey's Landing I'd suggest combining it with Fort Ebey State Park. There are hikes there, too, but the big draw are the gun emplacements that were established during World War II.

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