Pacific Northwest: Dungeness Spit & Lighthouse (April 26)

After a much needed day of rest, Friday we returned to Dungeness Spit, the longest natural sand spit in the US -- and still growing at a rate of 13 feet per year. Hiking eleven miles on flat terrain proved to be more challenging than expected, especially on the way back as the rising tide reclaimed much of the hard-packed sandy beach.

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The trail begins with a steep decline through the forest, including a couple of viewpoints overlooking the spit. Along this section we were warned to watch for Rough-skinned newts underfoot, as they are well camouflaged. Don't pick them up either because their skin contains a skin irritating toxin.

The spit is part of Dungeness NWR and the southern edge is off limits to protect critical bird habitat and nesting areas. The spine of the spit is scattered with massive driftwood logs which can be unsteady and dangerous at high tide. Not a concern today because we just happened to pick a day with one of the lowest tides (-1.4) of the month. When we peeked over the driftwood towards the off limits southern side, we often saw Bald Eagles, as many as eight at a time.

Our first view of the spit before dropping down to hike it. Lighthouse is 4 miles away at far right.

A pair of immature Bald Eagles on the driftwood

The rocky and driftwood-strewn beach along Dungeness Spit

A variety of birds were visible offshore including Surf Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, Common Loons, Common Mergansers, and Brandt Geese. We saw also saw a pair of seals on the way back.

Harlequin Duck

Common Merganser pair offshore

A pair of seals checking us out

A bit over halfway the spit takes a bend to the south and the New Dungeness Lighthouse comes into sight. The scene was striking from all angles as we approached, with the Olympic Mountains to the south and east, Mt. Baker to the west and Vancouver Island across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north.

The lighthouse with Mt Baker in the background

Our beautiful lunch spot at the lighthouse

Golden-crowned Sparrow, a new bird for us

Lighthouse keepers house

Pano view mostly south and west from top of lighthouse

Friendly volunteer keepers welcomed us and guided up to the top of the light after our picnic table lunch on the grassy lawn. The keeper duties are primarily light maintenance of the grounds and giving tours to the relatively few visitors willing to make the long trek out. We are intrigued by the idea of spending a week as keepers at this special place.

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