A record setting spit can brighten anyone’s Independence Day. The Offpeaker’s Fourth of July centered around an 11 mile hike on the Dungeness Spit here on the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula.
Yes, we are now in the beautiful Pacific Northwest! If you have visited the area and love the great outdoors, you will understand why. The Dungeness Spit, named by explorer George Vancouver, is the longest spit (a deposition sand bar or beach found off coasts) in North America.
The Dungeness National Wildlife refuge contains the spit among its 770 acre holding just outside Sequim, Washington. The refuge is home to more than 250 species of birds, 41 species of land mammals, a harbor seal birthing area, excellent infrastructure, an operational 1857 lighthouse, and a near constant powerful wind. This wind, varying in strength from strong to wicked, was our hiking partner the entire day.
Our hike along the spit to the lighthouse would be 11 miles long including the return. The entrance fee is $3, which was waived as we are proud holders of a National Park Service Interagency Annual Pass. For $80, we get 12 months access to more than 2,000 sites governed by 5 federal agencies.
Now that the Olympic National Park is our new back yard, we needed affordable long term access. An early start was chosen to beat the holiday crowds. With a packed lunch and cameras, we hit the trail. The first half mile goes through heavy ferns and old growth cedar and spruce.
If you don’t have time for the full hike, you will enjoy the short walk and view from a nice platform over the beach. Our arrival coincided with low tide, so we had the maximum width of the spit (maybe 40 yards?) to travel.
After the initial mile, hikers have to stay on the north side of the spit, leaving the south side for the many shore birds. We were impressed by the huge stumps and logs that had blown up on the spit. A few imprints in the sand and two cars in the parking lot told us we were not the first on the trail today.
A lone ATV passed us, taking supplies to the light house. We were walking along the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. Occasionally we saw large boat traffic heading for Seattle/Bremerton including container and cruise ships. Not many interesting shells to be found, but lots of well polished interesting stones.
Terry excels at finding the rocks, John is judged to be the better carrier. Orcas and seals are routinely spotted, we did not encounter any on this day. Although the walk was flat, it was a bit hard on the legs with spots of soft sand and shifting rocks. About three and half miles in we rounded a long curve in the route and saw the distant light house.
This encouraged us to speed up and achieve our goal. Hikers are welcomed at the site with potable water, restrooms, and a nice picnic area. The Offpeakers took the opportunity to enjoy sandwiches and empty our boots of sand.
Although mostly overcast, it made the day special to enjoy the meal under our Stars and Stripes surrounded by coast and the light house structures. The New Dungeness Light House is not very new, having been activated in December of 1857. The Coast Guard removed its personnel in the early 1990’s. Staffing was resumed by a volunteer organization from Sequim.
The volunteers maintain the site and host tours. We enjoyed the climb up the tower, but were disappointed that only the official volunteers are allowed out on the cat walk. We did get a nice (and warm) view from the interior of the tower. The old lamp and surrounding trim and railings are just some of the brass that needs continual polishing. If you sign up, you can experience a week long stint as a lighthouse keeper.
It is not cheap ($375), as the funds go towards conservation of the site. While we probably won’t be marooning ourselves here for seven days anytime in the future, we are grateful to those that do that allow our visit. Refreshed, we prepared to return to the mainland. Instead of warming up, the increasing wind had made it quite cold.
A fast pace (like yours Irena!) soon had us warmed up, where we could share greetings with the inbound hikers. As we search for an apartment to be the Offpeaker World Headquarters in the Peninsula while we go to school, we are enjoying putting downtime into fun outdoor activities. So far we love the area and we will share the special places we encounter. How did you spend your Fourth of July? Do you have a favorite lighthouse? Share with us in the comments below!