I’ve climbed mountains in the Rockies, walked in temperate rainforests, scrambled in the Sonorans, and ambled across eastern wildflower meadows, but Dungeness Spit might be one of the most unique spots for a hike I’ve encountered. Situated on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, the spit bends like a fishing rod into the Strait of Juan de Fuca as it reaches out to shake hands with Puget Sound.
I’d read that the spit was a nice place to visit, so when my mom visited from Virginia, I put it on our itinerary. I didn’t realize that I’d actually want more time to explore Dungeness Spit. A flat trail stretches along the top of a long bluff, accessible from a few different points. There were great views of the strait. At one point I did my best Sarah Palin impersonation. If not Russia, I could see, in fact, see Canada from the bluff. At the east end of the bluff, a trail heads through forest to the base of the spit itself. There are a few interpretive signs on viewing platforms, but I wanted to get down there. I just checked out the beginning of the driftwood-strewn, wave-lapped spit, which extends over five miles into the water, where a persistent sand hiker will find a lighthouse. I already want to return. Happy hiking.
I went to the Grassy Knoll but found no conspiracy theorists in the immediate vicinity. Of course, having to hike more than two miles uphill to this spot in Washington may have winnowed potential wackjobs. This Grassy Knoll has a fantastic view of the Columbia River Gorge as well as a few major mountains. The drive out of Carson is a bit tedious, but the hike is moderate and felt short. There are only a few steep spots.
I encountered only three people as I hiked. I met a woman with her German shepherd at the trailhead. An older couple descended past me in the first mile, close to the first great views, where I looked east toward the base of Mount Adam. The bulk of the massive mountain was cloaked in clouds, but it looked more interesting that way.
The remains of an old lookout tower are still very evident when you arrive atop the broad knoll, where the world seems to fall away beneath you. It was a spectacular spot to sit and ruminate on my place in the world.
The knoll itself is another mile past the clifftop views. It is a great bald area with views in most directions. Looking down at the sinuous Columbia was terrific in the moody light. The wind whipped the alpine grasses, suggesting I should not continue lest I get caught in a cloudburst. On a good day with no clouds or wind, perhaps I would go farther, but not that day.
On the way down the dirt road, I met a motorcyclist who was touring the country on back roads while on a vacation from his work as a military contractor in Afghanistan. We talked for ten minutes. He was well equipped with a beautiful modern Triumph. A pang of jealousy struck, and then I headed home to my wife, a cold beer, and a very comfortable bed.