PNT Day 20: Deception Pass

Today’s miles: 13.8

Total miles: 253.4

My phone alarm goes off at 4:45am, because this morning I have a phone session with my analyst, and the time zone difference means it’s a 5am appointment for me. I’m groggy, suffering a bit of a sugar hangover from eating at least 3/4 of that pint of ice cream right before bed. After we talk, I lie in bed sleepily for another half hour, finally dragging myself around the hotel room to pack, shower, eat leftovers for breakfast. I don’t leave until nearly 8am — a ridiculously late start.

It’s an uphill walk through town on sidewalks to get to the Anacortes Community Forest, in which I will spend a good chunk of my morning. The trails are many, and all interconnected and squiggly, so I’m constantly checking my maps. I’m glad to be in the trees and on a trail, though, instead of on roads. Lots of people are walking their dogs through here, including two folks walking a pair of whippets. I cannot resist saying, “I have a greyhound at home! The next size up!” And one of the people gushes about how sighthounds are just the best, and I agree, and then we move on.

In the Anacortes Community Forest.

The forest trails wind me around a few lakes and many houses, across a few roads, and then up to a view over Lake Erie and immediately down to the road again. I walk to the end of a dead end road and find a new trail, straight up into the woods. Just as I reach a high point, sweating and breathing heavily, an eastbound hiker crests the hill from the other direction. His name is Candyman, a strange name for someone who seems so gentle — maybe it references something other than the horror films. He’s section-hiking for a few weeks. I give him contact info for staying at the way cool barn, if he gets out that far.

Looking east across private land toward Lake Campbell before turning off the road onto trail for a bit.

At last this network of trails deposits me beside Pass Lake, at a trailhead right off Hwy 20, where cars are, as ever, just flying around the curves. I eat snacks at a picnic table and chat briefly with a ranger who asks if I’m hiking the PNT. Only the second stranger on my whole trip so far to have indicated awareness of the PNT.

There’s a little trail just beside and below Hwy 20, which happily allows me to avoid the highway for the mile or so I need to reach the bridge at Deception Pass, the strait separating Fidalgo Island from Whidbey Island. There are many cars parked on the shoulder here and tourists walking out along the bridge just a little to take photos and then return to their vehicles. The pedestrian walkway on the east side is undergoing construction, so things are quite crowded on the west side and I have to squeeze past other people several times. It’s a beautiful view across the water, though. The name “Deception Pass” reflects colonial history (surprise): it has to do with the confusion British sailors experienced here in the late 1700s, thinking this was a peninsula instead of an island. Whidbey Island, which I reach upon crossing over the bridge, is named for one of those men; Puget Sound is named for another. It’s really something to assign the act of deception to a body of water to distract from your own navigational mistakes, all in the service of colonization. (Indigenous scholar Michael Marker (Arapaho) has written about such colonial mis/naming specifically in relation to “Deception Pass” and Coast Salish histories and knowledge systems, in his article in this book.)

Approaching the strait, and Deception Pass bridge.
View from the bridge crossing.

After crossing the bridge I can take an alternate to the Goose Rock summit for more views, but I find I’m content to just contour around on the Perimeter Trail instead, which still allows me to look out along the shoreline. At the end, I find myself on the edge of the state park car campground I planned to stay at tonight. I walk over to the administrative office but it’s closed. A note on the door instructs campers to check in at the welcome station. Directions to the welcome station are written for cars. I get out my maps to figure out walking directions.

At the welcome station, cars are lined up to go through the drive-through kiosk. There’s nothing indicating what a non-car should do. I want to pay for a hiker/biker site, which is “for those arriving at the park on foot or by bike.” So why is there no “on foot” way to get to the welcome station? I stand in line between cars, as if I am somehow also a car, and feel irritated. The driver behind me encourages me to just walk to the front, and finally I’m annoyed enough at this whole set-up to do so, skipping a few cars full of people who probably hate me, but who have comfy seats and climate control that I do not. I stand below the window on my tiptoes and pay for my campsite. I’m told I must go to a campground farther away. I ask for directions and am given driving directions. Argh.

I walk the road I was told to walk. It has no shoulder at all and I have to repeatedly jump in the ditch when cars approach. I see a trail and take it. It parallels the road — why did the person at the window not tell me about this option? I’m very, very grumpy. At the hiker/biker sites, the ground is too compacted for me to get tent stakes in, so I run around finding big rocks. Once I’ve done my camp chores, I feel better, and am happy to have enough cell service to actually talk with Cyn while I eat dinner. There is a Naval air station on Whidbey Island and the jets, running drills, I guess, are intensely loud. The noise reminds me of my time living in San Diego. Before bed, I walk to the toilets and the spigot, passing the elaborate set-ups of fancy car campers. I miss camping alone in the mountains. Soon, I’ll be back there.

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