On June 1, 2014, I ran my first trail half marathon, the Deception Pass Half, part of the Bellingham Trail Series. My GPS watch clocked it at not quite 13.1 miles worth of paved roadway, trails and bridges (twice each across Deception Pass and Canoe Pass) with a climb (to the summit of Goose Rock) of nearly 500 feet. Although it was one of the toughest half marathons I’ve ever run, it was also one of the most fun. Deception Pass State Park is filled with trees, rocks, fungi, ferns, moss, flowers (in the spring) and spectacular views of surrounding waterways. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make up the (by my watch, which showed 11.7 miles as the course distance) difference and do so with something that starts and ends in the same place: West Beach. So, it was with that in mind that I took to the trails a couple of weeks ago (after flailing around on the Goose Rock trails several times in the past, unable to follow the path that I had planned).
I started at the trail head at West Beach and headed east along North Trail (11 on the Deception Pass State Park trail map “DPSPtm”). The tricky part of this is finding the unmarked Discovery Trail (10 the DPSPtm). After running through the parking lot (marked on the map) and past the rest rooms, you’ll notice the path to the Discovery Trail within a few minutes-basically an inconspicuous wide spot to the right. This is an uphill section through brush and between fallen logs. Once you pass under Highway 20, the trail becomes wider and less obstructed by roots than North Beach trail. Continue southeast to the conspicuous sign at Cornet Bay Retreat Center, the southernmost part of the trail (unless you start your run at Quarry Pond campground) and then continue northeast (trail 8c on the map). There are a couple of unmarked sections where you need to choose a direction-if you go to the right, you’ll end up at the water and have to turn back-stay left instead). Follow the Goose Rock Summit Trail to the 450′ plus summit. If you run in early spring, you’ll find wildflowers galore near and at the summit. In late spring, you’ll see many wild (pink) rhododendrons in bloom. Once at the top, you’ll follow a path that is lined to your left with long wooden sections designed to keep folks off of the meadow. To exit the summit, you’ll need to go down and to the right (there will be a small Magnolia tree to your right and if you continue straight instead, you’ll get a great view of the water and surrounding areas but no access to the bridge).
Continue down to a three-way junction at which point going straight on will be obvious. Instead, leave the main path and head straight down the narrower trail to the right (trail 8b on the map), then follow the signs to the bridge (you’ll travel briefly on the Perimeter trail 7 on the map). If you miss this sign, you’ll end up at another three way junction that can take you to the bridge (8a). Instead, continue to your left (8d), at which point you’ll have missed the 8b-7-8a section. Whichever trail you choose, you’ll end up on 8d eventually if you keep going counterclockwise. From there exit on to the Lower Forest Trail (9). You’ll end up once again to the south having to decide between the Summit Trail and Perimeter Trail. This second time around, you’ll want to follow the Perimeter Trail, which will give you a great view of Cornet Bay. When you reach the Deception Pass Bridge this second time, continue under it and return to the North Trail, which will lead you back to the trail head at West Beach. When you reach the parking lot, pat yourself on the back for not getting lost (which is easy to do as not all trails are well marked) and completing 5.7 tough miles.