Hiking the Bluff Trail at Ebey’s Landing/Robert Y. Pratt Preserve

A few weeks ago my husband and I hiked the Bluff Trail that traverses three different areas: Ebey’s Landing, the Robert Y. Pratt Preserve (Mr. Pratt “gave 147 acres of his land, including the beautiful Bluff Trail, to the Nature Conservancy, for its wildness to be preserved, enjoyed and shared with the public), and the Admiralty Inlet Natural Area Preserve, which, “protects one of only 11 remaining populations of golden paintbrush, a federally listed threatened plant species.”

Because it was both Sunday and a sunny day, we encountered a lot of hikers who had the same idea. The parking lot is tiny, with room for about a dozen vehicles, so we, like many others, parked parallel to the shore along Hill Road, which is shown on this park map.

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En route to the trail head,

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we passed an area

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with informational signs,

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one notably about the man himself, Isaac Ebey, “the first resident land claimant on Whidbey Island” who “claimed and started a successful farm in 1850.”

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The park map indicates that the area from the parking lot to the trail head is part of Ebey’s Reserve.

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Moments later, we reached the limits of the Robert Y. Pratt Preserve. If, instead of walking up the hill, we’d gone towards the right, we’d have reached the Ebey’s Prairie Trail with access to the Jacob Ebey and the Davis blockhouses as well as the Sunnyside Cemetery. The weather was perfect, with clear skies, so we decided to continue on the Bluff Trail and save the other way for a different day.

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Looking down from here to the beach below, the hikers looked tiny. And the higher we went, the scarier it became because the hand-rail-less trail reaches 300 feet above the lake below. A fall down the hillside would likely be deadly. If you made it down alive, you’d end up in the drink.

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We stopped to look back from just above the trail head.

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Still ascending, we passed farmland.

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A few minutes later, a sixty-something guy with an iPod flew towards us, running along the trail. It didn’t seem so unsafe there to do so there, but further on, it definitely was.

We saw several small groups of persons picnicking or just congregating, resting, and enjoying the amazing view. Soon we reached a line of sort of short gnarly-looking Douglas Fir trees, which should not have come as a surprise. The soil was dry and sandy and the trees aren’t protected from wind.

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To the west was an absolutely superb unobstructed view of the Olympic Mountains. This shows what looks like an empty tanker, a sail boat and the Victoria Clipper on its way home.

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To the south, we saw the ferry that runs between Port Townsend and Coupeville near Admiralty Inlet, the Keystone side.

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Finally, we got a good view of what looked like a lagoon, but is, in fact, Perego’s Lake. I was hoping to see birds, but, except for a hawk, was otherwise shut out as far as flying things go.

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Because it was winter, there weren’t many plants in bloom, but I did noticed many of these, which I think are called leatherleaf mahonia also known as leatherleaf holly, apparently an invasive species.

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There were many dried up plants, like this fern,

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possibly some type of daisy,

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and this plant that I still have to figure out.

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The trail follows the top of the bluff for the most part until the northernmost end, when it begins to switchback.

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As we reached the beach, we tried to figure out the limits of Fort Ebey State Park, which likes just to the north, but isn’t accessible from the area of the Bluff Trail.

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I was relieved to reach the beach, look up, and see others descending.

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Driftwood, sand, seaweed and rounded rocks were everywhere along the shore line as we headed south.

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A father walked along with his family, apparently not having gotten the memo that forbids the collection of driftwood (which helps reduce erosion), carrying a log long enough to knock someone’s block off. I kept my distance…

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I walked past the driftwood over to the lake, hoping to spy a cool creature, but, at least on this day, they were nowhere to be found.

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After what seemed like an eternity of trying to keep up with my husband (who, at 6’7″ has a rather long stride) along the really rocky shore, we made it back to Hill Road where we were parked.

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Ninety minutes from when we started, we’d completed the hike. My GPS watch showed the distance as 3-3/4th mile with an elevation gain of 300 feet. During a nearly two mile distance of beach combing, I’d found only four shells, three of them within the first few moments we’d arrived, at the furthermost distance from the water in the sand mere feet from where we’d parked. The forth was a that of a limpet. The only other cool things I collected (but left, along with the others) were two conglomerate rocks. I plan to return later in the spring to have an encounter with a Yellow paintbrush flower.

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