South Whidbey State Park

Last week, for the first time during the decade I’ve lived on Whidbey Island, I made my way to South Whidbey State Park, located between Greenback and Freeland. The Washington State Parks site says, “South Whidbey Island State Park is a 347-acre camping park with 4,500 feet of saltwater shoreline on Admiralty Inlet. Park features include old-growth forest, tidelands for crabbing and clamming, campsites secluded by lush forest undergrowth, and breathtaking views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains.” It’s shown in green to the far west on this map. SWSP1South Whidbey State Park sign I arrived at 8 o’clock on a Monday morning, hoping to have some alone time on the beach and trails.Minutes later, another vehicle showed up, probably with the same idea in mind. I cut my informational kiosk viewing time short and followed the sign towards the Beach Trail.South Whidbey State Park kiosk

South Whidbey State Park Beach Trail signBeach trail at South Whidbey State ParkThe first thing I noticed was the greenery. Sword ferns and maple trees lined the well-packed path. The sign said “moderate to steep  climb” but, except for the last bit before the beach, it was an easy hike. Although I didn’t see any birds, I heard them, including what I think were juncos.

Beach trail at South Whidbey State Park Maple tree leaves at South Whidbey State Park salmon berries at South Whidbey State Park

I’m used to seeing Doug firs, but here were more maples that I remembered seeing elsewhere.

Salmonberries, which range from ruby red to yellow and everything in between were ripe for the birds and people like me who don’t mind their supposed insipidness.

stairs to beach at South Whidbey State ParkTen minutes later, I exited a set of steep stairs that led to the beach. (This is looking back up.)
South Whidbey State Park beachSouth Whidbey State Park beachOnce there, I checked out the shoreline in hopes of finding some shells, but as is typical of a lot of beaches along Whidbey, I found mostly rocks and different species of seaweed.
crab shell at South Whidbey State Park
South Whidbey State Park beach
South Whidbey State Park beachhillside at South Whidbey State Park beachTowards the south, I noticed the horsetails and other grasses growing along a sandy hillside.
And driftwood.

South Whidbey State Park beach I experimented a little with my camera’s shutter speed while getting some shots of the water. For a short while, I was the only one there. At least I thought I was.

seal at South Whidbey State ParkIn fact, there was at least one seal swimming around in the water. Off in the distance, I noticed a Bald eagle, which is almost a daily occurrence around here.

osprey with fish at South Whidbey State ParkThe bigger surprise was the osprey that showed up and then spent nearly ten minutes fishing, diving into the water multiple times before it finally grabbed one. I took a bunch of photos, but the whole telephoto-lens-with-bird-in-motion can be a little tricky. I ended up with just a few cool shots, among them, this one of the osprey flying off to its nest with a fish. Except for the family that arrived not long after the osprey, the beach was deserted. It was a peaceful place to spend some time in the morning before the crowds arrived.

When the osprey left, so did I, returning to my vehicle which I drove to the entrance, then parked in a gravel lot.

South Whidbey State ParkAcross the road, I found the Ridge Loop Trail head, shown on this map.South Whidbey State ParkHerb Robert at South Whidbey State ParkRidge Loop Trail at South Whidbey State Park Again, based on the wording on the sign, it sounded hard, but was actually an easy hike.

The first part of the trail was a little narrow with sword ferns growing tight up against it, but soon it straightened out and continued in a nearly straight path.

The grass and ferns became ferns and trees. At one point I noticed several fallen logs that extended across a dip to a bank on the opposite side.

Ridge Loop Trail at South Whidbey State ParkI resisted the urge to try to cross without falling and continued along the trail.

South Whidbey State Parktwinflower at South Whidbey State ParkSince I’d recently learned about the Twinflower, actually a shrub, and am a little obsessed with them, I stopped to take photos of a patch of the plants. According to the USDA site, “Linnaea borealis was reported to be Linnaeus favorite plant, and was named by his close friend and teacher Jan Frederik Gronovious in honor of Linnaeaus.”
The next section of the trail was lined with salmonberry bushes, so I stopped to eat some (my preference being the yellow ones). Although they’re a bit bland, I don’t mind them, nor do the birds. While walking, I heard the calls of the Varied thrush and Spotted towhee.

buttercups at South Whidbey State Park
Further along, buttercups grew along both sides of the path.
I scrunched down to get a rabbit’s eye view of the trail.buttercups at South Whidbey State Park

South Whidbey State Park sword ferns and skunk cabbage at South Whidbey State ParkI had already decided to take the detour off-loop to see the Ancient Cedar. So, when I noticed the signs, I followed them, hoping I wouldn’t get lost.
I noticed the smell of the skunk cabbage plants before I saw them, the ones with the large leaves surrounded in this area by sword ferns.

South Whidbey State ParkDouglas Fir tree with root rot at South Whidbey State ParkNumbered stakes mark cedar trees of interest. The one on the left is is not one of the famous Cedar trees, but I couldn’t resist stopping to photograph its neat roots.The one on the right in this shot is a Douglas Fir that appears to be suffering from root rot. I didn’t stop at every marker, but did at a few, numbers 5, 7 on my way to the special tree.Number 5 Cedar at South Whidbey State ParkSouth Whidbey State ParkFinally, I found the Ancient Cedar, a tree that has been around for 500 years, which means it was just a youngster around the time Michelangelo completed work on the Sistine Chapel 9000 miles away, which I only know because I looked it up. I am, after all, geographically challenged.
South Whidbey State ParkAncient Cedar at South Whidbey State ParkAncient Cedar at South Whidbey State Parkferns at South Whidbey State ParkI admired these ferns with fresh fronds that initially grew straight up towards the sky before ending up at at angle as I reached the start of the detour, returned to my vehicle (0.4 miles) and headed home. I checked my watch and noted that the Ancient Cedar encounter detour cost me about 0.7 miles but was well worth it. The entire hike was a mere 2.4 miles with about 400 feet of climb. I think it would also make for a scenic, easy trail run.SWSP

4 thoughts on “South Whidbey State Park

  1. Thank you! You are missing out on some great weather (except last night, though we needed some rain). Hope you get the chance to visit your family here some time this summer.

    • Thank you very much for the kind words. There is so much to do on the Island. Too many things that I haven’t done in the 10 years we’ve lived here! Be sure to try crabbing at Cornet Bay (or Ala Spit or Bowman Bay) and Double Bluff State Park. I’d love to get to Baby Island (on the south end) but you can only access it by boat, canoe, kayak…sigh.

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