Traversing the Tursi Trail

Tursi Trail butterflies

A pair of butterflies (possibly Papilio rutulus) fluttered along beside me as I neared the Tursi Trail head along Donnell Road on Fidalgo Island near the northernmost access to the Tursi Trail. As I began my hike, a garter snake slithered off to safety. Thimble berries and trailing blackberries lined the primitive path during the first part of the climb. I was thinking about the amount of volunteer work that must’ve gone in to clearing brush when I came upon a very impressively built section lined entirely with jagged rocks. My original plan had been to run, but the winding, varying terrain with 500 ish feet of climb over merely a mile made it difficult to do more than hike, at least at first.

Months before, I’d learned of a soon to be completed connector trail between the ACFL and Deception Pass State Park: the Tursi Trail. John “Johnny” Tursi, the connector’s namesake, passed away at age 98 on April 8, 2016, ‘After retirement, he and [his wife] Doris decided to do what they could to support forestlands and parks, public needs, improve animal husbandry, and other projects that would “live on,”‘ ‘Friends of John have accounted for some $3,500,000 he has contributed to community projects over the years,’ ‘John was generous with contributions to Anacortes Community Forestlands, Skagit Land Trust, Island Hospital Foundation, Skagit Valley Humane Society, Anacortes Family Shelter, and many others.’

Chrome Legacy Window 782016 82739 AM.bmp

I carried a copy of the Tursi Trail Guide, available on line, so I could hit the highlights.

Tursi Trail miner's cabin

First stop: just inside the Deception Pass State Park boundary, at the trail’s high point, I came upon a rock-lined cave (mine entrance) and the remains of Miner’s Shack. I’ve read David Quammen’s brilliant book about zoonoses, Spillover, in which bats play a prominent role in transmitting diseases between animals to humans, so I kept my distance from the cave, circled what remained of the shack, then checked out a mushroom growing out of a fallen moss-covered log.


Second stop: an unobstructed view of Rodger Bluff, where mystic artist Morris Cole Graves “built his first house. He called it The Rock,” and lived there from 1940 to 1947. Several months after his death in 2001, the cabin burned to the ground. I’ve not found a single overview photo of the 65′ long completed cabin in spite of its 60 year existence.

Chrome Legacy Window 782016 94530 AM.bmp

Further south, I observed mushrooms, mosses lichen, balds and beautiful views of Campbell Lake, as promised by a couple of guys I encountered in the pullout along Campbell Lake Road where I’d parked, about half a mile to the north of the trail head. Third Stop: Red Rock Quarry. Forget-me-nots and daisies grew along the trail near the jagged cliff face at the site of the former quarry. Minutes later, I noticed the John Tursi Trail sign, and knew I’d reached the Ginnett Trail and completed the connector between the Anacortes Forest Lands and Deception Pass State Park trail systems! After checking out the view of Campbell Lake from a large concrete pad, I retraced my steps, stopping to photograph Indian pipe. A turkey vulture soared overhead and cedar waxwings nibbled berries as I made my way back to the trail head along Donnell Road and walked along it to my vehicle, parked opposite Lake Erie Grocery.

View from Tursi Trail

Afterwards, I decided to fulfill the Tursi Trail’s purpose as a connector between the Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL) and Deception Pass State Park by running within both systems on the same day.

The ACFLs, “cover nearly 2,800 acres within the City of Anacortes…There are 50 miles of multiple use trails in the forest lands.” The Washington State Parks site boasts, “Deception Pass State Park is a 4,134-acre marine and camping park with 77,000-feet of saltwater shoreline, and 33,900-feet of freshwater shoreline on three lakes,” with “38 miles of hiking trails.” The two systems combined include nearly 90 miles of trail. Except for those near the summits of the three highest peaks, Mt Erie (1,300 feet), Sugarloaf (1,275 feet) and Goose Rock (456 feet), most are great for trail running. Rain or shine, you are bound to see something awesome: birds, slugs, snails, garter snakes, frogs, wildflowers, shrubs, trees, mushrooms, butterflies, spiders, deer, otters, raccoon and coyotes.

Cedar waxwing Tursi Trail

After reviewing trail maps, brochures and other information, I decided on a course with two loop connected by a lollipop stick in the center–grand total: 11 miles. 

Indian pipe Tursi Trail

Three of my trail runner friends, Erin, Michelle and Nina, joined me on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon, just before the 4th of July. We completed Trail 212/25 loop, headed south on Trail 220, and briefly along Trail 249 along the Heart Lake Trails to Trail 247 along the Whistle Lake Trails, then down Trail 248 to the trail head. We completed the paved section and reached the Tursi Trail, where we hiked/ran, depending on the climb and terrain. We lingered a little at the Miner’s Shack and took in the view of Rogers Bluff and Campbell Lake from the concrete pad at the intersection of the Ginnett Trail, Ginnett Road and the Tursi Trail terminus before continuing along the 0.7 mi trail towards the 1.9 mi Pass Lake Loop.  During a quick stop at the rest room in the Pass Lake parking lot, we high-fived and quietly acknowledged the fact that WE LIVE HERE while observing a number of recreationists and Highway 20 congested with cars.

A Seattle Times article, Quiet hikes and undiscovered cabins at Washington’s favorite state park contends, “During summer weekends, 1,500 campers and 5,000 day visitors typically frolic around this 4,134-acre park.” From our vantage point in the parking lot, we didn’t doubt it. Leaving the visitors and vehicles behind, we continued along Pass Lake Loop, then backtracked along the course we’d traveled earlier. We chatted with a rock climber at the base of Trail 248, hiked up to Trail 247, then returned to running. With nearly 10 miles under our belts, we quieted, saving our energy for the last couple of miles. Two and a half hours, 11 miles and nearly 2,500 feet of climb later, we returned to our starting point, happy to have completed our quest to run in both the ACFL and DPSP via the Tursi Trail, but even gladder that it was all over. Grand total encounters with other humans along the trails at DPSP: zero! Along the ACFL trails: 10.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s