In our ongoing attempt to experience the world without experiencing bankruptcy, my wife and I took a day trip on Labor Day Weekend to the Dungeness Spit. We embarked on an 11-mile out-and-back hike along this wandering strip of land that reaches into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The romantic version of our hike:
The sea popped and crackled along the beach as the mist embraced the husband and wife. They walked along the warm sand, hand in hand, a mild breeze cooling their otherwise warm bodies. As their legs pumped and their hearts raced, the lighthouse appeared ahead, a monument to a time long forgotten.
The real version of our hike:
Strong winds slapped the husband and wife in the face like disobedient children. Their bodies shivered from the cold temperature they had not fully anticipated. As they marched through shifting sands there was one unifying thought that bound the couple together: I cannot wait to get back to the car.
My wife and I had put this Dungeness Spit hike, just outside of nearby Sequim, WA, on our summer to-do list months ago and decided to sneak it in before the season came to a close. We both anticipated something slightly different, perhaps a trail along the spit that we were supposed to follow out to the lighthouse. So we were a little surprised to find that the hike really is just schlepping along a beach. This was fine as we’re both really good beach schleppers.
Since this hike didn’t involve any elevation gain, the biggest obstacle we faced was the weather. Marine layer clung to the spit, which meant we couldn’t see very far in front of us, or behind us, or around us. Instead of seeing water views that stretched far into the Strait or the majestic Olympic Mountains, we saw only what was in our general vicinity, mostly the shore and mile after mile of driftwood.
When we finally reached the New Dungeness Lighthouse, we were pleasantly surprised by how well kept the buildings and the grounds were. After consuming a packed lunch, we read up on the history of the place (much of which I’ve already forgotten) then trekked up the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper told us there are normally beautiful views from up there, but alas all we saw was fog in the distance.
On the way back, there was a brief window of time where we saw what could’ve been. The clouds opened up allowing blue sky and the Olympics to make a welcome appearance. Unfortunately, the experience was short-lived. The marine layer returned and our visibility worsened. The strong headwind we had been facing on our return trip became even more blustery. Before long we were windblown and freezing cold.
Another factor that made our walk back less enjoyable was our timing. Because we’d gotten a slightly later start than we had planned, we found ourselves walking through deeper sand. The flatter, easier sand we’d hiked out on had disappeared, the result of the pesky tide which had risen significantly.
On the bright side, these treacherous conditions made it that much more exciting when we were finally done. Finishing the hike felt AWESOME; awesome to have finished the 11 miles, awesome to be out of the wind and the cold, awesome to know we could check this task off our summer to-do list.
Our hike was not as enjoyable as we’d hoped, but despite the conditions, we still had a good time and got a nice long dose of exercise. And it was a bit different than we’d expected. My unsolicited advice to anyone who wants to check out the Dungeness Spit: be prepared. Be prepared for temperatures that are cooler than you’d think. Be prepared to plan your hike around the tides. Be prepared to be bogged down by fog.
And if you’re a lover of driftwood be prepared to enter Shangri-la!