Hikes: "Ala, Ala, In Come Free"

Photo shows a hiker on a rocky beacn

Ala Spit -- even the name brings a smile.

You’ve probably been here many times. You drop down to the beach, and there it is right in front of you, a long spit inviting you north, and a short stretch of bluff-backed beach to the south.You walk out onto the beach, and then it happens – a smile begins to creep over your face, and soon it fills your lungs and energizes your legs and goes all the way down to your toes, which are wiggling in your shoes hoping to feel the sand between them. The sky is wide open, the horizon filled with Hope Island in front of you, Mount Erie rising off in the distance to the north, and open water leading southward as far as your eyes and dreams can see.

Like magic, it happened to us this weekend, the expected experience becoming transformed into a simple joy of open sky, open waters, and an open beach opening our hearts and filling them with child-like joy.We walked south at first, rounding the point, finding dinosaurs and jungle animals in the shapes of the logs we walked past, and then we walked on top of them, balancing ourselves like kids in a playground. We poked among the mud and rocks down to the end of the park, then turned north, walking at the water’s edge, seeing others walking the beach too, some with fishing poles, some with dogs, some just with their thoughts.

A young couple played with their dogs in the shallow tidewaters lined with soft sand, the dogs reveling in their freedom. We talked dogs with them and shared stories about our furry friends, then stepped across the rippling waters to a second spit, which I don’t remember seeing there before, extending southeast from the main spit. At this level of tide, only a foot above zero, it led outward like a beckoning gray brick road into the tiderip starting to flow southward on the incoming flood. Kath danced and skipped all the way to its tip.

Wildlife loves this place too. An osprey hovered almost over our heads then plunged into the water, coming back up a couple seconds later with a fish in its talons. Seagulls followed it to steal the meal, but to no avail. Oyster catchers ate things in the shallows, little critters skittered through the mini tidepools, a heron flew in to be a Zen master, and feathers and shells adorned the wrack line we stood on.

We walked through a cornucopia of a child’s simple dreamworld of delights, bees buzzing bright buttons of flowers, boats buzzing offshore, shells inviting us to pick them up and play with them, or driftwood being imaginary creature friends, forts, picnic spots and resting places.

Going around the north point, the gravel becomes dreamy sand, white and warm, then morphs into mud. We took the middle trail back among the grasses, stepping aside as two fat-tired e-bikes motored past us, then onto the beach, following our footsteps in the opposite direction. The riders smiled and giggled all the way.

Some hikes are serious work, strenuous, with specific objectives of climbing a hill, getting through those woods, scrambling here or fighting through a brushy place there.Ala Spit, no. Go where you want, rejoice in the open sky, sunny islands almost at arm’s reach, sunny sand and waters at toes’ reach, wildlife and imaginary play and distant views and the roll of the earth encouraging you to look closely, play freely, walk in the wild, be a child, and smile.

Directions: From Highway 20, 6.5 miles north of Oak Harbor, take Troxell Road east four miles to Geck Road on your left. Drive down to the beach parking area. Troxell Road becomes Jones Road if you go too far south.   [5050 Geck Road, Oak Harbor]

By bike: Troxell Road is winding and hilly with narrow shoulders, but minimal traffic.

Mobility: The parking lot gives some of the view; beyond that is mostly open beach, gravel, mud, and occasional driftwood across the narrow paths.

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