Hikes: Like Walking in a Collage

image shows montage of autumn leaves

We had just spent six days on the road, camping along most of the Oregon Coast. We came home tired and road weary, with great memories of our ocean beach explorations, but sore butts from the hundreds of miles of rain-slickened winding highways.

On this recovery day, we didn’t want to go anywhere by car.

Then we read the headlines from the week that we had been off-grid. Thousands of innocent humans slaughtered among two nations, creating maybe a million refugees; a 6-year-old Illinois boy dead because of his parent’s beliefs; chaos instead of cooperation in our nation’s capital; and the continuing effects of the ongoing slaughter of our home planet. My heart ached, and wept. Where to go?

The wind was howling out of the south, rain coming down in sheets, with more on the way. Still, we had to get outside, to stretch our legs, give our posteriors some actual movement, and our spirits new hope.
Ship Harbor is just over the hill from our place. And it’s protected from southerly storms. And the tide was low. We walked onto the beach.

There … was … peace.

Waves gently lapped at our feet as we walked the sandy shores. Trees overhung the water’s edge here, their summer leaves falling gently into the sea as breezes blew overhead. I wanted to hike quickly, get some exercise, walk away the blues, but instead I stood mesmerized by the quiet beauty, the familiarity of our home beach; nowhere to go except to be still, to be here, now.

We threw a ball for Murphy, only to see it bounce into the water, the offshore wind pushing it farther from reach. Murph stood there watching helplessly. I went wading. The cool waters of the Salish Sea felt like a welcoming baptism as I retrieved the errant ball.

Others joined our beach meanderings. The owner of “Boo”, a young schnauzer the owner had rescued years ago on Halloween day, chatted dog-talk with us. A young family, with three hours to fill waiting for a ferry, came up to us, their 18-month old saying “Gog, gog!”, her word for dog. She petted Murphy for a minute, and then we hiked on. We could hear her in the distance as we walked away, “Gog!”

The rain held off. The clouds lightened a little. The bare branches of trees waved their arms celebrating the pause in the storm. Finches flitted among the shoreside bushes, posing until I aimed my lens at them to photograph their tail feathers heading for the next shrub. A heron stood patiently on a piling, then flew over my head to check out the view from the tree behind me.

A ferry slipped into its dock. Beyond, Cypress Island brooded in darkness, the water reflecting the black-green of the island’s October forests and the cold steel-gray of the skies above.

We strolled the beach, then onto the boardwalk to return, savoring each new sight, smell, and sound.
All around the world today, humans seek life, and love, and happiness. Wildlife looks for food, and safety, and another day tomorrow to do the same. The maples, the roses, the sea lettuce, they all dance their lives under the rising and falling of the sun.

We walked through a collage of fallen golden leaves filling a bend of the trail as we headed home.

When despair for the world grows in me …
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go … where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things …
I come into the presence of still water …
For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry

"When the power of love replaces the love of power, the world will know peace."


Directions: In Anacortes take 12th Street west which becomes Oakes Avenue. Turn right at the roundabout and then left on Edwards Way. Follow that down to the beach. Or wait for a ferry to the San Juans and drop down to the beach from where you are waiting.

By Transit: Take the Skagit 410 bus to the Washington State Ferry Terminal

By bike: see directions above. 12th Street and Oakes Avenue are busy highways, 30 mph, with a minimal shoulder in places, minor hills.

Mobility: The trail at Ship Harbor is packed gravel and boardwalk, with one short hill at the beginning. The pathway in the opposite direction is paved for a mile of views along the water.

Republished with permission. View the Hiking Close to Home Web site.