Hikes: With Whipping Cream

Hikes: With Whipping Cream

Central Whidbey features some unusual, rugged topography left by the retreating ice-age glacier. Large chunks of ice broke off the melting glacier and became buried in rocky debris. When the chunks of ice melted, they left deep hollows pockmarking the land, called kettles. Today, the kettles are partially hidden by second-growth forests. The western part of the kettle area lies in Fort Ebey State Park, while Island County oversees the eastern kettles. Together they share an extensive trail system into, out of, over, and across these kettles.

We celebrated Maribeth’s birthday by camping with several friends at Fort Ebey, sharing a potluck dinner, then finishing with peach pie and strawberry shortcake desserts topped with whipping cream and a birthday candle. Stuffed to the gills, we strolled the bluffs and meadows in the evening hours, then sang campfire songs accompanied by a banjo and guitar before retiring for the night.

The break of dawn roused me out of bed to explore the kettles east of Fort Ebey. Walking alone helped me tune in to the morning chorus of birds welcoming the day, and focus on the lay of the land, seeing the width and depth of the kettles. Rhodies bloomed along every trail. Halfway in, sprinkles of rain pattered on the rhody leaves, though sunshine filtered through, promising a dry day ahead. I hiked the northern trails nearly to Highway 20, then returned through the middle trails back to the bluffs, back to sunshine, and back to breakfast.

After eating too much (again), several wanted to join me on another hike through the kettles, so out we went, following much of the same route I had taken earlier but shortening it up a bit. This hike was lively with conversations and the songs of different birds. Sunshine made the rhodies bright with beauty.

We began at Campground Trail, which drops into a large kettle, then climbs the opposite wall to follow a ridge to a paved roadway. Across the road, Pigeon drops quickly into a kettle, then climbs – and climbs! – back out and up, making people huff and puff a little. Near the top, we found twinflower, a delicate ground cover with two pendulant bell-shaped flowers on each stem.

Fisher Trail … I’ll never forget Bob Fisher’s smile. The park manager at Fort Ebey for many years was well-known for his love of being active and for his care of this park. This trail that honors his legacy is a high ridgeline with rhodies seeking the sun through the open forest.

Hugh’s Delight Trail makes a long gentle descent, truly a delightful hike. Hugh must have enjoyed it.

Ladder drops into another kettle, then rises steeply up the other side to High Traverse, which follows the north and west rims of a very large and deep kettle before coming to Something Trail. I can just see two people looking at this short trail needing a name, and one of them saying, “But we have to call this trail something.” And the other person saying, “Okay, that will be its name.” And so it came to pass. It’s called Something.

The Kettles Trail is a major east-west connector route. Heading west, it rocks and rolls over the ridges and down into a kettle or two, finally ascending steeply at its west end.

Hokey-Ka-Dodo – with a name like that, you know what you’re in for, a whimsical trail that snakes up a kettle wall, drops down into another, then ends up at the Bluff Trail for a magical surprise.

We emerged from the deep forests into an explosion of blue sky above and blue waters below on Whidbey’s westernmost edge. The Bluff Trail is like adding whipping cream to your dessert. We wandered among storm-twisted firs along the steep bluffs, 180-degree views throughout, and felt almost sad it brought us back to our nearby campsites. I could walk this trail every day and never tire of the experience.

And so, back together again, we celebrated our Kettles hikes with left-over strawberry shortcake and peach pie, with whipping cream, then hugs and goodbyes.


Directions: There are several ways to access the Kettles Trails, some along Highway 20, one on Libbey Road, and also through Fort Ebey State Park, which is how we went there.

By Bike: The roads are hilly and narrow, and high speed in places, but it's Whidbey!

Accessibility: Some of the trails in the Kettles are wide and firmly packed, but all of them are steep in places.

Republished with permission. Read the original article.