Local Adventures: Waterman Loop

The trails at the South Whidbey Community Park (Castle Park) are often overlooked, but shouldn’t be. The trails are some of the smoothest you will ever walk, without pavement. The trail system throughout the park is wide enough for the park’s collection of 4 wheel utility vehicles, so they can connect quickly across the vast areas. The key though is the trails are normally quiet, child friendly (and very jogger stroller friendly). With help, wheelchair accessible on certain sections (stay on the main loops).

You can start the Waterman Loop at a number of points, but I found that the easiest is to park at the Parks and Rec building on Maxwelton Road in Langley, and start the hike there. Walk to the right of the building, and find the wide connector trail. It isn’t a long hike (to be honest, I didn’t map how long it was, bad on me) but you can do it even a pokey child in under 30 minutes).

At the end, take a left onto the loop. The trail meanders, passes Switchback Trail to the right, and goes up a hill, passing a park bench with garbage can. They have made the park friendly to dropping off dog poop, so that is nice.

The forest flitters between Alder sections (which came up after the Douglas Firs were cut down on the island). These sections tend be very open, and have lots of Salmonberry shooting up.

And as well ferns just starting to open.

You will come to a trail junction that isn’t marked, stay to the left and carry on. To the right, this unmarked trail is quite nice (and you can make a short loop using it – it connects back to Waterman, and also has Switchback and Salal crossing it). It has a lovely old feral tree on it that was in bloom a few weeks back (it is all green now, as I checked it yesterday).

But I digress, staying on the main trail, you enter a typical Whidbey forest.

A blend of Cedar, White Pine, Douglas Fir, and Hemlock fill it.

The Red Huckleberry and Evergreen Huckleberry plants grow along this section.


Evergreen Huckleberry blooms, getting ready.

The trail comes to a junction and can be confusing (You will see a large work shop through the woods). If you go straight ahead, you will do the short loop I mentioned above. Take a left here and the trail continues on.

Soon, you will come to the end of the Waterman Loop trail wise. If you wish to complete the loop, take a right onto Westling Loop, which will drop you out at the trailhead not far away. The map doesn’t show it well – but you will want to walk down the road downhill, till you hit the bottom, where you will see a small parking area and an obvious trailhead to the right. This is the other end of Waterman, and quickly takes you back to the start of the trail.

For a longer hike, continue on Westling, and come out on the Connector Trail, it ends up out on the road, where you want to be eventually.

One warning: I noted that the trail maps are switched in two areas. The one at the lower trailhead should be up the road, above the skate park. My pedantic self noticed this, and I asked the park’s office about it. The signs have been there at least 10 years and only my dorkness has noticed this. Or probably taken photos of it. I’d say the trail map is to be loosely trusted, but you won’t get lost. Eventually you will encounter another trail, or the road 😉

Parking is free, park is free to use. Keep dogs on leash.


Local Adventures: Waterman Rock

There was a time in my life when I became so jaded with hiking I looked down upon “local” hikes. They were for when I couldn’t be in the mountains, chasing altitude and miles. A few more kids, and a farm changed that attitude. If 2018 brought one theme it was never-ending farm work and little time to give to hiking. It was sadly the first year in nearly 20 years I didn’t walk in alpine. I just couldn’t justify carving out that time, but it affected me. This fall and winter we have gotten out more, and just enjoyed being in the woods. The muscles have to be trained again, but it feels so good. January 1st brings First Day Hike and we woke up to clear skies, so you just cannot waste that chance!

We decided on visiting Saratoga Woods Preserve, outside of Langley on Whidbey Island. For a color topo map, see here. And yes, you will want it. While lovingly maintained, this honestly was one of the more confusing local trail systems I have walked in. Like most trails on the island, you won’t get lost-lost but you might be slightly confused and on the wrong trail. There is a system for the trail signs – and not all are marked on both ends, or are overgrown over the signs. Just pay attention at junctions is all. It makes sense after your first hike 😉

This is a special woods though – it holds the (presumed) second largest glacial erratic, Waterman Rock, on the island. (I am thinking the always dumbly named “Big Rock” in Couepville is the largest?) It’s a great hike for children to talk science and nature on.

The trailhead sits on the edge of a large meadow off of Saratoga Road. Ample parking, but if you are not coming from Langley, it isn’t well-marked to turn in. Being an Island County park, parking and use is free to all.

The meadow, with the cold winter sun at its height for the day. For an easy hike, the Meadow Loop Trail (marked MLT on signs) follows along and into the woods. However, we walked to the main set of trails at the edge of the woods and entered in. There are a couple trails you can take, all will eventually gain a little altitude, to reach the old airstrip.

We entered the woods on Indian Pipe trail.

The nurse log tree stump was taller than me.

This section of woods had a very positive feeling – healthy, full of light and a cathedral to walk in. The trail shifted on Twin Flower Trek. We missed a junction (it has a large tree over it, but is passable – it came down in the storm in December). We realized we had passed the junction and backtracked, heading up.

We came out onto the old airstrip. This section had some mud and water issues, but was passable and my lack of hiking boots wasn’t an issue (I was wearing trail runners). We took the forested section of trail that follows the airstrip. There were some trees and branches down, but was passable. The trail ends and to the left is the trail down to Waterman Rock.

It’s a gorgeous glacial erratic.

The boys explored the trail around it, down below.

I decided I wanted to hike the length of the airstrip, so Kirk and Walker took Bent Tree trail back and the rest of us headed off.

Alistaire and Ford always ahead of me.

Christmas Tree at the junction for Wood Nymph Way.

Ford and Alistaire on the only switch back we encountered – on Wintergreen Trail.

A great way to spend part of a day locally. No long drive, no parking fees, and plenty of other happy hikers out enjoying the day.


The Blockhouses of Ebey’s Reserve

An oddity sits in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Preserve in central Whidbey Island. There was once a dozen, and 4 blockhouses from the mid 1800’s still standing. And you can visit them all. Ebey’s Preserve is a place rich in history.

Two stand close to each other, near the Sunnyside Cemetery, just North of the town of Coupeville. For ease in visiting, park at the overlook parking lot, or just a bit farther in, the lot for the Pratt Preserve (all well marked). Parking is free here.

The Davis Blockhouse is in the cemetery. It was the first one I visited, many years ago.

Just a bit farther West – and within walking distance is the Jacob Ebey Blockhouse (and house). For years it sat on private property belonging to old man Robert Pratt. When Pratt passed away in the late 1990’s his will left his land to his only living relative, who had never met him and lived on the East Coast. The will stipulated that if they sold it, they were to allow it to be bought first by a public group for preservation. Hence, after many years, the Pratt Preserve came to exist as part of the Ebey’s Landing area. It now boasts more trails and those amazing views of the Olympic Mountains across the water. The Ebey Blockhouse has a lot of historical value and it involves fights with the native population and murder.

In the heart of Coupeville sits the Alexander Blockhouse, that was moved into town in the 1930’s.

It sits by the museum and is open to going into during the day. Parking is free, and there is a large lot just up the hill by the town library to park in.

Before warned: if you are above 5 foot 5 inches, you will need to stoop down.

The fourth blockhouse, the Crockett one, sits outside of town, towards the Coupeville Ferry to Port Townsend. See here for directions. It is open to the public, and free to visit. I need to take the boys there soon, as I last visited it at least 17 years ago.

Yet, these blockhouses have stood for over 160 years and are still quite sturdy. They are well worth adding to a hike in the area – and to visit them all. Bring children, and show them the history of 1855 and find out why life was so brutal and hard then.


5 Kid Friendly Hike On South Whidbey Island

5 Kid Friendly Hikes On South Whidbey Island – a few of our favorite hikes to get out into. And best of all? These are all great hikes for the off-season. Central and South Whidbey have the Olympic Rain Shadow, so are often much drier than areas around. I’ve noted which hikes have additional items such as playgrounds, and wether or not it requires parking fees.

The Westling Loop isn’t wilderness, not by any means. It sits between Langley and Upper Clangley (our name for upper Clinton, where Ken’s Korner sits). The trails are accessed through the vast public park (Castle Park) that sits between all the schools on Maxwelton Road. The trails are well taken care of and is a great system to let children run and enjoy the woods. And … it has a huge playground, covered picnic tables and bathrooms.
Fee Free.

South Whidbey State Park is sadly an under used state park. Not because it isn’t a neat place, rather that the state has done a great job in ignoring it in the past decade. The campground is closed due to risk from the forest, and the access to the beach hasn’t been around in year. There is however many trails on both sides of the road that cuts through the park. Easily accessed is the South Forest Discovery Loop. It offers gently rolling trail, with peek a boo views of the Salish Sea below. The park is only a few miles outside of Freeland, which is also home to a great park on Holmes Harbor, Freeland Park & Beach,  to check out!
Must have a daily pass or a year Discovery Pass for State Parks.

The Trillium Community Forest – The Level Loop. It is a trail almost anyone can hike, be it in a wheelchair or a stroller. It isn’t a long hike, but it is peaceful and has extensions for longer hikes. It’s a great hike to learn about how a small group of citizens helped save a ridge from becoming a golf course. This short loop is worth the drive and finding it on the map.
Fee Free.

Greenbank Farm sits on the edge of South and Central Whidbey, but I think of it as ours as it is so close to us. It’s a gem many don’t know about. Ample parking, wide open rambling. The “trail” system is paths cut into the fields to follow. The only downside is it is a leash-less dog park. However there are often not many dogs there, and only once I have been jumped on. People are supposed to have their dogs under control. But for the views, it is so worth it. Next door is another public area, which is wooded forest to hike through. Find a playground, bathrooms, master gardens, and shops to check out – including Whidbey Pies. A lot to do in a relaxed manner.
Fee Free.

Meerkerk Gardens has an entry fee, which is worth the few dollars they ask for to support this non-profit land. It’s a double bonus: safe trails to wander along, plus a lot for adults to enjoy while there. Find a gazebo with chairs – and an amazing view of Holmes Harbor, picnic tables and more. It is very close to the village of Greenbank, where there is an eatery and store for picnic goodies.

Local Adventures: Trillium Community Forest Bounty-Peaceful Fir Loop

Kirk and I took a quick break to do a new loop for us at Trillium Community Forest in South Whidbey Island, using 5 trails to do it. Fall is perfect for hikes (though coming next month is the start of hunting closures so keep that in mind).

The trail map has been updated again – and be sure to grab it before you go online and download it. While I get solid phone service/bandwidth, doesn’t mean everyone will (and we run on T-Mobile) The south end of the island is notorious for dropping and dead zones. Kirk and I started on Bounty trail, out of the trailhead on Bounty Loop, off of Mutiny Bay Road, which is just off of Hwy 525, north of Freeland.

If coming from the north end of the island, take a right onto Mutiny Bay Rd, then a right onto Bounty Loop, which is the first road you will encounter to the right. If you miss it, you can turn onto the second entrance to Bounty Loop. There is a large parking lot, vehicles only, no trailers. Bounty Loop is a quiet place, full of homestead sites, and enough feral domestic rabbits for a lifetime (they are gorgeous black ones).

Bounty trail is paved for the first part, as it is part of the Level Loop, which is an accessible trail for all. At the first junction with Level, stay straight ahead. The next section was prettied up this summer, with water bars and tons of gravel put in. It was also widened. No more mud bogs and stinging nettles in the trail. At the next junction (with Crossroads Trail) stay to the right-ish.

Bounty Trail goes through a pretty open forest of old alder trees in the first half, and the trail goes quickly.

Part of Bounty Trail though crosses private property and is much more dense, and hasn’t been thinned properly. It leaves a very narrow trail, and the forest is dark and overgrown.

The trail pops out into light where it ends, at Dragonfly Glade Trail. We took a left onto the trail, and it heads uphill, cutting ever so slowly up the ridge of Trillium.

This section holds water much of the year, and has wetlands. The old logging road has quickly grown into a sheltered single track trail, lined with grass.

The trail pops out onto Patrick’s Way (Mainline Trail), where there is a large opening. We headed to the left, and downhill a bit.

At Peaceful Firs, we took a left onto it. Warning: the trail marker sign is covered from this direction (it’s on the right side of the road) by a bush. Peaceful Firs is a great single track trail, built like a trail, rather than a logging road. It heads down quickly, and pops out at Crossroads trail. Take a left onto Crossroads, then at the next junction, a right back onto Bounty Trail and then out.

A quick couple miles trip, just enough elevation gain and loss to get a workout in, and back to work!