The hike itself isn’t anything special. It’s a nice easy tramp from North Beach Park to Glass Beach in Port Townsend. There’s no trail. You simply tread on sand, some of it rocky, along the shore flanked on one side by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, on the other by cliffs.
What you do get are tide pools abundantly covered in seaweed (of the kind known in Japanese cooking as wakame), anemones, little crabs, limpets and barnacles, seabirds and otters, and on a clear day a magnificent view of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan, two inactive volcanoes in the Cascade Mountain Range. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
Barnacles on rusty iron debris
During a hike through Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, my wife and I came across the most breathtaking madrone we’ve ever seen, probably because it stands by itself in a grassy field just north of Alexander’s Castle and thus given the freedom to spread its wings.
As majestic as the Western red cedar and Douglas fir trees are in the Northwest, the Pacific madrone (arbutus menziesii) is more showy. It isn’t as common an evergreen, needing well-draining, rocky soil to flourish. The trunk can divide into several branches at the base, splaying outward from each other in curvilinear habit. When its thin orange-red bark peels as if molting, underneath is a lighter layer. I used to have one growing in my backyard. Now I regret having cut it down years ago.
The Big Madrone
GPS coordinates: 48.1356, -122.7646
Fort Worden State Park
Port Townsend, WA