Bitter Creek: The Return(s)

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I thought this one turned out OK.

I went up to the Bitter Creek Cirque “trail” again on Christmas Day.

(UPDATE: Road is now periodically opened after Lewis Creek.)

Not surprisingly mine were the only tracks heading up the snowy old road… well besides the deer and bobcat tracks.

Just before the Canyon Creek crossing I ran into the deer.

A Columbian Black Tailed Deer, no antlers. Looked pretty young.

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A touch of blue

 

We eyeballed each other for a minute before he bounded, well kinda plunged. Sunk maybe? His technique needed practice.

After the Nameless Creek crossing the snow became much more powdery, with frequent, sometimes deep wind deposits.

By the time I was in the switchbacks, it was starting to wear me down.

When I finally got to Bitter Creek I was out of steam.

I didn’t have much time before I had to turn around for Christmas obligations, so I sat down, had lunch and drank from the creek like a wild beast.

Christmas was calling.

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SUNDAY, 27DEC2015

Boldly drove beyond the periodic road closure (and county maintenance), all the way to the trailhead in a 2WD Mazda, admittedly not the best idea for everybody.

Immediately at the gate I was surprised to see someone had gone up the trail in my absence!

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They were on snowshoes, and occasionally skis, it would seem with limited success.

I’ll level with you, the trip up was a lot easier on the ol’legs with a well beaten snowshoe track in place!

Oh, and “someone” had remembered to bring a Corona saw this time and cleared a lot of deadfall and such along the grade.

Snow started falling pretty regularly by the time we reached the switchbacks. I felt a slight twinge thinking about the car.

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At Bitter Creek most hopes for any real vast scenery were dashed by the constant snow.

Homeboy’s tracks were still going, blasting right past my previous stopping point.

Beyond the end of the road began treeless terrain. A beautiful waterfall lies just before the last couple dozen feet of elevation to the cirque floor.

I continued on, following the tracks into the cirque but split ways as I headed for a high spot in the middle to get a look at the large icewall at the ESE base of the cirque.

During my visit I got a chance to catch a few avalanches coming down from the SW wall.

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Towards the icewall.

Long views were elusive this time around, but they’ll be there next time. We’d already surpassed our turnaround time so our stay was brief.

The trip down was about 25% in the dark, exacerbated by that slight twinge I mentioned earlier about the car. At least a couple of inches had fallen during the course of our trip.

There would be digging, of this I was sure.

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Really it wasn’t too much of a pain in the ass. I only had to dig to get us turned around, and again when we got a little high centered going up a hill.

Can’t wait until my Subaru gets out of the shop!

THE BOTTOM LINE

Prep work’s done, Jack: At least until the next storm cycle there is a solid snowshoe track well into Bitter Creek Cirque.

Lotsa Wildlife: I’ve seen animals every time I’ve visited, still haven’t seen the bobcat yet though.

No Crowds: Oh wait, except for the visitor on Friday or Saturday. Thanks for breaking the rest of the way!

Beyond Me: I don’t know a thing about ice climbing, but that ice wall might be worth a visit.

Anyway, shouldn’t have to tell you but: this is avalanche country!

As always check NWAC before heading off into the mountains in these winter months

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Happy Trails!

 

 

 MAPS

USGS BARING

USGS INDEX

 

 

Damon Point

That's the big water.
That’s the big water.

Wind, waves and wildlife are all found in abundance at Ocean Shore’s Damon Point!

The walk is self-guided (no-trail) and is approximately four miles around the entire peninsula.

Spawn till you die!
Spawn till you die!

Alternatively, an abandoned road leads to the center of the vegetated area. It can be hard to see unless you are on top of it, but I assure you it’s there. This makes travel into the peninsula’s heart far easier, and less environmentally intrusive. (Aside from the road’s very being there of course)

The interior is mostly beach grass and Scotch Broom with a few hardier native species sprinkled around for good measure. There are small marshes and channels interspersed as well, so watch your step.

Beachcombing will undoubtedly turn up lots of driftwood, shells, agates and other interesting odds and ends.

Many parts of the surf zone have a deep relief change resulting in dramatic waves when conditions are right. Surf’s up dood!

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Currently (as of 2015) there exists a driftwood beach shack at the southern end, which can make a great place to get out of the wind and have a picnic.

On clear days Damon Point offers views of the Olympics, Westport and even Mt.Rainier.

WILDLIFE

This place is a bird watchers paradise!

Deep inside the Scotch Broom
Deep inside the Scotch Broom

Many species of sea and shorebirds frequent the area such as the ‘Near-threatened’ Snowy Plover.

Streaked Horned Lark are a threatened species which use the point for nesting, for this reason the DNR has erected signs around the perimeter of the peninsula’s vegetated center closing the area off to wanderers from March 1st- September 15th.

Staying out during this time isn’t just a courtesy, it’s the law.

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Probably the most famous avian visitors to Damon Point are the Snowy Owls, which can occasionally congregate on the windswept spit in the winter months. This in turn can attract throngs of bird watchers, which serves to attract bird watcher watchers, and the watchers who watch them. Lots of watching going on here.

 

Artistic flora
Artistic flora

Seriously. It happens…maybe.

Deer, if you didn’t notice on the drive in, are found in ridiculous numbers on the Ocean Shores peninsula, and the Scotch Broom forest of Damon Point is no exception.

HISTORY

As mentioned before, at one time a road spanned into the heart of the park, but has since been destroyed by raging storms. You can still walk the remains of it to the Ye olde abandoned parking area. Oooh scary!

In the early 1960s the S.S. Catala served as a “Boatel” in Ocean Shores, before being run ashore at Damon Point by the New Year’s Day Storm of ’65.

There it languished until the 1980’s, when a girl fell through the ship’s deteriorated deck, breaking her back. The resulting lawsuit forced the state to cut the wreck apart and bury it.

S.S. Catala
S.S. Catala

In the 1990’s the wreck was exhumed by winter storms, with subsequent storms revealing more and more of the wreckage.

In 2006, a hiker noticed oil leaking from the badly rusted hull. In response, the state department of ecology remediated the site, ultimately removing 34,500 gallons of heavy fuel oil and all traces of the S.S. Catala.

CONSIDERATIONS

Dog walking is a popular activity at Damon Point, but please keep your dog on a leash, and especially out of the vegetated swaths of the park.

Ground nesting birds and dogs don’t mix.

Unfortunately garbage is abundant. Bottles, derelict fishing gear, shoes, socks, the kitchen sink… There is a lot washed up from the Pacific and from years of careless visitors.

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Reasonable accomodation
Just came on the market!

If you think ahead, do a good thing and bring a garbage bag to pack out some of the crap.

You’ll probably notice that the garbage cans onsite are often overflowing with floatsam and jetsam, so take the trash with you.

Ask a local business to use their dumpster, they’ll likely oblige and appreciate your hard work.

Storm watching can be a fun activity for some of us, but bear in mind that high tide and high surf can easily send breakers right across the point. After all, in this article alone they have already beached a boat and destroyed a road!

You could be sent across along with them…

GETTING THERE

Find your way to Ocean Shores, WA.

Enter Ocean Shores via the fabulous 1960’s era white stone gateway. This is Point Brown Avenue.

Simply follow it south until you see the scary derelict hotel, then look for parking.

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RED TAPE

No pass required for parking!

The park is Day-use only, dawn to dusk.

The only other red tape is the annual March 1st-September 15th travel ban through the park’s interior areas to protect threatened nesting sites.

 

PACKITINPACKITOUT!

…and of course, Happy Trails!

Wilson's Warning
Wilson’s Warning

Ravensdale Retreat

"Guess this must be the place..."
“Guess this must be the place…”

Ravensdale retreat is the kind of place you could drive by one thousand times and still not realize it’s there despite the fact that there is a bright, blue, shiny sign out front.

Water, water everywhere...
Water, water everywhere…

The parking area is a non-descript dirt pull off on the east side of SE Ravensdale Way a few miles east of the mega suburb shopping plex quartered by SE Kent-Kangley Rd & Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE. (Gee, I remember when that was mostly just trees… Ah progress)

I don’t know the exact history of the area, but judging by some aging, out of place fruit trees and old fence posts I’d guess at least some of it used to be part of an old farmstead.

Hitchcock's "The Ferns"
Hitchcock’s “The Ferns”

The retreat is a young forest, most recently logged in the 1980s but it still has a real “lived-in” feel with dense growths of sword ferns covering the forest floor and a bright, green tapestry of moss dangling from the trees.

Unfortunately the sounds of civilization are never far, with the Retreat being sandwiched in between the BNSF mainline and Kent-Kangley road.

There is also a rifle range in the vicinity, which makes for a steady chorus of chugging locomotives, growling jake brakes and gunfire. (Hmm, kinda sounds like a redneck wetdream)

That being said, as you amble along deeper and deeper into the woods it’s easy to forget these distractions.

Meandering trails
Meandering trails

The Ravensdale retreat is home to many animals big and small. During the course of my walks beneath it’s trees I’ve encountered deer, elk and more diminutive mammals as well as a host of different bird species.

I imagine in total there exist about 3 miles of somewhat developed trails through the area, bisected by a long gravel road (which is actually a driveway to a large estate across the railroad tracks) The eastern section of the park is more hilly in contrast to the completely flat western half.

As a riparian area, the trails here can become boggy or outright flooded during heavy weather. Be prepared.

Water can make travel...difficult
Water can make travel…difficult

The trail is shared by hikers and horsemen (possibly Centaurs… I dunno) I’ve never actually seen a horse, horseman or Centaur here, but I’m pretty sure they exist due, to their leavings along the trails.

Toward the end of the western section there is a curious signpost reading [←Fairytale Trail]-[Gracie Trail→] Who posted it there? What does it mean? Why?

I don’t know, it’s a mystery, but for whatever reason they are there, and they both end up at the gravel road.

The famous "Fairytale-Gracie" junction
The famous “Fairytale-Gracie” junction

The Ravensdale Retreat is a nice place for a walk and to watch the seasons change. I live close by so I like to visit every now and then. If you are more of a walker/hiker or wanna take someone who might not be in the greatest shape out for a stroll, this is a great place to go. That being said it’s not a destination I myself would drive out of the way for.

Who knows though, try it on, it might just become your own little favorite retreat.

For more info visit: http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/waterandland/natural-lands/ecological/ravensdale-retreat.aspx

Happy Trails, Harry Biped

Riparian forest
Riparian forest