An beach with a large driftwood log wedged into the sand and a bluff of conifers to the left.

Surf Report and Survey

I mentioned I’ve been making a point of writing trip reports over at the Washington Trails Association (WTA) site. I had to run some errands in Port Townsend the other day and so had some time to check out a short beach hike. Here’s the trip report.

Pro-tip for transit trekkers planning a day trip from Seattle or Edmonds: You don’t have a ton of time if you want to make use of the Kitsap Fast FerryKingston Express or Edmonds-Kingston ferry combo. Two things you can do:

1 — Help solve that schedule dilemma by letting Jefferson Transit know you’d love increased frequency – earlier or later runs – to make visits easier. Take their survey here. I checked all the boxes for more service all the time. Unrealistic at current funding levels but there’s no reason to not ask. Be sure to use the comment box at the end of the survey to say thanks, and tell them if you think you would be more likely to use the Kingston Express if there were more frequent connections and if there was at least one earlier and one later Kingston Express run so a day trip would not require being quite so conscious of time.

2 — For Seattle-based folks, you can enjoy a longer day trip by taking the Jefferson Transit route 7 to North Viking Transit Center and catching the Kitsap Transit 390 to the Bainbridge Ferry. Also for your consideration: is there really ever an off-season for visiting Port Townsend? I personally don’t think so, but there are some fairly reasonable lodging options in town during the official off-season to allow an overnight (or longer) visit. NB that many are in old hotels that have not been retrofit for any kind of mobility access in mind. Some of the contemporary motels near the ferry terminal should be more accessible and also have decent rates.

Another pro-tip: when the tides are low enough (and you WILL want to consult tide tables), you can extend a hike from Point Wilson all the way to McCurdy Point, about 4 or 4.5 miles west, with an option to exit the beach at North Beach County Park, where you will still have access to Fort Worden State Park trails.

Note! This post was edited a bunch of times shortly after I initially published it to clean up all kinds of little errors, clarify a few points, and add that last bit about McCurdy Point.

Two shoe prints in beach sand. One large and one small, presumably a child's print.
Juvenile and adult shoe prints in wet beach sand belie the recent presence of humans near Point Wilson
A close up of the paper map of the general vicinity of my trip to the Hood Canal.

A Winter Transit Trek to Dosewallips State Park

Off-season rates for Washington State Parks rental cabins made this last week a good one to get some away time to be with myself and focus on writing The Transit Trekker Manual. I had rescheduled from the first week in December because the weather looked iffy at the time, only for more intense weather and snow on my rescheduled arrival date to suspend the Jefferson Transit Route 1 at Quilcene. That’s about 15 miles north of the bus stop at the entrance to Dosewallips State Park. Not a walkable distance or conditions with my gear, and not something that in unpredictable winter weather I’d be comfortable bicycling, especially on a route I’d not ridden before.

No matter. Although I thought I’d looked at all possible transit permutations from Seattle to Dosewallips, as I monitored the transit agency’s severe weather service updates in hopes that this was only a one-day delay, that gave me time to look over schedules and routes again. Whereupon I discovered I’d overlooked a series of transit trips that allowed me to avoid a frigid 4-hour layover in Port Townsend, among other factors.

Yes, a few hours in Port Townsend is its own elixir under most circumstances. But I was hauling more than usual in anticipation of my week-long stay at Dosewallips, and without my bike, so flaneuring around town with both my backpacking pack and my hand-cart AKA Burley Travoy in tow, in the snow, on sidewalks that might or might not be plowed and might or might not be iced over, and might or might not have curb cuts, was not my idea of a great time. I had even plotted out my expected layover so as to explore town and stretch my legs and lungs while keeping reasonably sheltered from the elements:

A table outlining which bus routes and on what schedule I could ride during an anticipated 4-hour layover in Port Townsend, which included a stop at my favorite coffee shop, a hike at Fort Worden State Park, a visit to the library, and a short shopping trip to the food coop, before catching my transfer to the last segment of my bus trip to Dosewallips.
The left columns list departure locations and times; the right columns list arrival locations and times. And yes, that should say 12:17 pm, not am.

In retrospect, I’m not sure why I thought I could do any hiking at Fort Worden with the trailer in the snow. I probably would not have had time anyway, given the actual state of sidewalks just around Haines Place Park & Ride transit hub — mostly uncleared, semi-frozen, slick with ice, worst at curb cuts — it would have likely taken me a full hour or more to painstakingly walk back from Water Street (and my favorite Port Townsend destination, Better Living Through Coffee) to catch the Fort Worden-bound bus. I’m still very wary of being indoors with folks for long periods of time, even masked (I plan to get my bivalent booster in the next few days) or I would have happily planted myself at the library for all those hours instead of just a little.

The Seattle-to-Dosewallips trip I ultimately pieced together added one bus segment but reduced the layover factor by three hours, letting me leave home later rather than earlier in the morning. The weather was looking slightly less intense, but I knew I would still have to wait until morning to see if Jefferson Transit was going to resume full service on the route 1.

The next morning I furiously refreshed the Jefferson Transit page for severe weather service updates. It turned out that the route 1 was still not running all the way to Triton Cove, it’s southern terminus along 101. Nor was it running to Dosewallips. But! It was running to Brinnon, the stop just before Dosewallips. I knew from my scoping out the trip that there was a pedestrian pathway along Highway 101 on the bridge over the Dosewallips River, connecting the north and south sides of the park so folks don’t need to walk on the highway. Neither the park maps nor online maps make it exactly clear how to access it from town, but it looked like less than a 10-minute walk from the bus stop to my cabin. I’d delayed my trip by a day already and I wasn’t going to let a few minutes of possibly having to walk on the shoulder of 101 stop me from enjoying my planned week of respite and work.

Once I was off the bus….well, some sections of highway 101 shoulders are more narrow than others. And with two short bridges over marshy areas, to get to the ped path it looked like I’d still have to walk on those narrow shoulders, which still had snow plow pile up the sides, before I could get close enough to the ped walkway. Thankfully traffic was light, and notably, drivers of largest vehicles, including a semi, were by far the best at slowing and giving me ample space. I made it to the main 101 bridge over the Dosewallips and its wider shoulders and thought I might just be able to walk the shoulder to the main park entrance. But then I saw up ahead the curve of the highway and narrowed shoulders cramped by guardrails on both sides, and limited sight lines around the curve. I looked across the highway at the low concrete wall lining the pedestrian path on the other side. After a moment of assessment, I decided I could lift the Burley over that low wall. And so when traffic was clear, I crossed, lifted myself over and onto the snow-encrusted walkway, and then rolled the Travoy’s wheels and body up and over. Disappointed but not surprised, unlike 101 and the roads in the park when I arrived, the pathway was not plowed. (This would prove to be an ongoing issue when I walked into town after the snow melted off, because there’s a high lip on the river side of the walkway, which slows the snowmelt considerably, creating the effect of walking through a stream.)

The snow-covered pedestrian walkway along US 101 crossing the Dosewallips River in Washington. There are footprints and two tire tracks.
Looking north back toward Brinnon from the pedestrian walkway. I took this photo the day after I arrived but you can see the tracks from my Burley right about where I pulled it up and over from the shoulder of 101.

From here I carefully made my way down a ramp that led to an underpass connecting the east and west sides of the park, and the sector of the park where my cabin was located – right there.

Empty Burley Travoy trailer leaning against a table on the porch of my rental cabin, with remnants of snow on it.
My Burley Travoy unpacked on the porch of my cabin at Dosewallips after assisting with my transit trek there. The cabins are cozy & basic; heat, lighting, electrical outlets, beds, tables, chairs. There’s room on the porch to cook — I brought backpacking food that just takes hot water, and small electric kettle. Restrooms and showers are nearby.

Later I discovered that getting to the path involves little more than crossing 101 during a lull and finding a well-worn but unsigned goat path that connects to the walkway and its ramps. (Not that accessible, alas, and neither is the park for mobility aids, though I guess that falls under YMMV.) The goat path likely would have been much more visible in the summertime, since the snow obscured a lot of cues that I otherwise would have been able to consider in my navigational choices! Better signage on the park’s and county’s part about the sidepath option would have also been useful, even in better weather. And if the goat path is on public park property or a DOT or other easement….just pave it already.

A couple of days in, I also discovered through speaking with a park staffer that the county didn’t consider Triton Cove enough of a priority to plow, which is one reason the bus likely held at Brinnon the day I arrived. I did not confirm this with Jefferson Transit….but whichever the jurisdiction, once again, disappointed but not surprised that a key transit connection — the only one between Mason and Jefferson Counties, by the way — is not considered a priority for plowing. Especially ironic to me when so much of the conversation I overheard on the buses I rode in Jefferson County was how unsafe the roads were for driving — many of the folks on my buses were riding precisely because they wanted to avoid driving but needed to get around.

These are the kind of barriers that nondrivers in these communities should not have to confront, and they are barriers that people who can drive rarely have to confront. Consider the rarity with which the state closes highway passes due to snow, and the great and repeated lengths it goes to plow those passes (and despite the near-certainty of costly collisions that end up delaying that traffic anyway and putting first responders at risk); yet a critical transit connection suffers a gap because some jurisdiction won’t plow sufficiently for bus service, which is a much safer way to travel, particularly in snow. One thing I’m working on with The Transit Trekker Manual is providing users a tool to provide feedback to All The Jurisdictions about the gaps and opportunities to improve the transportation network for nondrivers in the places they visit by transit. It would be a mistake to use the interest I think exists for transit-based recreation to only increase service and convenience for visitors without first closing the gaps and enhancing service and mobility for the communities I am encouraging folks to travel to and through.

Back to Dosewallips…

I arrived at the park at a magical time, when almost everything was covered in snow and the quiet that comes with it.

Later in my stay, after days of heavy rain melted the snow (and flooded part of the park, forcing one of the parties in a cabin in another part of the park to relocate to the empty cabin next to me), another kind of glorious emerged, including the famous elk of Dosewallips. My own sighting and so elk photos came at a pretty far distance earlier in the day— over in the meadow on the other side of the river. David Faber (who happens to be the mayor of Port Townsend and wrote a thoughtful letter about the Week Without Driving in the city’s October 2022 City Newsletter) happened on elk up close and kindly allowed me to use his tweet here. This is along Highway 101 just south of the park’s main entrance.

There’s quite a lot you can do using the park or nearby resorts or lodging as bases, including starting some epic backpacking trips on the Olympic Peninsula. You can also walk or roll from the park to the very-nearby Geoduck Lounge (see the results of my visit below) if you don’t mind crossing 101.

Dosewallips will be a featured trip in The Transit Trekker Manual with lots more details than I can offer here. (Yup, that’s a hint to sign up to get notified when the manual is released!)

Fried oysters and french fries in a to go container with a slice of lemon and side of tartar sauce.
Oyster Basket a la Geoduck Lounge.
View of Deception Pass at the north end of Whidbey Island. A saltwater pass, dark blue, is bounded on two sides by coniferous forested cliffs. The sky above is pastel blue with distant gray and white clouds on the horizon.

A Transit Trek to Deception Pass

Twitter mutual @Danielhep just did a transit trek from Seattle to Deception Pass State Park, one of the most popular of Washington’s state parks.

Deception Pass is also reachable as a Transit Trek for folks living in Kingston, Port Townsend, Edmonds, Mukilteo, Everett, Mt. Vernon, and Bellingham (I’m sure I’ve overlooked some nearby cities; this is just the off-the-top of my head list).

I had never been to Deception Pass until last March, when, stubbornly determined to fix that despite very few direct options to get to Whidbey Island — especially with the suspension of the one morning Sounder trip and all Amtrak Cascades rail service north of Seattle — I plotted a multi-modal, multi-day bike-bus-ferry route to the park, staying at Kitsap Memorial State Park and in Port Townsend en route. I found some fantastic and mostly chill backroads in Kitsap and Jefferson counties not too bothered by car traffic. I acclimated to more highway shoulder riding, never my first choice, but Kitsap County is a place where building some tolerance for that extends your reach. I also tried some things I probably won’t do again unless absolutely necessary, like cycling across the Hood Canal Bridge. I learned that riding Center Road is not at all as bad as I thought it would be — the shoulders are wide and the traffic, while fast-ish, was less aggressive than I’ve found it to be on similar roads.  This last discovery is a boon for one of the bicycle tours I’m eyeing, as Center Road is part of the recommended detour for riding the largest gap in the eastern section of the Olympic Discovery Trail. Now that I’ve sampled it, it feels quite a bit less intimidating.

And, I learned which supposedly bike-friendly roads on Whidbey are not really — thankfully just a couple of absurd intersections where crossing Highway 20 was required. It was March, there was wind, and a little rain, and it was chilly. A lot of the riding I did was to compensate for the less-than-convenient transit schedules but I was also pretty happy to do it.

For Seattle-based trekkers who need to stick to transit, though, new service from Jefferson Transit will make a variation on my trip much easier: the route 14 Kingston Express. Beginning two days ago until March 31 the ride is free and for the next month there’s a promotion offering free transfers: “Passengers riding the #14 Kingston Express with the Kingston Ferry Terminal as their final destination will receive one transfer pass that will allow them to ride the Kitsap Transit Kingston Fast Ferry.”

I don’t recall if Clallam Transit’s Straight Shot launched with a similar promotion, but I think it is a smart idea and I’m curious to see how it goes. Less exciting is the Kingston Express’s $8 fare, mostly because there is no other direct route between Kingston and Port Townsend and that is a steep cost for transit-reliant local folks. It also makes the cost of bringing kids less competitive with driving if a family already owns a car. (It’s also a bummer that despite their routes overlapping along a section of SR 104, The Straight Shot doesn’t make at stop at Gateway Visitors Center, which would open up some great possibilities for transit treks to the Olympic Peninsula.) The $8 fare is offset a little by the fact that Island Transit service is completely free. It’s offset a lot by leaving the stress of driving to professionals on the three bus rides and enjoying the hydrotherapeutic effects of two ferry rides. 

Note that the Island Transit schedules this route depends on run Monday-Friday only (see below for a possible Saturday option). Ditto for the Kingston Fast Ferry; folks bringing bicycles will have more transit flexibility on weekends. I routed me and my e-bike mostly on backroads for the approximately 25 or 30 mile ride from Keystone on Whidbey to Deception Pass, and recommend it. 

Also note that once Amtrak Cascades resumes rail service north of Seattle, taking Amtrak to Mukilteo to catch the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry might make the Amtrak option quicker than what I’m about to detail here. Preparations are underway but as of this writing, Amtrak has not set a hard date for resuming that service. 


Here’s How


A handmade wooden sign post next to a flat wooded trail in coniferous forest directs hikers to different desinations.

This Way to Discovery 

From Seattle:

— Catch the 7:55 a.m. Kitsap Transit Fast Ferry to Kingston arriving at 8:34 a.m. (If you stress about making connections like I do, you could take the 6:15 a.m. departure and hangout with a book at Over The Moon Coffee Roasters nearby, or amble around town? However, it’s much more common for bus drivers in smaller transit systems to wait for ferry arrivals that are running a little late, so the 8 to 10-minute gap between the ferry arrival in Kingston and the bus departure is probably plenty.)

— A short distance from the ferry terminal catch the 8:42 a.m. Jefferson Transit route 14 Kingston Express (or possibly 8:45 a.m.; the schedule contradicts itself so I’m assuming the least forgiving version of the schedule). The Kingston Express arrives at Port Townsend’s Haines Place Park and Ride at 9:57 a.m

— From Haines Place, it’s about a mile walk to the ferry terminal along Water Street, the town’s main drag. You could also take the 11A Shuttle if the timing works out.

This schedule gives you about an hour’s layover in town, just enough time for a brief but unrushed pitstop at the Food Co-op, en route to the ferry terminal, to stock up on eats and drinks, including some really decent quality 750 ml box “bottles” of wine, and local foods. Membership is not required to shop there. 

— Arrive at the ferry terminal in time to board for the 11 a.m. departure to Keystone/Coupeville.

As of this writing, ongoing crew shortages may affect ferry service, so check before you plan your trip. Tidal conditions periodically reduce service on this route, too, usually posted well in advance.

If crew shortages or your own pure desire leave you with time to spare in Port Townsend, pick up some coffee — Better Living Through Coffee just off Water Street sets the standard, and has tasty savory and sweet snacks and light meals within a short walk to the ferry terminal. There are several used bookstores near the terminal, and plenty of tasty, casual dining spots on or near Water Street.

— Disembarking at Keystone, promptly catch the 11:35 a.m. Island Transit Route 6 northbound to Oak Harbor.

If you’ve brought a bicycle with you, you could ride into Coupeville proper and catch the 1N to Oak Harbor. Engle Road was a fine bicycle route (see the Island County bike map link below) toward Coupeville on my trip, though I was eager to get to the park and didn’t head all the way into town.

— In Oak Harbor, catch the next  411W heading toward March’s Point, getting off at Deception Pass at Seabolts. Or,  with bike, plot a route on the Island’s backroads. The Island County Bike Map is a good one. You can request a paper copy here. Overall, I found avoiding Highway 20 when possible and avoiding the yellow sections offered me a lovely ride. Next time, I will avoid the parts of Oak Harbor nearest Ault Field, and definitely avoid the intersection of West Ault Field Road at Highway 20.  West Beach Road could get a little hectic along the more developed parts. I can’t speak to summer conditions, and my visit spanned midweek in March. I’d expect a lot more bicycle and car traffic in nicer weather and high season.


The park is large and beautiful with many hiking trails and options for boating and fishing as well as camping and simple but cozy cabins (reserve in advance via the state parks website). In other words, you can plan to stay overnight. Or nights!  

Daniel visited Deception Pass as a day trip. That might be a bit much if you’re traveling with smaller kids. 

Other destinations reachable via this route in Port Townsend are Fort Worden Historical State Park, the Olympic Discovery Trail (noting the recommended detour referenced above to avoid a tricky section of Highway 20), and Fort Townsend Historical State Park, to name just a few. On the Whidbey side, you can step off the Keystone/Coupeville ferry and make a left directly into Fort Casey State Park, which offers beachside camping as well as nearby transit access that will get you close to Coupeville or to points farther north and south.

You can get to Whidbey Island and Deception Pass on a Saturday from Seattle by finding a way to Edmonds on a Saturday, possibly Amtrak Cascades once it resumes service north of Seattle. From Edmonds, take the WSDOT ferry to Kingston, timing things to catch the Kingston Express and then the ferry to Coupeville/Keystone. Then catch the Island Transit 1N to Oak Harbor (which DOES stop at the Keystone/Coupeville Ferry on Saturdays), and transferring to the Island Transit 411W at Oak Harbor and get off at Seabold’s at Deception Pass. Note the more limited Saturday schedules Island Transit.

A more direct weekday option may be possible for cyclists: If you’re happy to bicycle a bit on Whidbey, you could take the first afternoon run of the Sounder to Mukilteo, ferry to Clinton, and then catch the last 1N heading to Oak Harbor, and ride from there to Deception Pass. (Both Sounder stops at Mukilteo arrive too late to catch the an earlier 1N that would connect you with the 411W that would take you to Deception Pass. I believe pre-pandemic there were earlier schedules, so stay tuned. If and when eariler service is added to Mukilteo, this would be a nice and relatively direct way to Deception Pass.)

Alert: Deception Pass is situated near Whidbey Naval Air Station. You will likely hear jets, and they are not infrequently very loud. Check the park website above for special updates about times of heavier jet activity. I’m pretty sensitive to this kind of noise, and while these interuptions were not pleasant, it won’t dissuade me from returning to Deception Pass. 

More variations are possible, of course, in addition to what I have outlined here. It’s also possible to hop back on Island Transit at Deception Pass and take the Anacortes ferry to the San Juans, some of which have bus service in the high season. But those are posts for another time.