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Nature with a curfew and an admission fee | BEYOND KITSAP

The view from about a mile out on the spit.  - Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo
The view from about a mile out on the spit.
— image credit: Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo

What's Up takes a quick trip north to walk one of the biggest sand spits in the United States.

Go ahead and call me cheap.

I’m still wondering if the price of admission to walk Dungeness Spit was worth it.

Granted, it’s prestigious enough — touted as the largest natural sand spit in the United States, extending five miles out into the Strait of Juan De Fuca. They say it’s growing at an average rate of about 15 feet per year. It’s also a National Wildlife Refuge for endangered birds, established in 1915 as a resting and wintering place for the once extinction-threatened Black Brant.

Still, even with that, paying to enjoy nature is a tough pill to swallow.

Because the cost was only $3 for our entire two-man party (myself and my cohort Mr. McDougall), we let it slide, paid the toll and headed off down the trail.

And it would’ve been worth it too, if we’d only gotten there a few hours earlier. But before we get into that, let’s cover some of the basics.

A natural sand spit — not an all-too-familiar term for many — is one of the most common coastal landscapes there is. It is kind of like a strip of beach, or a sandbar, that extends out into the water for hundreds of feet or in some cases for miles. One end connects to land, while the other exists in the open water.

Spits are formed by a process that’s called longshore drift in which waves meet the beach at an oblique angle, and backwash perpendicular to the shore, moving sediment down the beach in a zigzag pattern, according to the Journal of Geology.

It’s kind of a confusing process, that I’ve yet to fully wrap my head around, but it’s not all that important to this story.

What’s important here is that you know about this massive and fascinating coastal feature, that’s located right outside your backyard — a short 45-minute drive Beyond Kitsap, north through Sequim, up Kitchen-Dick Road to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

My camera-wielding colleague and I recently took the trip to see this largest of natural sand spits in the United States, and hopefully walk out to the lighthouse located at the far end for tea and conversation with the Dungeness light keepers.

However, our departure was delayed as I unsuccessfully attempted to consult the day’s tide tables (as is suggested before you go by the Washington State Department of Ecology Web site), so by the time we arrived the sun was already on its decline.

After spending 15-20 minutes reviewing the nature reserve’s many rules and regulations (no fires, no camping, no ATVs, no horses, no one allowed on half of the spit to name a few) plus the time spent filling out the envelope for the admission fee, it almost seemed like a lost cause.

Also in the rules and regulations, we found out that they lock the reserve’s gates at 6 p.m. — something that would’ve been nice to know before we arrived — which meant we had less than four hours to walk the five miles and five miles back. D’oh!

Which, of couse, is ridiculously unrealistic, but, of course, we went for it anyway.

About a mile onto the spit, just as I was getting that lost-on-a-deserted island feeling I was hoping for, two elder park keepers approached us in a golf-cart-looking beach cruiser to let us know there was 5 p.m. curfew to get off the spit, and they would be locking the gates at 6 p.m. whether we had made it back or not.

Who knew that nature could have so many rules?

LEARN MORE ABOUT DUNGENESS SPIT at the New Dungess Light House website — www.newdungenesslighthouse.com — and at www.dungeness.com/refuge.

A BIT CLOSER TO HOME... The Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre public garden and sanctuary located on Bainbridge Island was recently the only garden in the United States nominated for the inaugural Gaden of the Year Award sponsored by the British Broadcasting Service publication “Gardens Illustrated” and the Garden Museum of London. While Bloedel didn’t get the top prize, the international nomination was the second major recognition for The Reserve this year. Back in June, Bloedel was awarded for Garden Excellence by the American Public Garden Association, for which The Reserve will be featured in the spring edition of “Horticulture Magazine.”

Reservations to visit can be made at www.bloedelreserve.org.

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