Eastsound Community Trails

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Review

Photo Credit: Bud Hardwick
Among the many gems of recreational opportunities on Orcas Island, possibly one of the least known to visitors from off-island is the Community Trail System of Eastsound. Well used by residents of all ages, the trails allow connections between homes, schools, and businesses of the Eastsound area. For those staying in Eastsound, the paths provide a wonderful alternative to driving. The north and south shores of the island are no more than a moderate walk from each other and nearly every service that is available on Orcas can be found within walking distance. Additionally, passing by private homes, front yards, neighborhood schools and parks provides visitors with a more realistic insight into life on Orcas than would be possible if only experiencing the island from the specialized environment of a resort or isolated vacation home.

Despite being the commercial hub of Orcas Island, a walk around the village of Eastsound offers special scenic views and wildlife observations that are not to be found elsewhere. The entire Eastsound area is geologically unusual on this predominantly hilly and steep sided island. The topography here is mostly flat forming a gently sloped land bridge between the east and west mountainous lobes of Orcas. Barely twenty feet above sea level, only a short distance separates the uppermost shore of the long fjord of Eastsound from the open waters to the north.

Within the Eastsound area, dense shrubby forests of young trees, wetlands, meadows, protected shores, and exposed beaches form distinctly different environments in close proximity to each other. With such varied habitats, the trails pass through highly diverse plant communities. Tall dark conifers, low native shrubs, wildflowers, deciduous trees, and salt-tolerant plants can all be found. The presence of so many deciduous species provides for the significant seasonal change in plant scenery from lush summer vegetation, to fall colors, and the bare twigs and branches of winter. Spring is the most energetic time with sprouts and the delicate colors of new growth making each day different. Among the flowering trees are occasional clusters of old and long forgotten fruit trees noticeable by their distinctive blossoms. Some of these are the remnants of the once prolific island orchard industry that was famous for its fruits, shipping by boat directly to the growing markets of Seattle and by rail as far east as Kansas.

While frequent, the wildlife sightings are generally subtle. Tracks and even encounters with deer, raccoons and other small mammals may be common, but it is the birdlife that provides the greatest interest to the casual observer. Flitting about the branches and shrub borders, a parade of different species follows the seasons. Mixtures of year-round residents, migrating flocks, and seasonal visitors provide frequent changes in the sights and sounds of these areas.

One way to explore these trails is to begin on the shores of Eastsound on the south end of the village at Waterfront Park. Wander behind the historic Outlook Inn and begin walking on the trail past ponds, small bridges and quaint structures. Along the way woodland corridors alternate with brushy wetlands and open meadows and fields. Continuing north the trail provides connecting opportunities to neighborhoods and the commercial center of the village. Passing beneath the flight path of the airport, dramatic views of low flying aircraft can be had; afterward the quieter sounds of nature actually seem more noticeable and appreciated.

The path jogs around the airport, past the popular dog park and turns north again passing the community garden. Sometimes serpentine it swerves around old trees that provide welcomed shade on hot summer days and interesting structure throughout the year. The road-side path continues past interesting homes and picturesque B&Bs before ending at North Beach with expansive marine views including Parker Reef, Sucia Island State Park and not that far beyond, the islands and waters of Canada.

Returning, more road-side paths allow a walk to the shops and restaurants for a well deserved break. For a more extended trip, make a longer loop that includes the special natural area of Crescent Beach. Travel eastward along Mt. Baker Road to the trailhead, and then walk the trail south to Crescent Beach where you are once again on the shores of Eastsound only a short distance east of the village.

The trail system is a work in progress with additional segments being added from time to time, providing changing loop options and more places to explore. Whether staying in Eastsound or just visiting for the day; a walk along the Community Trails is certain to provide a wide variety of pleasant experiences.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 7/27/2009

Directions

The Community Trails of Eastsound village may be accessed from many points. The trail’s southern endpoint can be found behind the historic Lookout Inn on Main Street; and to the north at a narrow public beach at the end of North Beach Road. The main trail wanders through the fringe of a natural area along the west side of the busy village core of restaurants and shops passing a number of short connections between the two.

Map

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