Address

http://www.nps.gov/sajh
West Valley Road
Friday Harbor , WA 98250

Hours

Every day 8:00 AM - Dusk

Review

Bell Point Trail provides visitors to English Camp a pleasant forest walk along shorelines of two small bays, opportunities for wildlife observation, interesting trees and wildflowers, views of anchored boats, and a distant look at a modern sea farm. The trail, at not much more than a mile, circles the tiny summit of Bell Point, standing darkly forested at a mere 105 ft.

Begin at the heart of English Camp and walk toward the forest to the north, keeping the water close on your left. As you are about to enter the forest you’ll see the sign and start of the Bell Point trail. The pear trees nearby may not be very obvious but are the remnants of a once extensive orchard that was developed by the venerable and respected Crook family which homesteaded here after the fort was abandoned. A fascinating display of their life and ingenious farming techniques can be found at the San Juan Historical Museum in Friday Harbor.

The walk along this forested shoreline is delightful. Majestic and (in filtered or evening light) luminous Madrona trees reach out over the saltwater beyond the very edge of land. Tiny pocket beaches occasionally appear at the end of short boot trails to the water. Small open grassy patches near the shore contrast with large firs and cedars on the upland side of the trail. The bay you are passing, framed so attractively by the Madrona trees, is named Garrison Bay referencing the British garrison of marines that were stationed here during the Pig War years. During those years the small island you see resting peacefully not far from shore was the location of a supply store operated by Guss Hoffmaster. Though eventually abandoned as was the fort, the island became known as Guss Island. Years later a chance discovery of human bones led to further archeological explorations. These revealed in a much less disturbed setting the extensive and long use made by Native Americans of Garrison Bay long before European contact. The island is currently off limits to visits due to its sensitive archeological status.

In a short time you’ll come to a junction and sign. The spur leads down to the small clearing on Bell Point. This is a wonderful place to take a moment to rest and enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of the setting. Beyond you two bays merge; Garrison to your left and Westcott to your right. Despite the commingling of waters the two bays are distinctly different. Garrison was once much deeper and suitable for large British Man-O-Wars; one of the reasons the site was chosen for a fort. In the later 1800s the tremendous production of lime from wood fired kilns led to the clearcutting of the forests above the bay. The torrents of erosion and deposition that followed filled both bays considerably. Even so, enough depth still exists to make it a favorite boating destination as evidenced by the many craft you will almost certainly see anchored about the bay.

From the point and back along the main trail; views of Westcott Bay begin to dominate. Westcott was always shallower than Garrison and its muddy bottom has been a productive site for shellfish from ancient times to the present. Across the bay a wooden dock creeping out from the right-hand shoreline marks the site of a modern sea farm. Soon the trail leads to a clearing with a picnic table, and your last waterside view on the loop.

Water lovers may want to turn around and retrace their steps but if you continue, the short walk through the woods follows an old wagon trail and is worthwhile for its own natural setting. The trail begins uninterestingly with brushed shrubs forming a walled entry but in less than a minute this ends and you enter the true interior of the forest. Interior views open as the underbrush fluctuates between forest wetlands and shrubs. It’s easier to notice the faint twittering of birds and rustling of leaves here with the sounds and distractions of the shore absent. While most people visiting the islands are focused on the large marine mammals and shore birds; you have a rare opportunity to see one of the most unusual land mammals on San Juan Island. Normally only active at night but occasionally seen during daylight hours, the elusive flying squirrel makes its home in the tall trees that you are walking under. More gliders than flyers they would be hard to distinguish from other squirrels except that no other species exist on the island. So if you see a squirrel during this walk; the chances are, gliding or not, that it was a flying squirrel. Eventually the trail enters the large lawn of English Camp not far from where you began. Ahead of you the white buildings of the old camp welcome you back to civilization. Are you ready?
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 7/22/2009

Directions

From Friday Harbor ferry dock; drive uphill and turn right on Second Street N, (becomes Guard Street); at intersection turn right onto Roche Harbor Road. At about nine miles from the ferry dock watch for signs and turn left on West Valley Road. The entrance to English Camp is on the right in about 1 ½ miles. Drive slowly down to parking lot.

Map

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