Lighthouse hike well worth the effort

I made it through the howling wind, the shifting sand and the burning hot sun on Saturday, June 13, and that was only on the way out to the Dungeness Lighthouse.

Then I had to make the five-mile hike back to the campground because what I thought was a shuttle van was not a comfy ride back to my campsite and refreshing beverages.

The weekend started on Thursday as we hooked up the fifth-wheel and made the short run to the Dungeness Recreation Area, found our favorite pull-through camping spot (No. 7) and began three days of "getting away from it all."

The campground was virtually empty, folks. If you're a Clallam County resident, the site is just $16 a night and a bargain as the county workers and rangers keep this campground spotless, with no trash on the ground, and the restrooms and showers are kept clean at all hours of the day.

As you may know, half the campsites are on a reservation basis and all are taken for the July 4 holiday, but the other half are first-come sites and if you're there around noon, sites are available as check-out time was moved from 3 p.m. to noon.

After entertaining some friends and enjoying a gourmet chicken kabob dinner with strawberry shortcake and real whipped cream for dessert, I turned in early to get ready for my first-ever foray to the end of Dungeness Spit.

The trek

Mrs. C and I used our Golden Age Passport for admission (there is a cost, you know, to visit the spit) and made the half-mile walk to the beach, going gingerly down the big hill to the sand.

Mrs. C made it a half-mile and said she'd read and rest while I went to the end. I said I might not go all the way and then set out. The tide was going out at 11 a.m. to a low at 1:45 p.m. Those who venture to the end most always go during low tide to avoid having to walk on the soft sand and rocks on the upper part of the beach.

There are no mile markers, so one has to adjust. After the first right turn, one loses sight of the bluff where the walk starts and the lighthouse is not visible.

I saw tire tracks, however, and surmised that if I made it to the end, maybe I could hitchhike back. With my trusty walking stick in hand, it was great. The sun was out, the wind was about 15 knots at my back and I enjoyed walking through flocks of sea gulls.

After what I thought had to be five miles, I went around another bend and there they were: the three buildings on the end of the spit - however, they looked about five miles away. Actually, it was only another 30 minutes and I arrived at the light station.

It's the oldest on the coast, having been put in by Coast Guard in 1857 and, although it is automated now, the lighthouse is staffed by volunteers and has been since 1994. Keepers spend a week on the grounds, doing chores and guiding visitors through the area. Go to Web site for more information.

I asked the nice keeper about the shuttle back and he laughed. He said the next van would be the following Saturday at low tide and, no, it's not a shuttle; it brings the next group of volunteers and needed supplies once a week.

The trek back

It was then I set out on the return trip but instead of the wind at my back, it was in my face and did slow down the pace a bit. I don't know how slow but a couple of what looked like experienced hikers motored past me as if I were standing still and then, moments later, another couple sped by as well, going out of sight quickly.

I learned that the return is much harder than the trip out because you have to hike up that trail to the entrance station when you are done, and it was hard to see with my glasses covered with salt spray.

After a brief rest at camp, I took my two quarters and made it to the shower. I had on sliders and walking shorts and carried a towel. Mr. Ranger made some remark about me having to be in violation of several county ordinances.

It was a very tiring hike but I felt good knowing I had the stamina to make it all the way and back and, as it was a first for me, the tired feeling wasn't too bad.

Needless to say, it was early to bed Saturday night. I awoke Sunday morning without any sore muscles, thank goodness.

Imagine, I've lived on the Olympic Peninsula for 63 years and it was my first hike to the end of Dungeness Spit. How many of you are in the same boat? How many never have been to the area to camp or explore or walk the trails and look down on the Juan de Fuca surf?

Before summer is over, check it out, folks. If I can do it, so can you.

Columns by KONP 1450 AM sports announcer Scooter Chapman appear weekly in the Sequim Gazette. He can be reached via e-mail at

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