April: Washington Park, Anacortes Hike
Washington Park is a year-round walk but I find April to be the most interesting month because of the abundance of spring ephemerals. Proceeding at normal botanical walking speed, this hike will take two or three hours. - John Brew
Location: Washington Park, Anacortes
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Distance: 2 to 3 miles
Elevation gain: About 300 to 400 feet
Possible flower highlights: See list below
Description of the Hike:
Washington Park is a year-round walk but I find April to be the most interesting month because of the abundance of spring ephemerals. Proceeding at normal botanical walking speed, this hike will take two or three hours. It can be blustery and rainy, so prepare for weather, and some parts of the walk can be slippery. If you like birds, you’ll want to bring binoculars along, there are lots of birding opportunities as well as plants. I’m writing this as if you are walking but it is also possible to drive and roadside botanize, there are a number of parking pullouts.
When you arrive at Washington Park, drive until you reach the restrooms; this is a good area to park. Since they are the last facilities for a while, they are worth a stop. From here, proceed onto the loop road (one-way loop around the park). After about 1/3 of a mile, there will be an open area on your right, this is Green Point, an open grassy area that leads to some rock bluffs. The rocks are serpentine, which contain a high percentage of metals such as copper and cobalt. Along the rock bluff, you’ll find Armeria maritima (Pink Sea Thrift) and Dodecatheon pulchellum (Few-flowered shooting star). I often see Harlequin Ducks swimming here.
After spending some time here, proceed up the road. As you leave Green Point, in the wooded meadow on your left, there are some areas where Fritillaria affinis (Chocolate Lily or checker lily) can be found. Proceeding up the road, you will come to a sharp turn uphill, this is Fidalgo Head. There are some stairs if you want to climb down to the beach. Black oystercatchers frequent this area.
Head back to the road and up the hill and around some curves into a bit of a forest. On the right hand side, wander into the woods and you’ll find a profusion of Calypso bulbosa (Fairy slipper orchid) and Erythronium oregonum among the trees. This area is worth some exploration.
You can wander along through the woods or head back to the road where you walk a little farther until you come to the trail to Juniper Point. This trail is a bit more strenuous, you’ll be climbing up a few hundred feet along a dirt (or mud) trail. Along the way, the rocks are covered with gray-green Cladonia sp. (Reindeer lichen). On the trail, you’ll find Cerastium arvense (field chickweed), tiny Collinsia parviflora (blue-eyed Mary), Lomatium utriculatum (Spring gold), Mimulus guttatus (Seep monkeyflower), Lithophragma parviflorum (smallflower woodland star) and Micranthes integrifolia (was Saxifraga). The view is pretty dramatic along the way but watch your footing. I have seen otters in the water down below the cliff.
After about ½ mile along the trail, there will be a sharp climb up, which will bring you to Juniper Point.
This is a great spot for a break, there is a bench out at the point to sit and look at Burrows Island across the water. This is also a logical lunch spot. You’ll see some interesting trees out here including Juniperus maritima (seaside juniper) and Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrona). In this area, there will be Camassia quamash (Common Blue Camas) and pale cream Toxicoscordion venenosum (Death Camas) growing together.
After Juniper Point, wander on the trail through the madrona trees and back to the road. There is about 2/3 of a mile walk along the road, which is pleasant but without the botanical variety you have just passed. You’ll come to a lone, gnarled maritime juniper and this area is worth exploring. An interesting fern which is an indicator of serpentine rich soil, Aspidotis densa, grows in this area. Another small, uncommon plant in this area is Orobanche uniflora (Naked Broomrape). After a walk downhill on the road, you’ll be back to your car after a (hopefully) botanically interesting hike. On your way home, consider exploring downtown Anacortes. I can recommend the Rockfish Grill, a brewpub with pretty good pub grub.
Here is a list of what plants I’ve seen in April trips to Washington Park over the years. Plant that were in flower during an April trip are in bold on this list.
Apiaceae (carrot family)
Sanicula crassicaulis (Pacific Sanicle)
Lomatium utriculatum (Spring gold) – flowering 2014
Camassia quamash (Common Blue Camas) – flowering 2014
Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle family)
Plectritis congesta (rosy plectritis) – flowering 2014
Caryophyllaceae (pink family or carnation family)
Cerastium arvense - field chickweed – flowering 2014
Erythronium oregonum – flowering 2014
Toxicoscordion venenosum (Death Camas) – flowering 2014
Calypso bulbosa (Fairy slipper orchid) – flowering 2014
Corallorhiza maculata (spotted coralroot) – flowering 2014
Goodyera oblongifolia (western rattlesnake plantain) 2014
Orobanche uniflora (Naked Broomrape) – flowering 2009
Mimulus guttatus (Seep monkeyflower) – flowering 2010
Collinsia parviflora (blue-eyed Mary) – flowering 2014
Armeria maritima (Pink Sea Thrift) – flowering 2014
Dodecatheon pulchellum (Few-flowered shooting star) – flowering 2014
Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry) – flowering 2014
Lithophragma parviflorum (smallflower woodland star) – flowering 2014
Micranthes integrifolia (was Saxifraga) – flowering 2014
(Links to some of John Brew's photos of the flowers can be seen by clicking the underlined year at the end of each description.)
Description text by John Brew