Going to the San Juan Islands? You can get stuck in the ferry line, sometimes for hours, on summer weekends.
I had a couple hours to kill at the Anacortes ferry terminal recently after missing a ferry to Orcas Island. Bored with sitting in the car, I scrambled down a narrow dirt path to the beach just below the vehicle lanes (Washington State Ferries hasn’t been able to build a proper trail yet).
It’s a rocky, nice little beach where families waiting for the ferries play. But what I really enjoyed is a nearby new boardwalk and gravel pathway that meander through a grassy wetland and along the shore of Ship Harbor.
The 1,020-foot boardwalk wasn’t quite finished (I found it by chance, thanks to some orange traffic cones where it dead-ends in tall grass a few hundred yards from the ferry dock). But a handful of walkers and bird-watchers were enjoying it. And the boardwalk leads to an 1,800-foot gravel path – which is all finished - along the waterfront that’s dotted with viewing platforms, sculptures and plaques describing the area’s history, from the native Samish who fished here for centuries to some of the world’s biggest salmon canneries that once stood here (that’s what all those old wood pilings are from).
At some point, when funding comes through, an interpretive center also will be built along what’s called the SHIP boardwalk and trail, which has been in the works since 1997, intially coordinated through the Anacortes Parks Foundation whose web page has lots of background on the path.
Walking along the trail, you’re immediately taken into a peaceful, natural world. There are 25 acres of wetlands, a haven for birds whose songs fill the air, and about 2,000 feet of sandy beach. At some point an intepretive center will be built beside the path.
After walking the SHIP boardwalk and the gravel path you end up in a little waterfront parking lot. But your walk doesn’t have to end at this cul-de-sac. The Guemes Channel Trail, a paved waterfront path, takes off from the other side of the parking lot. While still under construction, eventually it will wind along the shore of Guemes Channel to downtown Anacortes, following an old railway route. The pedestrian/bike path has long been a dream of many people in Anacortes, and eventually it’s hoped there will be about a seven-mile network of paths from Washington Park along Ship Harbor and Guemes Channel to downtown Anacortes and beyond.
My ferry was coming and I didn’t have time to walk the Guemes Channel Trail. But the next time I’m waiting for a San Juans ferry I’ll know right where to go.