Note: Maribeth Crandell recently retired from her position with Island Transit. As the agency’s mobility specialist, she scheduled monthly bus trips, among other work. This is Whidbey published two stories featuring former fun field trips: Riding the bus with Maribeth, and Riding the bus with Maribeth, Wendy and Jack: ADA accessible trails.
Now that she is retired, you may be interested in one of her favorite past times: hiking in Island County and beyond. She publishes a weekly blog with retired state park ranger Jack Hartt, Hiking Close to Home, and the pair has written an updated book by the same name detailing nearly 70 hikes on Whidbey, Fidalgo and Guemes islands and more.
Maribeth, a former naturalist and hiking guide, has hosted past ‘Walks with Wheels’ library programs for people with kids in strollers, people on bikes, in wheelchairs, or those with mobility challenges. While hosting the popular talks, she received feedback from wheelchair users, saying access was difficult at particular trails. As a result, Maribeth contacted land owners and trail planners to improve accessibility. Jack Hartt is now involved with the Anacortes Community Forest Lands and Skagit Land Trust. He also enjoys photography and being outdoors.
Maribeth emailed recently, suggesting a story. Here are her words:
Here’s something that would make a great story. There’s a new bus route that goes to Fort Ebey State Park, Ebey’s Landing and Fort Casey State Park. It runs 7 days a week through Labor Day. I took it by myself to make sure I knew how it worked, and where I could hike in the time between buses, and the next week I brought a group of friends on it. Here’s how it worked.
The itinerary below includes lunch in Coupeville. If you want to bring a picnic there are tables by the wharf.
Coming from South Whidbey on a weekday catch the Northbound Route 1 bus from Bayview Park & Ride at 8:15, or WiFire in Freeland at 8:19, or South Whidbey State Park at 8:29, or Greenbank at 8:35, or meet at the bus shelter at the Coupeville Park & Ride on South Main Street across from the Cedar and Salt coffee shop at 8:50. Don’t be late!
8:52 Catch the new Central Whidbey Parks bus northbound at Coupeville Park and Ride.
9:13 Arrive at Fort Ebey State Park with 90 minutes to explore (bring a trail map).
10:45 Catch the Parks bus at the Lake Pondilla parking lot. (Restrooms are available there.)
11:08 Arrive in Coupeville next to Bayleaf with 90 minutes for lunch.
12:38 Catch the southbound Parks bus at the same stop (by Bayleaf)
12:45 Arrive at Ebey’s Landing with 90 minutes to walk the beach or the bluff (not the whole loop)
2:15 Catch the Parks bus to Ft Casey and the ferry and then to Coupeville P&R
2:50 Exit the bus at Coupeville Park & Ride and cross the street
2:55 Catch the Route 1 Southbound at the Elementary School
Arrive in Greenbank @ 3:12, SW State Park @ 3:19, Freeland @ 3:30, or Bayview @ 3:36.
Our day began with hikers catching the northbound bus at their respective stops on our way to Coupeville. The next bus connection is tight so at Race Road (5 miles south of Coupeville) I asked the bus driver to call ahead to make sure the Parks bus would wait for us at the Coupeville Park and Ride. We switched from one bus to the next without delay and headed to Fort Ebey State Park.
We asked the driver to let us off at the park entrance station. The bus continued on to the end of the park road on the right while we turned left and went a short distance on the road. We turned right on to the Old Gun Battery Trail which is a service road that passes the Hiker-Biker camp area and ends at the Gun Battery on the bluff. We walked through the well-lit battery and out the other side.
From there we took the Bluff Trail (not the Ebey’s Bluff Trail, but the Bluff Trail at Fort Ebey). We spied some brown pelicans fishing among some gulls just off shore. The twisted fir trees showed how the winter wind blows there. We turned left at the Hokey-ka-Dodo trail and followed it to the Campground Trail to the Forest Run Trail and turned left on to the Raider Creek Trail. This is a smooth easy grade along a lush green ravine where birds sang among the ferns and tall alders and cedar trees. When we met the road we turned left again and walked a short distance to the Old Entrance Road (closed to traffic) and made our way toward Lake Pondilla. The Pacific Northwest Trail overlaps this trail. We turned left and left again and came out at the beach parking area. We walked around the corner to find the bus waiting at the Lake Pondilla parking lot with a few minutes to use the restrooms.
Back on the bus we decided to have lunch at the picnic tables by the wharf in Coupeville. It was a lovely day and afterward we got ice cream and then walked to the end of the wharf to see the marine mammal skeletons hanging from the ceiling. We used the restrooms there. The bus picked us up by Bayleaf and took us out to Ebey’s Landing where we got off with 90 minutes to walk either the bluff or the beach. Our party split and both enjoyed their walks. The views from the bluff were spectacular and the beach was refreshing.
The bus arrived on time and took us to Fort Casey State Park. I thought we’d be driving around the parking lot and then going to the ferry. But the driver said he could drop us off and come back after going to the ferry. So we had time to visit the lighthouse and some of us climbed the tower. In 15 minutes the bus was back to pick us up. We called ahead to make sure we’d connect with the southbound Route 1 at Coupeville Elementary. The bus was there waiting when we arrived.
It all worked like clockwork. What a great way to get out and enjoy the parks this summer. Bring a group! There are plenty of seats and it’s free but only runs through Labor Day.