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Originally published Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 1:42 PM

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Take a hike in Deception Pass State Park

Washington Trails Association Hike of the Week is nestled within pristine Deception Pass State Park.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Just don't climb in the areas that are marked Do Not Enter. Every year, somebody gets... MORE

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It is time to get outdoors, wipe the moss off our backs and enjoy a wonderful day hike just a short drive north of Seattle.

The Washington Trails Association Hike of the Week is nestled within pristine Deception Pass State Park.

The two hiking trails branch out from the interpretive center — the first to cliffs (don't get too close to the ledge) at Rosario Head and the other to Lighthouse Point, with great views into Deception Pass and out to the San Juan Islands.

With more than 4,000 acres and almost 40 miles of trails this hiking area has something for everyone — rugged coastal headlands, placid coves, tidal pools teeming with crusty critters, towering ancient evergreens, waterfront campsites and breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains.

From the interpretive center, head west for the trail to Rosario Head. Fir trees and madronas shade the way for this well-built trail as it steeply gains 100 feet, flanking Bowman Bay. Pause to enjoy the periodic outlooks along the way before the trail descends to Sharpe Cove at 0.75 mile. Now, make the 0.3-mile loop around Rosario Head using caution: 50-foot cliffs on the west side drop straight to Rosario Strait. Make this hike in the evening for spectacular sunsets, or take a nap in the grass on a warm day. In late spring, spot wildflowers like paintbrush and wild roses along the rocky coastline.

Hike south along the sandy beaches of Bowman Bay, past the pier. The trail takes you on a steep climb of about 50 feet to detour around a rocky impasse. As you drop back down to sea level, watch for a trail to your left that takes off for Pass Lake (great fly-fishing here if you bring a rod and reel). If you continue right, you'll come to a trail junction. To the left is a 0.5 mile path along Lottie Bay that climbs and loops around Lottie Point, providing filtered views on a clear day of Deception Pass, the narrow channel that separates Whidbey Island from Fidalgo.

Return to the previous trail junction. Hike to the left across the spit to Lighthouse Point. When the trail splits in 0.25 miles, start the loop by heading left to grassy bluffs overlooking Deception Pass. Continue on the loop trail as it climbs, taking short side paths as desired for stunning viewpoints. As the loop trail comes to an end, the path dips into woods.

To get to Deception Pass State Park take Exit 230 on Interstate 5, head west on State Route 20 for about 12 miles to the junction with the SR 20 spur (which continues to Anacortes). Turn left on SR 20 (toward Oak Harbor) and continue for 5 miles, turning right onto Rosario Road just after passing Pass Lake. Proceed 100 yards, then turn left (toward Bowman Bay), following this park road 0.4 mile to day-use parking. Water and restrooms available.

A Discover Pass is required. For current trip reports from hikers on this trail, visit www.wta.org.

Gray Whale watching off coast and Puget Sound

The gray whale watch is on along the state's marine waterways.

Now is the time to get up close and personal with these huge creatures, which are traveling from their breeding areas off Baja California to their arctic northern Pacific feeding grounds in the Chukchi and Bering seas.

The whales make the longest journey of any mammal, traveling around 14,000 miles round-trip.

Gray whales average 40 to 45 feet in length and weigh up to 50 tons, twice the size of a killer whale. There now are about 23,000 gray whales, but in the mid-1800s they were close to extinction.

The best way to spot a gray whale is to look for their spouts, which can reach up to 15 feet high.

Gray whales tend to migrate close to the coast and can be easily seen from shore as well as from tour boats.

Good vantage points from the shoreline on the coast are the Westport observation tower; Willapa Bay; Capa Alava and Cape Flattery; the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center; Grays Harbor; and Fort Canby State Park off Ilwaco.

The Westport-Grayland Chamber of Commerce lists charter services that offer whale-watching trips this month and next. For details, visit www.westportgrayland-chamber.org or www.westportwa.com or call 800-345-6223.

In Puget Sound, gray whales can be seen off Whidbey and Camano islands at Possession Point, Saratoga Passage, Point No Point, Fort Casey and Strawberry Point.

A small resident group of gray whales usually mills around Puget Sound through early June, feeding on ghost shrimp.

Many other outdoor activities are coming soon:

Coastal razor clammers can dig into Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch this Saturday to Monday, Mocrocks Saturday and Sunday and Copalis on Saturday. Digging is allowed until noon each day. Low tides: Minus-1.2 feet at 7:36 a.m. on Saturday; -1.5 at 8:23 a.m. on Sunday; and -1.5 at 9:11 a. on Monday.

The wildfire season in Washington officially begins on April 15 and stays in effect through Oct. 15 on 12.7-million acres of Department of Natural Resources-protected (DNR) lands

Through March 29, 13 forest fires have already been reported on lands protected by DNR. Last year, 549 fires burned approximately 7,604 acres. To learn how to be smart in the woods, visit www.firewise.org or for fire and burning regulations, visit www.dnr.wa.gov.

The U.S. Forest Service has released an updated online wildflower map with hundreds of locations on national forests for prime wildflower viewing.

The website which includes more than 10,000 plant images and information about the aesthetic, recreational, biological, medicinal, and economic values of native plants. For details, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/viewing/index.php.

Winter sports are still in full swing, and those looking to still carve up some snow can head to Crystal Mountain Resort for late spring skiing and snowboarding.

Lift-ticket rates drop for April, with adult tickets costing $50-55. Rates drop again for May with adult tickets running $40-55. If skiing continues into June and July, rates will drop again to $30-35 for adults.

The winter season at Crystal will end April 15, and the spring season begins April 20, open Fridays to Sundays. Then in May, Crystal will operate weekends only except for Memorial Day weekend, which will be open Monday.

Alpental at The Summit at Snoqualmie will operate through May 6. The Mission Ridge Ski Area's last day of operation is April 11.

While winter doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon, many skiers and snowboarders are planning spring vacation getaways. For a list of all upcoming hillside activities and events, visit www.skiwashington.com/events.

The Stanwood Eagles Blackmouth Fishing Derby is April 21-22. Cost is $50. For details, call 360-629-3224 or 425-308-9437.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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