LOCAL WALKS: SHARPE PARK

In 1977 a Fidalgo Island resident named Kathleen Sharpe deeded a choice parcel of land to the county, to be used as a park in memory of her husband and his father. Irish-born Thomas Sharpe had arrived on the island about a hundred years earlier, establishing a farm and orchard. The 1870’s may not sound like long ago in historical terms, but Sharpe was one of the early permanent white settlers on Fidalgo Island. He and his family must have relished the peaceful views from their homestead.

1. Most of the boats are motorized now but otherwise, this view hasn’t changed much.

2. A park trail bends around two old Douglas firs. Like most of the island, this area was logged, but trees grow fast here and the park has some sizable Douglas fir trees.

3. After a winter storm the tip of a Madrone branch rests on a bed of moss and lichens.

4. Reindeer lichen, moss, bits of Madrone bark and leaves, and a myriad of other fragments of life litter the ground on a mid-winter day.

5. The sky glows over Rosario Strait and the San Juan Islands.

Sharpe Park doesn’t impress with size but its beauty is undeniable. Set along rugged cliffs at the island’s western edge with spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains and San Juan Islands, this is the kind of place that is normally dotted with private homes. Instead, it’s a county park where anyone can enjoy the views free of charge. The park maintains a low profile; only a discrete sign at a small parking lot on a quiet road identifies it. Additional land was added to the park in 2003, thanks to the efforts of the San Juan Preservation Trust and funds from private, state and county sources. That cooperation dedicated to a mutually valued goal produced a gem of a park.

6. Late September afternoon sunlight threads its way through the lush forest.

7. Across from the wetland the forest is a mad tangle of trees, bushes, ferns, and fallen logs.
8. The delicate look of unfurling of Bracken ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) belies their tenacious grip on the landscape. Bracken colonizes drier places that most ferns don’t tolerate.

9. Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) has a limited range and gentler habits than Bracken fern. The rows of little bumps are the spore cases on the underside of the fronds, which are fresh and green even in winter, when this photo was taken. The plant can go dormant during our dry summer, springing back to life with autumn rains.

10. It looks like Pileated woodpeckers went to town on this old stump.

We used to drive up to Fidalgo Island to enjoy the scenery when we lived near Seattle. It was on one of those trips in the fall of 2017 that we discovered Sharpe Park. We followed winding, root-studded trails past a wetland and drifted through a moist, evergreen forest before arriving at Sare’s Head, the high bluff overlooking Rosario Strait. The expansive view took our breath away. Standing on that bluff with the silver water spread out far below, your mind-chatter fades away as everything quiets.

Since moving to Fidalgo Island, this park has become one of my favorite places to wander and relax. The trail system has easy, moderate and challenging sections as it follows the twists and turns of the shoreline. There’s a simple bench on the bluff and another on a second bluff to the east, making perfect spots for picnics. Walking through the peaceful forest, catching those first glints of blue through the trees and emerging on a bluff overlooking the water 400 feet below is always a treat.

11. A trail in January. The bent tree is a Madrone.
12. Gazing up into the heart of a tall Madrone tree. Believe it or not, this was in February.

13. In May a lovely Fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum) nods its graceful head beside the trail.

14. This little bug looks quite alert as he poses on my leg.

15. I read somewhere that Mr. Sharpe had an orchard – could this be a remnant, or is it the native Pacific crab apple?

16. A fire-damaged tree frames the view of sun-drenched water and the jagged blue line of the high Olympic Mountains far across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The seasons roll forward revealing a parade of discoveries: dried cattails reflected in the dark waters of winter, a tiny native orchid penetrating the leaf litter in July, stripes of fire damage in the bark of a Madrone tree, and a suite of pretty Camas flowers lighting up the ground in a clearing. In March a friend and I watched a Bald eagle attempt to land on a branch that was too small. It tipped over and tried to right itself by spreading its wings. It was unsuccessful. We couldn’t help laughing as the eagle went to find a better lookout. There are supposed to be Harbor porpoises off Sares Head but I haven’t seen them there. That’s reason enough to keep coming back.

17. Dried cattails at the edge of the pond. Before they get this dry the leaves can be woven into mats or hats; the Salish people may have used cattails from this marsh hundreds of years ago.

18. Fire happens, as it did some years ago around this Madrone tree, which didn’t survive. Douglas firs have thicker bark and often do survive fires.

19. Here are the echoes of old Douglas firs that grew here before the fire. They still reach for the sky.

20. These trees (probably Douglas fir and Sitka spruce) wear coats of yellow lichen.

22. Raindrops will cling to these mushrooms for hours in the moist climate at Sharpe Park.

23. A well-defined fog bank is an ethereal presence over Rosario Bay. To watch fog morph and fade and thicken again is to know time in your bones.

***

Many thanks to Kathleen Sharpe, the San Juan Preservation Trust, Skagit County and the Montgomery-Duban family for preserving this special place for the public. I’ll be back soon!


65 comments

  1. Beautiful images, as always! The view over the ocean, wow. If I had a chance to visit the park I would probably get stuck for hours somewhere overlooking the ocean. The light over the mountains on image 16, just beautiful. Nice composition, framed by the tree. Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I can just imagine you in your kayak down there, cruising around, pulling in wherever you like, walking around and taking it all in. Thank you so much for the comment – and obviously, the framing wouldn’t be so nice without that beautiful light happening over the water. Enjoy your weekend!

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    • You’ve got it right, Steve, temperate rainforest for sure, cooperative light (aided by spot metering and a bit of vignette later) and LR magic. Thanks for noticing, and commenting on, those details, and enjoy your weekend. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    • I think I said before that you influenced me towards that dreamy, infrared look with that memorable 8 X 10 you gave me over 30 years ago, so thank you again. It’s so satisfying to finally have the time to get to work making images. ๐Ÿ™‚ And bugz, yeah, we like ’em. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  2. Lovely images! It is indeed a lovely park. We enjoyed our recent visit. Some of the trails receive little use so even though one is close to a populated area you feel as though as you are in a remote area. Thanks for the reminder; we will return.

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    • I’m surprised to see you here, Karen – thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I agree, this park feels much more remote than it is. Now it’s just a ten-minute drive away – so much easier than coming up from the east side! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here’s to never-ending exploring!

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  3. My favorite, the image of the licorice fern, number 9, reminds me of another favorite from one of your previous posts.I would love to be walking that trail in number 11. The grass is wonderful and the bent madrone a real eye catcher. All nice images, Lynn.

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    • #6 is a Harrie-style image! And lately, I think of you when I see fallen trees, especially in dramatic light. We have lots of toppled trees around here because the roots often aren’t very deep – the soil is shallow. Someday I may do a post called “The Fallen.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ Enjoy the weekend, Harrie, arrivederci!

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    • It’s cool that you singled out #4. I think that fits with your penchant for noticing details and delving into what’s going on in the whole system. Thanks so much for coming along and commenting – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • I bet you’d love it – it’s a very different feeling out here from the east. I’ve never been to Alabama and hope to get there someday. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and commenting, and following – I appreciate it.

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  4. Iโ€™ll beautiful. The walk you took me on was invigorating. Do you have another item for my bucket list so that my actual food can get the actual trail. 6, 8, and 9 especially speak to me. 6 for itโ€™s perfect balance of dark and delicate. 8 and 9 for their form and tone.

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  5. The mention of the woodpecker made me laugh, but then my attention returned to the beauty of each image. The little insect has an equine-looking neck, and yes, Mr. Sharpe lives on thru the orchard’s descendants’ blossoms! The final shot is all but surreal, as if my double vision attempted a sneaky return!

    It’s always a treasure to shadow your treks through nature, and Sharpe Park is a beauty of a treat!

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  6. We should all thank these people for their efforts to preserve this beautiful region. The photographs reveal the energy and beauty it offers … and obviously the photographer’s sensitivity!
    Thank you for sharing!

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  7. LOVE “your mind-chatter fades away as everything quiets”, Lynn! And are some of these using a CEP4 soft/hazy filter perhaps, its a very nice effect. I especially like 6, 7, 13, 15 and 16 – what a beautiful area. A ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • It’s good of you to notice the writing bits again, Adrian, glad you appreciated that. As for CEP4, I’m not sure which filter you mean – I see one called “Classical soft focus” and there’s “Glamor Glow” that also imparts softness. I use a bit of the latter sometimes. E.g. #11 – I think I used a bit of the CEP4 glamor glow filter, then added texture back in locally in LR. I’m enjoying using clarity and texture in LR in tandem – up on one, down on the other or a little of each in selected areas…it all depends, as you know. ๐Ÿ˜‰ In #6 I used a vintage 28mm Takumar lens. That accounts for a little of the softness right there. I converted to B&W in LR, made local adjustments in clarity & contrast, and applied an infrared preset from – where? I don’t remember. I also used spot metering in camera to magnify the drama. Thanks to you once again for encouraging me to begin using spot metering a while back. Nothing but rain here lately but dry weather returns Tuesday. I’m ready for that. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Je pense que ces deux-lร  montrent ร  quel point la forรชt est complexe et enchevรชtrรฉe parce quโ€™elle a beaucoup de croissance. Nous avons beaucoup de pluie et trรจs peu de gel, les plantes poussent toute l’annรฉe. Je suis content que vous les aimiez – c’est amusant de travailler en noir et blanc. Merci beaucoup, Irene! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Again one can feel and see your love for this place and I think we all understand why. It is a special place and how wonderful it could be preserved! A real treasure for future generations. And they make it easier to explain, why we should care more for nature! I love Nr 4! These little things (like little treasures for dwarfs and fairies ๐Ÿ˜‰ are what I love about nature so much (there it is again our similar view on things ๐Ÿ™‚ The different ferns are so beautiful and you chose the right “light-moments” for your pictures! Nr 10 must have been a woodpecker with a big drilling machine ๐Ÿ˜‰ A very lovely fawn lilly – you are really lucky with all these tiny wildflowers! The bug in Nr. 15 could be a Raphidioptera https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamelhalsfliegen I never saw one in my life, but I know the pictures from my book of insects. Looks really funny this guy! I love 16 (the soft contours of sea and sky – beautiful!) and 19 (very dramatic) and the bark of the dead madrone tree – fascinating pattern. So many little treasures so well captured ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks Lynn!

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    • My reply disappeared…I was agreeing with you about our mutual tendency to focus in on the details. On the ground in the forests here there are plenty of different details to sort out. The woodpecker that makes really large, often rectangular holes in trees is the Pileated woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus, a big one indeed! It’s always a treat to see them. You can tell them by their pounding too – other woodpeckers bang on trees faster, with a higher sound. The ferns – I will do a Licorice fern post, maybe soon. They grow from tree bark, rocks, and the ground and are so pretty. The bug – I hoped you would suggest an identification, and I think you’re right – thank you! He was really fun to see. I’m glad you liked #19 too, I like the drama in that one. Thank you for paying such close attention and taking the time to comment, Almuth. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • You told me of this woodpecker before, but I forgot about him or at least about his knowledge of building. I found another picture of him and the holes he makes are tremendous, really! I almost couldn’t believe it, when I saw your special tree ๐Ÿ™‚ Hm, maybe I try to find “his sound”. It must be quite deep then ๐Ÿ˜‰ – Yes, a post about the Licorice fern please. That would be wonderful! You can never have enough fern.

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    • Going for the monochromes on this quiet fall day, eh Ken? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Learning which images work well in black and white and trying different methods of processing has been a good experience. And there’s always so much more to try, and learn. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Those grasses drew my attention as much as the path and trees did, as you would guess. What a nice way of putting it – the details unobtrusively contributing to the serenity of the sense of place. I like that. Thank you, Louis, and I hope you have a good week!

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    • ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s worth the drive, Otto – I think you can make it in under 2 hours from Seattle. You’d have fun looking around Anacortes too because there is still some of the maritime industry feeling left. Thank you so much!

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    • Thank you, Julie. We used to drive up here from our suburb outside of Seattle just to see the beauty, and we were so lucky to find a reasonable place to live – just over a year ago now. I’m sure there’s more to see here….

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  9. Hands down favorites: 16 and 23, but I’m sure you could have guessed? I have to admit to feeling a bit desiccated from our trip, but your lush images put me right back into our dear Pacific NW. Isn’t it lovely to find such treasures so near. Then go away only to come back and appreciate them all the more.

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