KITSAP EXCURSIONS: In search of something breathtaking

In addition to procuring and protecting land throughout the Kitsap Peninsula, The Great Peninsula Conservancy knows how to enjoy the outdoors.

Someone painted gray over my “breathtaking views” of the Olympics.

Someone painted gray over my “breathtaking views” of the Olympics.

In addition to procuring and protecting land throughout the Kitsap Peninsula, The Great Peninsula Conservancy knows how to enjoy the outdoors.

Each summer and fall, the group puts together a host of outdoor activities and excursions with local experts leading small groups of GPC members (and non-members) to destinations throughout the Great Peninsula on weekend afternoons. The final GPC hike of 2008 is slated for Dec. 6 at Guillemot Cove led by Kitsap naturalist and tree fanatic Jim Trainer, which seemed like a fitting place for a Kitsap Excursion.

The GPC’s online description of the event notes the cove’s “old growth trees,” and “wildlife,” including salmon bearing streams, and “breathtaking views” of the Olympic Mountains from the shoreline.

I’m always up for breathtaking.

Even though I couldn’t find a time to hike out with Trainer before the Dec. 6 excursion, I wanted to see it regardless. So I went. Who needs an expert to look at the mountains, I thought.

But beware, if you have never been and you travel out without the expert — or without being completely positive on directions — you could very well spend the better part of a Sunday afternoon driving, or walking, through the backwoods of Seabeck only to arrive at the cove just in time for the sun to go down before you even make it to the shore.

It turns out to be about a mile and a half hike from the trailhead to the beach — and to those breathtaking views.

When I finally got to the trailhead, I was by myself on a Tuesday afternoon. Struck by the silence as I opened my driver’s side door, the forest echoed as it closed. Though I knew it couldn’t be, I got that feeling that I was alone for miles surrounded by these colossal trees.

Trainer says the cove is home to a rare local stand of old growth cedar maple, in addition to a few old vine maples among others and a stump house — indeed, literally, a house chiseled from an old growth tree stump, he said. The type of stuff you read about in storybooks. But we’ll get to that.

Both the cedar and vine maples, which greet you early along the trail, are Seussian-like trees with massive trunks and drooping branches, some of their limbs dripping with moss.

Some of them indescribably immense.

Trainer will show you those. This guy knows his trees. When he’s not leading hikes for the GPC or taking people bear watching or creating trails in Kitsap’s nature preserves, Trainer finds record-sized and heritage trees across the peninsula and catalogues them with national registries. And he loves to talk about it.

There was no talking as I weaved my way down the trail alone through the old-growth stand at Guillemot Cove. I was the loudest creature in the forest, tromping along in size 14s, snapping pictures of various trees and random things, making my way off the side of a ravine, headed for those breathtaking shoreline views of the Olympic Mountains., an online hikers’ resource, notes the cove as one of the best-kept secrets on the Kitsap Peninsula. Which makes me feel like a goon for writing this, but also stokes my appreciation for the Great Peninsula Conservancy and local nature conservation in general. It’s because of local conservation, and groups like the GPC, that we can fairly easily disappear into the woods for an adventure in our own backyard on a Tuesday afternoon.

At the bottom of the ravine, I came upon a creepy-looking uninhabited ramshackle bunk house that had been there so long a vine maple had grown into the framework of the front of the house.

This couldn’t be the fabled stump house, I thought. But forget about that, it was getting late, I needed to get to the shore before the sun went down for those breathtaking views.

Up ahead, the trail was washed out with an impassable amount of pooling water, so I skipped, albeit ungracefully, across a swampy bog to higher ground and ducked through a little stand of trees which opened up to what should’ve been the spectacular sight of the Brothers Mountains majestically jutting into the sky right in front of my face.

But, most unfortunately, all this time, I had failed to notice a low-hanging cloud cover that had swallowed the Olympics and effectively painted gray over my breathtaking views.

And now there wasn’t even enough time left to hike up to the stump house. Soon, the forest would be enveloped in darkness and I’d be hiking alone up the shadowy trail with only the light of a cell phone and camera flash.

I should’ve waited and gone out with Trainer.

KITSAP NATURALIST Jim Trainer will be leading the final Great Peninsula Conservancy Nature Walk to Guillemot Cove at 9 a.m. Dec. 6. Registration is required, call (360) 373-3500 to reserve a spot. Limited to 25. Non-GPC members welcome, $5. Info: See for directions.

GUILLEMOT COVE DIRECTIONS (from Kitsap County Parks): 19235 Stavis Bay Road NW, Seabeck – from Hwy 3, take Newberry Hill exit; travel to Seabeck Holly Road; turn right. Drive to Miami Beach Road; turn right — drive to “Y”; veer left onto Stavis Bay Road. Drive 4.5 miles to the entrance and parking lot.

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