A groomed trail that came to be with the help of the Navy and the city of Oak Harbor- the Maylor Point trail is our April beach of the month.
by Jack Penland
I had only recently heard about the trail, and, because it’s on Navy property but open to the public, I wasn’t sure what to expect, or even exactly how to get there. All that I knew was it was across the harbor from the city of Oak Harbor and that you got there through the Oak Harbor marina.
In the marina parking lot, I found the white lines of what appeared to be a path painted onto the asphalt. About every 30 feet or so there was a stylized pedestrian painted between the white lines. It headed off towards where I thought the trail might be.
Signs eventually confirmed I was heading the right way.
It felt good getting out. The area is shielded from open water, so the jacket I wore eventually became the jacket I carried. However, I was worried that, even if I found the path, I might not get very far—I had worn shoes better suited for the office than a waterside walkway.
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To Get to Maylor Point Trail…
In Oak Harbor, take Pioneer Way through downtown and turn right into the marina parking lot. Look for the pedestrian walkway.
The U.S. Navy requires you to stay on the path. Neither the beach nor the forest is open to the public.
There was another reason for this visit. Those who told me about the path said you’d also likely see eagles. Let’s face it, eagles are among nature’s rock stars, and if you could see them in Whidbey Island’s largest city, I wanted to go.
Eventually, the pavement turned to well-groomed gravel. My shoes were safe and the trek was on. Signs told me to stay on the trail, and I was more than happy to comply.
It was quickly apparent; this was to be a shared experience. Almost immediately, a woman power-walked past me, and a moment later two others jogged by. Their brightly colored, and clean tennis shoes confirmed the trail ahead was free from mud. My pace would be charitably described as “ambling.” I stopped often, the marina to the right and the city across the water. The city-sounds were muffled.
“Did you see the eagle?” one man asked. He and his wife walking with considerably more intensity than I was. He pointed back the way I came, and there the eagle was. I was so busy looking at the city I had walked past one of my main reasons for being there!
The eagle was perched in the afternoon sun at the very top of a tree a couple-dozen yards off the trail. I hoped he’d stay long enough that I could set up my camera on a tripod and get a clear picture. The tide was out and the mud flat exposed. I guessed he found the mud flat to be a good hunting spot.
I had no problem setting up in time. I took a picture or two. I decided to push my luck to see if I could shoot video. That was easy to do as the eagle seemed in no hurry to go anywhere. After 10 minutes or so, a crow landed in a branch just above the eagle. It made noise and harassed the stately bird. The eagle ignored the crow.
The crow flew away.
20 minutes of watching the eagle crept to 30, and 30 evolved to 40. I continued to record this eagle doing…nothing. A noise to my right distracted me and I looked away. When I looked back, the eagle was gone. I’d have to wait until I got home to see what, if anything, I’d recorded. Fortunately, the video recorder did its job, and I got the video I was looking for, even if I personally missed it.
I went further along the trail. Blue sky was turning to grey. More walkers came by, eager to squeeze what they could out of their spring sample. The couple that showed me the eagle came by several more times. Their routine on the trail was to do it seven times. I thought as they went by, “Now, that’s really escaping the cave.”
The trail ends at a salt marsh, where another large bird—it was in silhouette so I couldn’t see it well—was high in another tree. The salt marsh was once a mud flat, but when the Navy dredged the area, they dumped what they dredged onto the mud flat and created a marsh. Signs along the trail explain what happened.
A woman was sitting on a log, having found this to be an idea spot to sit and read.
By now, the sun was gone, the sky was now completely gray. The woman who was reading pulled up stakes and headed back.
I put my jacket back on, and I, too, started my return, to my car-cave and eventually, home-cave. Legs had been stretched, curiosity satisfied, spring sampled, and shoes intact.