Hiking · Local Adventures

Local Adventures: Fort Worden State Park – Chinese Gardens Trail and Battery Walker

With high’s of 63° and cloudy for the day, it was a good day to do a day on foot. The boys and I caught an early ferry to Port Townsend on the Quimper Peninsula (the Olympic Peninsula). It was raining on the Whidbey side but as we crossed the Salish Sea, it dried up. It’s pricey enough to just walk on the ferry. Driving is too expensive when you add in fuel and ferry fees for the car – but more so, for the 3rd year in a row the Washington State ferry system won’t run a second boat in summer. Ferries run 1½ hours apart, so getting on the ferry is hard, and nearly impossible in summer months without making a reservation far in advance (and it’s one of the few runs that has reservations). So walking is a far better option.

It’s summer right? Not that uncommon here for cool mornings.

Once off the ferry, we walked towards “new” Port Townsend along Hwy 20. One side of the road (It’s Water Street, then Sims Way, but is also Hwy 20) has sidewalks that are easy to walk along the water. We crossed the highway at Kearney Street, which is a large 4 way with lights. Our goal was the Food Co-Op, because the Fort Worden loop bus has its first stop right in front of the store. I grabbed the boys a pre-hike lunch there and they ate it sitting happily in the covered bus shelter. The loop runs Monday thru Friday from 7 am to 6 pm, and Saturday’s 9 am to 6 pm, at 2 minutes past the hour. The bus is free, which is where I can justify buying organic sandwiches in inflation times.

If you listen you can hear the massive clock tower on the hill chime the hour above you.

There is a free shuttle bus as well from the historic district down by the ferry dock that will take you to the transit center (which is by Safeway) and you can catch the Worden shuttle there as well, before it heads out.

The ride is quick and does the dirty work of taking you up and over the hills of Port Townsend. Having said that….we have walked it before. Port Townsend has a trail system that goes up and over the lumps, but the trails were built for efficiency, not your ankles. Riding there meant I kept the boys fresh for hiking. It’s a trade off and why not use the local services?

Masks are not required anymore. Enter thru the back door of the bus, unless you are elderly, in a wheelchair, have mobility issues or have a stroller. The busses were clean and like on Whidbey Island, the transit system is a lifeline to those without transportation, letting people get into town. Like Whidbey, much of Port Townsend is semi-rural and vastly spread out.

The ride though is so quick it’s great. The bus enters Fort Worden State Park and drives through the area with the parade grounds, on Eisenhower Ave. There is one bus stop in the park, and it’s on this road. It lets you out across from the buildings the local college use. This is also where you pick up the bus to get back downtown. The bus loops through the park and back out.

We walked down Eisenhower on a sidewalk, then on a dirt path alongside the road. The park isn’t busy with cars here overall, though you do cross the road where the entrance is. Just be wary of RV’s as one of the campgrounds is nearby. I am sure weekends are super busy but a Wednesday morning, not as much. The park has many of the old buildings rented out, to various companies and groups, so a lot of these going on. Pre Pandemic a lot more was open, and it will come back hopefully as volunteers return. The Coastal Museum is across from the bus stop as well. When open it is so educational. The restaurants in the park are also closed still for this year. Hence why I pre-fed the boys. They were very bummed they were not going to get a hamburger out of me, like they had in 2019.

At nearly the end of Eisenhower Ave where a gate stops cars, is the parking lot for the Chinese Gardens Trail and Peace Mile Trail. A tiny bit father is the access to the military cemetery, which is visible as you approach the park. Fort Worden was a huge fort for its time, the largest of the “ring of fire” that combined it, Fort Flagler, and Fort Casey on Whidbey Island. The officers lived it up in fancy Victorian era homes (that one can rent to vacation in now) and the wives spent money like water to make them fancy – while the enlisted men were miserable, freezing and dying here. For an officer, it was great being assigned there. Not so much for the average grunt. Partly due to how wet much of the year is here, and how cold it could get.

They look so enthralled or something!

On this very wide dirt path/road we took off.

It had trails poking off here and there. Some were marked, some were not. Pretty hiking in a flat forest, with nearly nothing to trip you.

First marked trail was L-6 which becomes the Chinese Gardens Trail.

It rambles through the woods and is an open forest.

The Chinese Gardens trail is an interpretive trail with kiosks to learn about the area and its history.

The forest opens up and the lagoon/lake becomes visible.

Before modern times, there wasn’t a lagoon/lake here – in fact the sewer treatment plant is visible across the water now, on the left side. It was a prairie then, then transformed into bountiful gardens by the many Chinese workers who came to America to find work in the 1880’s. So yes, there were Chinese Truck Gardens here that produced plentifully until politics got involved.

The trail leaves the forest and enters the fields/meadows and heads uphill.

The history of the first people and how important camas was. Prairies have nearly disappeared due to agricultural use, and then development for homes. Same on Whidbey Island.

It’s a quiet place and the breezes were nice.

As the uphill climb was nearly done, we rose up see the Salish Sea and Whidbey Island far across the way.

Looking down towards North Beach County Park, which we will talk about in the next post.

Turning back we headed uphill again, through the tree tunnel on North Beach Trail.

The last plaque, high above the lagoon.

Here we headed uphill into the forest on old roads. North Beach Trail and then turned left onto Searchlight Road (trail).

Just a bit uphill is Battery Walker, which Walker was excited to see.

The views from above the battery is of Whidbey Island, stretching out long, across the Salish Sea. You can see Fort Ebey, Ebey’s Landing and Fort Casey from here – and as the island stretches farther down, heading towards Mutiny Bay.

The boys poked around, long ago this battery had a large gun on top.

After visiting, we headed back down the road, crossed Searchlight and headed uphill on Battery Walker Road. At the next junction we took a right onto Battery Way West and walked downhill in pleasant open forest. It drops you out at a parking area beyond a gate. It becomes a main road, NCO Road, with a sidewalk to walk along the old houses. We cut across the parking lot for the Woodworking School and came back down to Eisenhower, and headed to the bus stop with 14 minutes to waste. The bus picks up, and heads back up and down the hills. We got off at Tyler/Lawerence to stop in at Aldrich’s (still the oldest grocery store in Washington State) in Uptown. Cold drinks bought, we walked down the last hill to historic downtown where Mom had to pay up her agreed deal…which was a visit to the candy store on the waterfront, then back to the ferry dock.

Not a bad day and the boys had their energy for the hike. (I ended up with 18,500 steps for the day in the end) Going car free can work if you are willing to plan it out.


2 thoughts on “Local Adventures: Fort Worden State Park – Chinese Gardens Trail and Battery Walker

    1. Good catch. I fixed it…my mind was on auto pilot from writing about the views. Lol! But yes Flagler is the 3rd. I love that park. The campground on the water is fabulous.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.