Acts of Deception

I wondered, for a few seconds, if I was dreaming.

Looking out at the wall, a sea of arms looked back at me, waving. Each arm showing shades of grey, corpse-like, yet animated. Was this for real, or a nightmare?

I couldn’t have been sleeping, the cold water on my face would wake the biggest sleepyhead.  An ocean full of it, in fact.  I was on a dive in the Pacific Northwest, in the San Juan Islands; an area with chilly oceans and a sea bottom full of oddities.  

The arms of this wall of oddities were from sea cucumbers.  Small, densely packed, their array of branching tentacles hid their cucumber bottoms.   Filter feeders, each arm waved in the ocean currents, waiting for some spec of goodness to catch and redirect towards its mouth.  Normally I see these critters wearing orange, this wall of grey showed cucs of a more conservative bent.

Ask the average person what you can find under the waves and they’d say fish, shrimp, crabs, lobster, things they can eat.  They might mention reefs, but only be thinking warm water reefs.  Cold water also has reefs, but usually they’re rock-based rather than being formed by coral.  And in the right conditions, they are covered with life.  Sure, it’s cool to see fish swimming around, or an octopus or wolf eel hiding out in a hole, but often it’s these walls of life that make a dive.   Cucumbers, anemones, cold-water corals, kelp forests, urchins, hydroids; the list goes on.

* * * * * * *

Deception Pass.

This Washington State Park was the base of operations for our dive club.  If I started off with a small deception, please excuse me.  It seemed apt. But the park had its own deceptions, beyond the pass.  One of them was the weather.  We had expected glorious weather the whole weekend, but come the second day of diving the weather seemed to have taken a turn for the worse.

We dive off a 19-foot powerboat owned by one of our members, and when we started motoring out to the islands on day two the going was decidedly rough.  Small craft, big ocean. The winds were forecasted to increase as the day went on, so after slogging through chop and slop for a couple miles we decided safety might be the better choice. We turned around and headed back to camp.

This was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we missed out on a second day of diving, the main goal of the weekend.  On the other, this freed us up to do other things.  For my wife and I, this meant hiking in the park, something I normally have little time for.

And the weather, fickle, deceptive thing that it is, decided to not become windy – it improved. So not only would it have been good for diving, it was good for hiking too.

Naturally, I took the camera.

(Click on any picture for a larger view in a new window)

Deception Pass Bridge

I talked about the pass a year ago, no need to rehash the history and geology here. Suffice it to say the tides trigger considerable water movement through the pass.

The current gets ripping

With currents like these, I was a little surprised to see a sailboat out beyond the pass. We saw him gearing up at the boat ramp when we came back from our aborted excursion. He must have timed the outgoing tide for the trip out through the pass, and planned to time the ebb tide for the return.


We hiked the Lighthouse Point trail.  Another act of deception: there is no lighthouse.

But there were several good places for one. It follows a peninsula (nearly an island) on the northwest side of the pass, and as you follow the perimeter you get a near 360 degree set of coastline views.  These were spectacular, both large and small.




You may expect a host of sea vistas, and I took a few.  But it’s a little like storytelling.  You can tell a big story with broad strokes, or smaller stories with more detailed vignettes about the bigger place.  What is more interesting?

Mid-sized can be interesting too.  How about a pond with reeds and cattails?


Or getting the eye from a local?


The locals seem nice, it wasn’t too harey.  (Sorry, lame Dad joke.)

Besides, who says you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff?



Be honest now. Would you have even noticed these details if you were walking along the path?


You probably would have noticed the Madrones.  They’re such cool trees (he said, wistfully thinking the one that used to live in his yard.)


As we climbed to the top of the peninsula, we noted that the trails branched with no signage to give a clue where the branches went.  I opted to follow the trail that followed the perimeter.  Views, you know.


Maybe not the best choice.

The map did suggest a loop.  What wasn’t obvious is the main loop comes back mid “island.” The route we ended up on was more apt for deer, or other younger, more agile creatures than us. Steeps and scrambles, and guesswork to get back to the main path. But we did get more views, including a lawn of lichen and moss.




Deceived again, by trails this time.   But what the heck, what would a travel and adventure blog be without a few unexpected adventures? In time we straggled back to the main trail, and on completion drove back to camp.

And later, as the day came to an end, we wandered down to the shore and joined those who find there’s nothing quite like watching the sun go down over the shining waves.




47 thoughts on “Acts of Deception

  1. Hi Dave, A sea bottom full of “oddities” already makes me hesitant to dive underwater. My husband and daughters love it! Winds are obviously a big deal on the ocean. The “guesswork” on the trails can be a challenge, and like you say, more views. All of the photos are beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pinklightsabre

    Nice story, enjoyed the detailed vignettes as you say…looks like that was summertime, yeah? We are in Denali national park with another day to go, surprisingly good weather. No diving!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre

        There you go…always a bright side, right? I learned today the mosquitoes can take up to a pint of blood a day from the local critters. And they breathe through the abdomen while drinking.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is maybe your nicest album yet, Dave, and great spooky opening. It reminded me J.K.Rowling’s scene where Harry Potter visits a underground lake, full of reanimated corpses. Maybe creepy sea cucumbers, too, I’ll have to go back and read it again. Nice closeups of the lichens!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t remember that Harry Potter scene, but then I only read one of the books. (Saw the movies though.) I didn’t know if the spooky opening would attract readers or put them off. Time will tell. It’s an interesting set of photos, with all the different perspectives.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “You can tell a big story with broad strokes, or smaller stories with more detailed vignettes about the bigger place”

    I’m all for no. 2! Loved the hike! At the end of the day the weather wasn’t that bad Dave, do you think you could’ve still gone diving or it’d have been too risky nonetheless?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Given your style of writing, I can see why you’d vote for no. 2. Terrific little vignettes.

      I suspect we would have been okay diving. The boat ride was 15-20 kilometers and it wouldn’t have been fun (especially for the driver) on the way out, but there didn’t seem to be much wind while we were hiking.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, it’s very strange to see these and to know exactly, precisely where you are in some of them. I have taken photos of the same trees (that Madrone with the scar), the view of Rosario Head through the Madone branch, cattails, etc. It’s fun to see those old friends here. And yes, of course I have noticed those details. 😉 Beautifully captured…I like the little Doug fir cone in the moss…the yellow Tansy buttons…but now I want to see what’s under there because I haven’t been able to do that, other than looking at things clinging to the little floating dock when I kayaked around the bay. I have seen a sea cucumber at low tide, twice, but I didn’t get to see the tentacles. I’m sorry your second-day dive didn’t happen, but you made great use of the landlocked time. It IS tough getting back to the main trail from where you went – the north side of the peninsula is a bit of a maze of unofficial trails and some are very overgrown. I have seen deer there, you’re right, some of those are deer trails. But the lichens are gorgeous on that side, and the views too. Signage, yes, that would make sense. 🙂 But obviously, you managed fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was curious how you’d like my take on your home stomping grounds, I glad you enjoyed it, and I that found a few of your old friends. Great minds, and all that. 😉 It was nice to be able to hike beyond the campground for a change.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is a great hike, that one – so scenic and easy at the same time (if you go the right way!). I was at Rosario yesterday and saw a boat push out with divers in it. They left from the Marine Laboratory grounds and headed quickly out of sight going northwest – I wonder if they were going to dive somewhere else off Fidalgo, or if they were going to Lopez or one of the other islands. It was rainy so maybe not great for them, but the Madrones were gorgeous. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For what it’s worth, we usually dive off of James Island, just to the east of Decatur Island. Normally we have the waters to ourselves but on one occasion we did encounter a commercial dive boat, and I see it’s (recently?) been designated a state marine park. We learned about it about 30 some years ago from some guy exploring dive sites off his sailboat. Can’t say where your divers went, there are lots of options. There used to be a commercial dive boat out of Anacortes I explored the area with back in the 90s.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the cattails too. The B/W was almost an afterthought. The color version was kind of ho-hum so I tried a quick b/w conversion. It was apparent right away that was the direction to go so I ran with it.


  6. Great photos Dave.
    I was fortunate to have a fellow teach me early on in my diving “career” to take it slowly an truly see what was there. In line with many of your recent posts too, he stressed being alert to see the “small stuff.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That fellow was right. You see more, become a better diver because you have to master buoyancy to get that close, and probably can stay down longer since you’re not working as hard swimming. I also got my start in macro in U/W photography. (Most of that collection is on slides…)


  7. That sailor was courageous to brave a ripping current in such a small boat. While I was sorry to hear that you only had one day of the weekend to explore underwater, you certainly made the best of it with your overland images! And the visuals that you created with your words underwater sent goosebumps up my arms!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those currents were close to the pass, and I suspect he timed his passage close to slack tide. Seems like he’d likely wait for the next slack or put in somewhere else. Still, even with a small powerboat making the run through the pass when the current’s running is interesting, yawing back and forth through the eddies.

      Hopefully I didn’t spook out too many people with my opening, I wouldn’t want to scare off visitors! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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