The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

Marrowstone Point and Fort Flagler State Park – Things you find on the beach

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I was antsy for a long walk last week.  Marrowstone island is across from Port Townsend.  At its northern tip lies Fort Flagler State Park, a military fort established in the 1800’s.  It’s home to miles of coastline, tall bluffs and woodland laced by trails.  I started my day on Marrowstone Point.  A Western Fisheries Field Station occupies a former lighthouse and outbuildings on this point.

This photo I took at the end of my day when the fog lifted. Notice you can see Mt Baker just peeking out on the left horizon.


My day began cloaked in fog and clouds.   A pair of eagles perched on this chimney.  I’m glad to get re-aquainted with eagles after seeing so many in AK.


A low tide allowed me to head around Marrowstone Point and along the beach trail.


The PNW is revealing new beach finds to me.  This post will focus on mainly rocks and shells.

Glaciers and melt water deposited layers of sand eons ago. Here they are revealed in chunks of the bluffs slumping off.  I’ve heard tales of locals finding mammoth tusks in the bluffs.


Rocks.  Oh the rocks!  The rocks are so colorful here compared to CA’s muted beach palettes.  I’ve purchased two guides, A Field Guide to the I.D. of Pebbles by Eileen Van der Flier Keller and Field Guide: Seashore of the Pacific NW by Ian Sheldon. 


Using my guides, I’ll attempt to ID rock types. By no means do I claim 100% accuracy.  If you spot something I’ve goofed on, please comment and let me know.

L-R:  Sandstone, Quartz, Unsure.

Sandstone are sedimentary rocks formed on the surface of the earth (not buried far beneath.)  Sans great heat and pressure, deposited sediments cement together (lithify).  Erosion from water/weathering smooth chunks into pebbles/rocks. Other sedimentary rocks include limestone (formed from coral and shells) and coal from plants.

Quartz is a common mineral in our Earth.  It is fine/even grained.


Quartz is very hard.  It can often be found in bands and veins through other rocks.


A remnant of a quartz vein clings to a  rocks’s surface.


Some things on the beach are human-placed.  Here is a brick, edges rounded from the water.


More human-placed concrete forms. Not sure what they were for.


Not sure what this is.  Anyone know?  I’ve seen a few. There is no shell.


The reverse side is a domed and rather smooth surface.


Here’s a Smooth Washington Clam.  Abundant to the area, it is an important food source.   Thick rings of growth on the shell mark the slower winter growth season.  These clams can live up to 20 years.


In contrast, the Common Pacific Littleneck Clam has concentric and radiating shell ridges.  Victims of the Moonsnail bear the hole near it’s hinge where the snail drills a hole and siphons out the clam.  This one avoided such an end.


I believe this green beauty is CHERT.  Chert’s formed from the bodies of plankton and silica which have hardened on the  seafloor.   It comes in other colors and appears waxy and smooth.


Rocks which form when volcanic magma cools are called Igneous.  If this happen on the Earths surface via lava flows, smaller crystals form from a quick cooling time.  Intrusive Igneous rocks cool below the Earth’s surface. Longer cooling times mean larger crystals.

This piece of granite is light in color meaning is has sillica and/or aluminum in it.  Darker granite has more mineral content such as iron or magnesium. Granite comes in pinks, whites, greys and blacks/greenish blacks.  The key to ID’ing granite is to look for interlocking crystals of different sizes. This makes a speckled look.  Granite is usually not layered or banded and is notably heavy.


More flotsam – a piece of wood and brown beach glass.


Here’s one of my new favorites, JASPER.  It’s red in color. This specimen is a large piece that’s speckled with something else.  I’ve found pebbles that are pure red.  Jasper is a form of chert (see the large, green rock above) with iron in it.


A Troschel’s Sea Star, I believe.  It’s range is from AK to No. CA.  It’s becoming more rare. It’s tiny, white spines on the surface form no pattern. In contrast, the more familiar Ochre Sea Star’s are patterned and they have wider arms. It’s diet consists of mussels, barnacles and limpets.


This looks like a Metamorphic rock but not positive. These are a class of rocks formed when a pre-existing rock is changed deep in the earth by intense heat and pressure.  Crystals look flattened and you may see folded layers.


Like pretty candy treats these looked to me.  There are bits of Jasper in the one on the left and far right.  The fourth to the right may be an agate, the more I look at it.  Not sure.


At the beach’s end I found a campground and a view to the Olympic Mountains.


Once I reached the end of the beach I hoofed it up to the bluff trail which hugs the edge of the bluff. Still foggy, it was a trip to hear the various foghorns and boat traffic without seeing them.  Thick, beautiful forest forms canopies over the trail at times.


Cedar’s graceful drape:


Lichen traces branches:


A Shore Pine, perhaps ?  This low-growing specimen lined the beach.


Along the Bluff Trail I passed many gun sites and bunkers.  I’m not in the mood to write about the park’s connection to the military.

Back at Marrowstone Point, after about 5 miles of walking, the sun finally decided to peek out.  I took a proper lie down on the beach, shut my eyes and just listened.  So soothing.  Much more beach is at this park, ripe for exploration.


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