Last week a friend and I planned to walk in newly fallen snow up on Hurricane Ridge. Our problem was newly fallen snow in the parking lot at the top and the lack of a snowplow to move it aside. So, we pulled into Heart O' the Hills campground and walked the Lake Creek Trail. Talk about forgotten pleasures; I used to spend some time maintaining this trail and it's easy to forget how grand some of the old-growth trees along this trail are. Except for campers staying in the campground, most folks never bother with this trail ... it's too short, too easy, too close to town. Yet it's a wonderful surprise when you haven't walked it for a number of years.
It doesn't take long for the initial, second-growth forest to become old growth; you literally can't miss the change. The trunks of the trees you weave between are huge ... like gigantic stone pillars supporting the roof of a magnificent cathedral. You crane your neck and look upward trying to glimpse the treetops ... the sky is much farther up than any cathedral roof. It reminds me of the 16-sided columns in Saint Mark's Cathedral in Seattle; they always seem to me to echo the majesty of a giant old-growth cedar.
I was a little confused, for a long while we kept stopping and looking upwards in awe. In my brain, I remembered a long stretch of boardwalk weaving through a low, swampy area. I thought that it was near the beginning of the trail; it must have been changed? (It wasn't!) This boardwalk was slippery, even in the dry summer sun. Keeping the skunk cabbage and other greenery from blocking the boardwalk was always a difficult task. Well we finally rounded a turn and found the boardwalk. It was really quite slick but in pretty good repair.
In my mind, the scenery seemed to get 'uninteresting' after the boardwalk. It didn't. The bare, prickly stalks and large leafed tops of devil's club seemed to creep out of a ground fog that hugged the earth. Deer ferns abounded and millions of different types of moss seemed to cover every downed log. There was a profusion of pure white fungi spouting from the ends of downed trees. It was damp and cool and very quiet.
There were areas much like those we had seen before off Obstruction Point Road near Hurricane Ridge, where it seemed that almost every tree in the forest had been twisted, splintered or had its top sheared off. We both tried to imagine the power and noise of a storm that could cause such damage. Those folks who seldom walk through these woods miss the awesome displays of nature's powerful angry side almost right next to a display of her beauty. Some of these shattered trees had diameters of up to 3 feet; it has to take fantastic power to shatter such a tree into kindling and smaller-sized slivers.
The truth being told, we didn't even make it to the end of the trail. Instead we engaged in the fantasy that the trail had been made much longer over the years. We had already passed the clearing where it used to end! We turned around and walked back, each surrounded by a cushion of space and quiet.
The quiet probably should have told us that the road never had been opened. We stopped and asked when it might be opened and heard a number of tales about this and that. It was a little disappointing; but it was also a gift to walk this trail again. These folks do a great job balancing keeping visitors safe and yet giving them access. Hey, the blowdowns we walked through today would have been impossible to maneuver without a lot of hard work by trail crews. It was a good day!
Richard Olmer's column appears in the Sequim Gazette the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. He can be reached via
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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