A Walk in the Woods at Flaming Geyser State Park

Another summer day and another walk in the woods, my first at Flaming Geyser State Park.  Now before you get too excited, I must disavow you of the notion that there’s an actual flaming geyser in the park.  No.  Sorry.  It petered out many years ago;  see empty depression in the ground below for confirmation.

But I am promised by the brochure that it did in fact exist once in this very spot. Yes, in 1911 some miners tapped into methane gas and saltwater 1,000 feet underground, and fire and water shot up 25 feet in the air!  I wish I could have seen that!   They also say that the fire continued for many years until the methane gas finally ran out, so all that’s left is the name, Flaming Geyser. But no matter what they call it, the park is still quite wonderful.  First of all the Green River flows through it with good accessible shoreline for swimming, fishing, boating and inner tubing.  It has a designated area for remote control model planes (and drones these days), as well as horse trails and large grassy picnic areas.

And there are wooded trails with river access!  What more do you want?

And so we walked the easy path through the woods, alongside of giant ferns and berries and shrubs and trees of all sizes and shapes, most of them dripping with moss.

Along the path I saw this tiny orchid like flower which added a nice splash of color to the mostly green landscape.  It’s called impatiens capensis, or more commonly, orange jewelweed or orange balsam.  Pretty isn’t it?

After a mile or so the trail connected to the river and we stopped to rest and watched the happy drifters go by.

We also watched a flock of ducks swim furiously up river in the opposite direction.  They seemed to take turns being the leader, running to get to the front of the pack while the others hung back.  They bobbed underwater when the mood struck them (for food I assume) and stopped by the pools to hang out. They seemed to be having as much fun as the human drifters in their inner tubes.

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The 65 mile long Green River flows from the west side of the Cascades, passes through the Green River Gorge, then through Auburn and the Kent Valley, and finally becomes the Duwamish River which flows into Elliott Bay in Seattle.  Last week I walked an urban trail next to it in Tukwila.  I seem to keep bumping into this river and it’s all good.

~ Susanne

A Northwest Hike to Twin Falls

I follow the trail to Twin Falls along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, leaving Bob behind to fish. There are enough hikers on the trail for me to feel safe hiking alone and few enough to provide me with the solitude I need. I revel in having time in the woods, enjoying the nuanced shades of green, the ferns, the Doug-firs, and moss covered maples.

The river flows nearby the trailhead and I find hidden pools where some are brave enough to swim (not me.)

Half way to the falls I stop to rest and take in the view,

then continue on, following the switchbacks upward.

Up, up, up I go and as I near the falls, I’m greeted by a group of happy campers, who assure me I’m almost there and high five my efforts.  I’m cheered by the friendly youngsters.

Around the corner I arrive at the bridge and have it all to myself.  It’s high above the falls and makes me woozy looking down so I don’t linger long.  It’s the journey anyway, not the destination.

Going down is easier and I encourage the tired ones coming up.  Yes, it’s worth it, I say.  You are almost there.

At the bottom again I find out Bob has caught two trout.

We both leave content.

~ Susanne

Green over Blue in the Pacific Northwest

A Saturday and I woke up feeling kind of blue.  Needed some green for the cure and so we hit the road heading east looking for it.  After thirty minutes or so, traffic slowed and cars lined the road on the approach to Rattlesnake Lake.  Oh!  It’s a Saturday in summer and everyone is out.  Further up the road we find the Cedar River Watershed Education Center nestled on the shores of the lake.  No crowds here and we enjoy great views of Rattlesnake Ledge above, in relative quiet and safely on the ground,

rather than with the hoards of brave hikers perched precariously at the top.

A nice stop but on we go to the nearby and lesser traveled Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie where Bob knows the best places to hike and cast his fly rod into the river.

We arrive at our destination and enjoy a short walk through the woods to the footbridge.

On the other side, Bob finds a perfect spot to cast his line and has the river all to himself.

I walk the trail nearby, enjoying the beauty of the river and mountains and every green thing. Happy.

The great thing about carrying a camera is you look more closely at the world around you and see things you never noticed before; like this tiny starry plant (or is it lichen or moss?) growing everywhere on the side of the trail, so delicate yet hardy at the same time, and in various shades of green.

I must have passed it by many times over the years, but today I saw it. Touched it. Marveled at it.  A good day.

~  Susanne

Hiking at Nolte State Park…

One thing I love about living in the Pacific Northwest is the proximity to the woods and many trails.  Today we went to Nolte State Park and hiked around Deep Lake.  Okay walked, not hiked. The well maintained and level loop trail was only a mile and a quarter in length but included all the usual moss covered trees, old growth Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar one expects on a hike in the Northwest.  The cold, fresh forest air is bound to cure whatever ails you. So much to enjoy for so little effort didn’t quite seem fair.

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Though not technically the rain forest I’m not sure I can tell the difference.  Size maybe?  Anyway this was closer.

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The lake itself was frozen solid and stones thrown and bouncing across its surface echoed throughout the park.

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When our hands were as cold as the icy lake, we headed back to the car, and crossed the one lane bridge over the Green River Gorge, stopping to view the river far below.

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Then on to the Historic Bakery in Black Diamond where we enjoyed this view of Mt. Rainier outside our window, along with our sandwiches.

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A simple and satisfying day.

~ Susanne

Wintery Walk at Coulon Park

Today was just another walk at Gene Coulon Park along the shores of Lake Washington.  But it’s never ordinary to me when the beautiful snowcapped Olympic Mountains appear and I think to myself, ‘do I really live here?’

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Feeling blessed.

~Susanne

Tales from Longfellow Creek

When I was growing up we lived in a house near the woods and in front of the house flowed a creek that provided me and my friends with hours and hours of entertainment. Whenever we had nothing else to do, one of us would say to the other, ‘want to go play in the creek?’ and off we went.  That meant wandering up the path along the wooded banks daring one other to jump across at various points on the way.  And during hot summer months we would sometimes swim in the larger pools though we were warned against it.

We walked through the culverts with our hands pressed against the walls, our feet straddling the water that flowed beneath. Sometimes we sat inside those concrete pipes propped up cross ways, discussing important matters of youth such as how to reconcile with whoever was currently on the outs.  (It seemed we were always mad at someone and wanted to make up while saving face.)

During that era the creek was not in the best condition though we didn’t know it or care. It was never ‘Longfellow Creek’ to us,  just ‘the creek’, always there and always good for hanging around. There were no fish but I remember the occasional crawdad and frogs nearby.  And I remember the excitement the year heavy rain caused the creek to overflow its banks and we rowed down our street in a blue plastic boat. The best!

I wanted to go back and visit the old house near the woods and the creek that flowed in  front.  After a bit of research I learned there had been extensive cleanup and restoration of the area and a new Legacy Trail added.  Longfellow, it turns out, is one of four free flowing creeks in Seattle, this one flowing year round into the Duwamish River.  It is now home to trout, coho salmon and salamander. Evidence of beaver activity can also be found.  At the headwaters of the Longfellow is the Roxhill Bog, a peat bog 10,000 years old, which is currently undergoing restoration so it can continue to naturally filter the water.

The Legacy Trail begins at Roxhill Park and wanders the next four miles through mostly residential areas, sometimes through woods and sometimes following the creek.  That’s where I begin my visit.

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The trail is inviting but the creek is not visible here this time of year so I move on to where I know it will be….  the dead end street where I grew up. I drive the road that seems so familiar but somehow unfamiliar at the same time.

I pull over and an old man with long hair and beard, big dog by his side, looks down at me from his driveway with suspicion.  I get out of my car with my camera.

“I grew up here,”  I call out to him.  “I came to take a picture of the creek. Okay with the dog?”

He smiled.  Yes.  But I didn’t stay long.

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The road is surprisingly unchanged and still feels off the grid.  At the end of the road I find the old house and the creek nearby.  The house has been well maintained but is a different color and seems much smaller than I remember. The creek seems wild and overgrown, narrower, and not very accessible..

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I continue on to the next access point of the Legacy Trail and find this outdoor work of art…..but no easy view of the creek…

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At my next and final stop off a quiet narrow road, I find this section of the trail and creek in the woods..

DSC00153Lovely.

I don’t mean to sound disappointed, but I guess I am.

I much prefer the creek that flowed in my memory.  When we dared one another to jump across at impossibly wide spots.  Where we walked through concrete pipes and paused to tell secrets.  Where we played in the woods and the salmon berries were sweet and flaming orange and red and thimble berries became caps placed on your fingers eaten off one by one.  

I like knowing the creek is there and still flowing, perhaps more pristine than before with native plants and flowers and beaver if you know where to look, and salmon running though not in great numbers.  I like to know I can still visit whenever I like.  But if I am honest, I guess I like visiting the one in my memory even more.