Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Old Sauk River Trail: Hiking through Mosslandia

Just a couple hundred years ago, the whole Northwest coast of North America was blanketed in thousands of miles of dense temperate rainforest thick with moss and ferns.  What a sight it must have been to behold.

Today remnant patches of these primeval forests that thankfully escaped
loggers' blades are scattered around the region among regrown clearcut forests. Fortunately some are out there to explore and treasure.

Along the Sauk River just outside Darrington, Washington, along the Mountain Loop Highway, the Old Sauk River Trail meanders through a mossy gem of forest. This mostly second-growth forest is interspersed with the majestic presence of some old-growth native conifers like western red cedar and Douglas fir

Recently I walked this trail for the first time. Yes, even though I was born in Seattle and have lived and hiked in the region most of my life, there are still many trails I've yet to hike. This one is now on my large list of "been there, want to do that again" trails.

A group of eight of us (seven women, a guy, plus a sweet pit bull) met at the second, larger parking lot/trailhead up the Mountain Loop Highway from Darrington for this Alpine Trails Book Club hike. (What a great Pacific Northwest concept:  read an outdoors-related book and then go for a hike together and discuss the book. Thanks to Ashley of Alpine Lily blog for organizing!)

Within a few hundred yards, the mostly flat trail reaches the Sauk River, where it then follows the river for about 3 miles through sometimes otherworldly, lush green forest.

As part of the National Wild and Scenic River system, the Sauk is a relatively pristine free-flowing river, apparently famous with local fly fishers for its hardy and elusive steelhead and salmon.

With several nature/photography bloggers in our group, there's a lot of stopping to admire and shoot the sweet early spring treasures that the forest has offered up.

My all-time favorite is the delicate trillium. These grew wild in our forested yard where I was raised east of Portland, and they hold a special place in my heart for their many Jill-historic associations.

And the moss!  I wish I knew more about the different varieties of moss in the forest, but there are obviously several. Some cover downed trees like a layer of plush shag carpet, and some hang from branches like a tangled mess of green hair.

So we ambled a few hours, stopped to gather and talk about the book (appropriately about a grandmother who solo hiked the Appalachian Trail in the 1950s), crossed a lot of blowdown from winter storms, and took a quick detour at the end of the hike down to the river's edge.

I felt so nourished by spending time in this fecund biomass of woods, fungus, shrubs, and myriad other living organisms in this complex, interwoven web of life called a temperate rainforest. To breathe deeply here is to breathe in our precious corner of the world.

Because we, just like everything else crawling and flying and swimming, are part of this rich environment. This requires our utmost care and respect.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.    

For different perspectives on this hike and more beautiful writing and photos, check out A Day Without Rain and Tiny Pines (besides Alpine Lily).

When You Go
I read that this hike is 6 miles round trip, but it felt like much less, probably because it was so easy (very little elevation gain and loss) and beautiful. It takes about an hour and a half during off-peak traffic hours to reach the trailhead from the Seattle area. For directions and map information, check out the WTA description of the hike.  And don't forget your Northwest Forest Pass for parking. I heard there's a brewery on the river in Darrington for after-hike eats/drinks, but we needed to dash back to the city. Next time!


Suezy P said...

You know I love the idea of this book club. Thanks for adding the links to your companion's blogs - they, too were interesting and wonderful. And for the book you highlighted, which is now on my Goodreads, Want to Read list.

What a gorgeous landscape. I love moss and lichen and fungus and yes, who cannot love a trillium...though my heart zings over the sight of red huckleberry blossoms. Maybe it's because of the promise to come? :-) red huckleberry pie is my absolute favorite #1 pie of all pies.

When I was little, I saw an old movie - not an animated movie - in black and white - and in it were trees that looked like these...especially the ones with long reaching arms...okay, I mean branches...but in the movie, the trees came alive at night and roamed the forest for .... yes, even book club forest wanderers, but especially little kids.

So glad you chose this trail to hike!

ashley g said...

Love reading your account, Jill! I love your idea of gathering strength and energy from the forest. After this hike I felt especially rejuvenated through the week, although some of that may have also been from those who accompanied me. :) I'm so happy to have you as part of the book club and thanks for sharing it with your readers. Happy hiking!

Anne said...

Beautiful hike! Need to get my knees fixed! I did a Sauk River bald eagle float trip from Darrington and loved the beautiful forest hugging the river. Would love to see it at a slower pace.

jill said...

Suezy, I love your comments that riff on my themes. And yes, I AGREE on the red huckleberry pie! I still remember that incredible red huckleberry pie at summer camp many years ago, after we spent a morning on "Huckleberry Hill" picking the red berries and then gave them to the camp cook, who made us a pie with the berries. It was exquisitely delicious and the only time I've ever had red huckleberry pie.

Ashley, Thanks so much for your comment and especially for initiating this great idea, plus the hike last summer. I love that you reached out and brought us bloggers together!

Anne, yes, this would be a good hike for you because it's an easy walk in the woods. Let's do it sometime! I didn't know you rafted the Sauk River on an eagle float trip!