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.
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!