Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hiking the Northwest's Greatest Hits: Boulder River Trail

On a breakout sunny spring day, here's my idea of nirvana: Walking beside a pristine mountain river swollen with spring snowmelt in a lush green forest. Throw in a magnificent waterfall streaming in rivulets down a steep cliff along the way. Cue a dramatic interplay of sun and shadow in equal measure filtering through the trees and down the canyon.

The Boulder River trail on a fresh spring day offers all this and more. 

Like the profusion of flowers, ferns, moss, and native shrubs lining the mostly level trail above the river. Delicate native maidenhair fern glow vivid lime green against a mossy rock face seeping water.

We arrived at the trailhead shortly after 9 a.m. on a brilliant Saturday morning to join the Alpine Trails  Book Club, an inspired creation of Alpine Lily blogger Ashley. Fellow blogger Laura of Tiny Pines is the current organizer, and she picked an interesting read and a lovely hike.

I was surprised we found a parking space just one car away from the trailhead this "late," especially since this hike was recently featured in Sunset Magazine. But there we were, and off we went upriver.

Basically the trail meanders on an old logging road through a verdant temperate rainforest about 10 to 100 feet above the river, which courses through a narrow canyon. Lovely western red cedar and other native evergreens intersperse with alders, bigleaf maples, and more native shrubs.

 At a few points along the way, steep side trails offer opportunities to scramble down to the river's edge. With a tweaky knee, I didn't go all the way down, although the others did.

But the real star of the show was the spectacular Feature Show waterfall about a mile up the trail across the river. Plunging well over 250 feet down to the river below, it widens into multiple streams farther down.

It was hard to get a decent shot of the whole thing with the bright sunlight. But I tried.

I hope you get an idea of how stunning this waterfall is, especially right now when the spring runoff is kicking into high gear.

After a couple hours hiking upriver, we stopped where the trail begins to meander away from the river's edge to snack and discuss the book. Laura and Andy said the trail is not as scenic beyond this point, about 3 miles or so from the trailhead.

Heading back downriver, we passed (and were passed by) increasing numbers of hikers. This is expected on a such a beautiful spring day not much more than an hour from Seattle. A few obstacles along the way were easily crossed, reminders that trees grow and die, fall over, and regenerate the forest floor.

Not far from the trailhead on the return, we passed a classic example of a nurse tree, with a gorgeous cedar growing out of the remnant old growth stump. I can only imagine the magnificence of this forest before the loggers came through decades ago and took most of the big trees.

By early afternoon we're headed back home, passing parked cars stretched about a quarter mile down from the trailhead. 

As usual, I felt energized and refreshed from the hours walking through such beautiful place away from the city. To paraphrase my friend Jenifer, "I wish I could breath in this clean forest air every day." Because really, the air out there truly smells, tastes, and feels so clean and nourishing.

Like I said, nirvana.

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.  
When You Go
It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to drive to the trailhead from north Seattle. Bonus: No parking pass (Discovery or Northwest Forest) is required! From I-5 northbound, take the Arlington/Darrington exit 208, going right toward Arlington, then stay on Highway 530 through Arlington. At 23.6 miles from I-5, turn right onto French Creek Road, just after milepost 41. Follow the bumpy gravel road about 3 miles to the trailhead, which has parking for about 15 cars. While there is a vault toilet a mile in from the turnoff on French Creek Road, there are no facilities at the trailhead.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pausing, Reflecting, and Gardening

Welcome to Pacific Northwest Seasons! Perhaps you're wondering why I've not blogged much this year?

My absence has been due to a combination of things: My freelance work has dramatically picked up and spilled into evenings and weekends. A troublesome knee has kept me from getting outdoors and hiking/biking/skiing as much as I'd like. 

And I've been reassessing what exactly my purpose is for this blog anymore. As a former popular local food blogger told me a few years ago, "I think the blogging moment is over."

When I started blogging in 2008, I was happy to share my secret places and encourage people to get outside and enjoy this special corner of the world.

2013, on an overly popular peak

Now many of our trails and beautiful outdoors destinations near Seattle and Portland are suffering from overuse. I've written about this before and my struggles with the explosive growth and changes in our region. I've become that crabby lady who reflexively scolds newbies for cutting off-trail between switchbacks. Ugh. I make myself inwardly cringe.

So I'm less inclined to write about it all right now. Instead I've been playing in the garden, just outside my front door.

The beginning, 2012

Some raspberry plants gifted from my stepmother inspired me to start the garden, which I wrote about a few years ago. (Although my eldest sister will claim credit too.) Since then, the raspberries are assertively trying to take over the whole front yard, and I dig up and give away many raspberry starts each spring.

Want any? I have about six thriving little starts waiting for new homes now. (No kidding. Message me in the comments below if you're in Seattle and interested.)

Interestingly, the garden has evolved into a major stress reliever. When I'm out there watering, weeding, or harvesting, it all feels so healthy and natural. Sometimes I get buzzed by iridescent-feathered hummingbirds. This thrills me.

It makes me happy to see things growing under my care, and of course, I enjoy eating and sharing the bounty. I've been having delicate spring greens salads for a few weeks now. Hmmm.

Don't consider me retired from getting outdoors, exploring the region, and sharing the experiences with you. In fact, I hope to go hiking to see the wild rhodies in Deception Pass State Park this weekend with fellow blogger and nature geek Dave of Wild Fidalgo.

I also have lots of ideas about environmental issues to write about, unique Northwesterners to feature, and more. And a blog redesign/update is overdue.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on gardening, getting outdoors, the Pacific Northwest, and/or this blog? Your feedback in the comments below gives me inspiration to continue.

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.