A Community Forest
When we visit a place we begin to form a relationship with it. When we return, the bond grows stronger. We might have fond memories of a place we’d visit in childhood. My grandparents’ farm is like that for me. But it’s changed. New housing developments have swallowed it whole.
When I first arrived in Washington, I was starting a job with the Forest Service on the Olympic Peninsula. Driving around Lake Crescent it was love at first sight. Back then I could stop at the lodge and shoot pool in the lobby or play a funky piano. Now it’s an upscale lounge and restaurant.
I moved to Whidbey when there was only one stoplight on the Island. Langley was a depressed little town. I got a letter once with just my name and the town on the envelope. Things have changed. Change is inevitable. Some is good, some not so good.
That’s why I value the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. They preserve and protect the open spaces we have left. It doesn’t have to be pristine, but once they get it, they begin to restore it. They work with partner agencies, volunteers, private land owners and contributors to raise funds, secure parcels and contract easements and restore the site guided by their priorities to protect our natural resources.
One of their greatest achievements was acquiring Trillium Community Forest twenty years ago. First there was a grumbling in the community that Trillium, a real estate firm, was purchasing forest lands on Whidbey and clear-cutting them as fast as they could. A group of citizens reached out to local and state officials to do something. They weren’t taken seriously, at least not at first. Trillium began cutting large parcels which attracted attention. Objections were raised about preserving wetlands and prime wildlife habitat. Still nothing. But these citizen activists persisted. They did their homework. They occupied logging sites. They flooded the council chambers. The press amplified their message and the pressure resulted in some success. Whidbey Camano Land Trust was given an opportunity to buy 654 acres if they could raise $4.2 million in a very short period of time during a recession.
It was all hands on deck, a full court press, a mad dash to raise the funds. Churches, youth groups, horse lovers, hunters, everyone put their backs into it. Fortunately, they were successful. Now more land has been added and Trillium Community Forest is 721 acres with seven miles of well-marked trails.
When I walked there last weekend I met a woman who said she came there for her mental and physical health. A woman on horseback told me she lived nearby and rode there often. A man running with his dog stopped to say he lived within a mile and loved having all these trails close by, We all have different relationships with the place.
I got to know Trillium on my walks home. One summer years ago I began getting off the bus at the Pacific Dogwood trailhead and walking two miles down the main trail to exit where I had permission to cut across a pasture to get home. A very dear friend of mine had just died. It left a big hole in my heart. Almost every time I walked there an owl would swoop down the trail in front of me and land on a branch just over my head. I began to think maybe it was my friend in a new form. It made me smile.
I hadn’t hiked in Trillium for a while but I wanted to go last weekend before rains made the side trails soggy and hunting season starts. I walked Peaceful Firs, Crossroads, Raven, Wild Berry and Happy Trails along with the main trail, Patrick’s Way. At the end of my walk, an owl swooped down the trail ahead of me, twice, before silently disappearing into the woods.
Take a photo of the map at the trailhead or print this one before you go. It includes directions and a bird list.
Directions: There are 3 entrances to Trillium Community Forest. None of the entrances have big signs so look carefully.
1-Pacific Dogwood is on Hwy 525, 3.5 miles south of Greenbank (just south of the phone booth at Classic Road) or 4 miles north of Freeland. Turn west and take the road to the right.
2-Smugglers Cove Road I mile south of South Whidbey State Park or 5 miles north of Freeland. Look for small brown signs and a gravel parking lot. There is room here for horse trailers, buses and RVs.
3-For the ADA loop trail drive Hwy 525, 1.8 miles north of Freeland and turn left on Mutiny Bay Road, Take the first right onto Bounty Loop Road. The trailhead is at the bottom of the hill on the right.
By Bus: When the Island Transit Route 1 Southbound goes down Highway 525 ask the driver to stop at Pacific Dogwood (just past Classic Road) on the right. (There's no place near for a bus to stop going north on Highway 525.) Or take the same Route 1 bus either north or south on Smugglers Cove Road 1 mile south of South Whidbey State Park and just north of Rhodie Lane. Look for the small brown signs on the curve. Island Transit is fare free. For a bus schedule visit: www.islandtransit.org
The ADA Loop is not accessible by bus.
By Bike: Smugglers Cove Road has shoulders wide enough for bikes and traffic is relatively light. Please wear bright clothing and use your lights.
Moblity: Those with mobility challenges can use the ADA Loop off Bounty Loop Road. Though it is not recommended for wheelchairs, the Pacific Dogwood entrance is hilly but paved for the first bit. Once past the red gate, Patrick’s Way down the middle of Trillium Woods is a gently sloping dirt road.
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