Cool and Green and Shady
It is a hot week. Many people go to a beach or a lake to chill out. To go for a hike after work in the late afternoon, I needed to find a place that is cool and green and shady. I know of just such a place. On my way home, I stood up next to the bus driver to point out the small sign on the road at Trillium Woods. The Smugglers Cove Road entrance is just a mile south of South Whidbey State Park. As I stepped off the bus I noticed just one other car in the parking lot. The trailhead kiosk had a yellow triangle to indicate who yields to whom. Mountain bikes yield to hikers and horses. Yet I saw none of the above on my 90 minute walk in the woods.
At the start of the trail, I was reminded that many people visit these trails on horseback. People have been mostly good about picking up after their dogs, but horses leave much bigger piles behind. This one was fresh and almost completely blocked access to the foot bridge. Fortunately, there was a stout stick nearby that provided me with the tool needed to sweep it aside. There were more piles along the trails. I noticed coyote scat as well and stooped to examine the fur and bones inside. I have often encountered owls here, but have never found an owl pellet.
What I did find were berries, salmonberries, native blackberries, red huckleberries, salal berries, Himalayan blackberries, and my favorite, thimbleberries. Some were at the very start of their fruiting season, and some were on their way out. I made a mental note to bring a bucket next time.
Patrick’s Way is the main trail down the middle of this 700-acre wood. It’s wide enough for two horses to pass. Narrow paths head off right and left, all invitingly shady and dark with their alluring names, Dragon Fly Glade, Wild Berry, Peaceful Firs. A sturdy bench at a trail junction sat in full sun, but it was too hot for me. I walked on and turned at the Crossroads Trail where the bright sky bore down on the wide intersection of trails. As it narrowed and the canopy filled in overhead, I heard more bird songs, chickadees, nuthatch, song sparrow and Bewick’s wren.
I walked through a spot that had flooded last winter but was now bone dry. The Uncle Buck Trail took me down to the lowest, lushest end of the park and I looped back on Burkholder. This was the first time in years that I’d been here and not seen anyone at all. No one walking, running, biking, or on horseback. But on a hot day like this everyone was probably off at the beach.
I walked back the way I’d come through the cool, shady forest thinking of this heat wave, shattering previous records, and what we can expect in our climate crisis future. People in the city don’t get the benefit of our island forests. Concrete soaks up the sun and radiates it back holding on to it long after the sun’s gone down. Green spaces are cool places to live but a neighborhood with trees is expensive real estate. Those who can’t afford it are suffering right now and will be in the future. They say the best time to plant a tree was ten years ago. The next best time is now.
Thank you to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and all the other organizations that protect our green spaces. For a map of Trillium Woods click here.
Directions: On weekdays the fare free Island Transit Route 1 bus stops at the Smuggler's Cove Road entrance just 1 mile south of South Whidbey State Park. On Saturdays the Southbound Route 1 will stop by Highway 525 at Pacific Dogwood, just south of Classic Road. Give the driver plenty of notice that you want to stop. You can walk from the Pacific Dogwood side to the Smuggler's Cove side to catch the bus.
By Bike: Smuggler's Cove Road has wide shoulders and light traffic. Wear something bright to be visible to drivers. 2-3 bikes can fit on a bus bike rack unless the tires are too fat or it weighs more than 55 pounds.
By Car: The Smuggler's Cove Road entrance is about 5 miles north of the light in Freeland, or 6 miles south of Greenbank Farm. From Freeland take Highway 525 north to Bush Point Road and turn left. This turns into Smuggler's Cove Road. Look for small signs on telephone poles and a gravel driveway and parking area large enough for horse trailers. The Pacific Dogwood entrance off Highway 525 is less than a mile south of the telephone booth at Classic Road or 3.7 miles north of the light in Freeland.
Mobility: Patrick's Way is a wide gently sloping dirt trail. The side trails are narrow with some roots, but mostly smooth. The Smuggler's Cove Road entrance has many roots. The Pacific Dogwood entrance is on a paved road and then dirt and comparatively smooth.
For the ADA loop trail take Highway 525 about 2 miles north of Freeland turn left onto Mutiny Bay Road. Take the next right on Bounty Loop. The trailhead parking is at the corner at the bottom of the hill.
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