A Fitting Goodbye to the Pacific Northwest

One of the things I look forward to most when visiting home is exploring more of the beautiful state parks and hiking trails spread across Washington State. And yet, aside from a brief jaunt down to the beach at Deception Pass, I had not explored any new trails on my most recent visit home. Initially, we hoped to venture out closer to Wallace Falls, another great find from my mom. Scheduling issues kept getting in the way, and our hike fell on the last day of my trip home.

Wallace Falls State Park by Wikipedia
Washington, I love you. Image: Wikipedia.

I’m certainly not in the best shape of my life, and transitioning from perpetually flat Orlando to the rugged mountain trails of the Pacific Northwest is always a bit of a challenge, albeit a welcome one! I love pushing myself to get out in nature and see what my body is capable of. This time around, however, my legs were still aching from the previous week’s Provo hike up Rock Canyon Trail. Guys, I’m getting old. Old and lazy. Remind me to start actively training for these hikes next time.

As fate would have it, we did not have enough time to drive out to our intended hiking trail, and settled instead for something more local. We drove out to the John MacDonald Memorial Campground, and took a spin on the Puget Loop Birding Trail.

Bridge at John MacDonald Memorial Campground in Washington

At first, the hike was more of a nature walk than anything. After all, the trail is known for bird-watching, not high-activity hiking! We crossed a lovely bridge and crunched along a wide gravel pathway for several minutes. I’d been on wilder trails back in Florida, but I took it in stride.

Beautiful Foliage on the Puget Loop Birding Trail at John MacDonald Memorial CampgroundHiking the Puget Loop Birding Trail in Washington State

I was content just to be home with my family, protected by tall trees and cool moss on all sides. As we continued along, the path gave way to smaller dirt trails. I was happy to get off the gravel and escape into the Washington I remembered.

Beautifully Curved Tree Over the Puget Loop Birding Trail at John MacDonald Memorial CampgroundMom on the Puget Loop Birding Trail at John MacDonald Memorial Campground

The path was cool and damp, and we stepped carefully to avoid trampling the slugs that lay all over the trail. Somewhere along the way, we managed to get off the mostly-flat path and unwittingly stumbled onto a smaller game trail.

Game Trail at John MacDonald Memorial Campground

The walkway became a tiny strip of dirt,¬†gradually swallowed by the bushes on either side. We clambered up the hillside, using exposed roots as stepping stones and handholds. We were quite literally “off the beaten path,” and I loved it.

Getting Off the Puget Loop Birding Trail in Washington State
It may not look like much, but it was a welcome change from the flat gravel road that took us here!

We continued on the game trail for twenty minutes or so, and would have gone on exploring if it weren’t for time constraints. We had just an hour or so before we had to head back home and meet the three youngest kids, so we picked our way back to the main trail and sped off to the next destination: Snoqualmie Falls.

Beautiful Snoqualmie Falls in the Spring

The Falls are one of those places I’ve known about my entire life, but have seen very rarely, if at all. We had just under half an hour to see the falls, take a few photos, and make it home with plenty of time.

So what did these idiots do? Michelle and I raced down the hiking trail to the base of the falls to get a better look. Mom, who must have gotten all the brains in the family, wisely decided to stay at the upper viewing area. It took us about five minutes to make it to the base of the falls, thanks to a combination of running and speed-walking. Halfway down the trail, we wondered if we should just turn around…we probably wouldn’t make it back up in time. Nope. We continued on, wondering just how long the trail was, until we finally reached the bottom. For those curious about the trail, I recommend this walk-through video. It’s even sped up, so it looks closer to the way we saw it as we ran down the hill!

Michelle at the Base of Snoqualmie Falls, Washington

At the end of the trail, a long wooden deck led the way to a viewing platform, with plenty of informational signs along the way. Snoqualmie Falls, is turns out, is a major producer of electricity for the region! I didn’t get to look at the signs too closely, since we were on a time crunch, but I did take photos for my readers (and for my boyfriend, an engineer who I knew would love to learn how the power plant works). Rather than try to sum it all up (because let’s face it, science is not my forte), here are a few explanatory signs from the park itself!

Snoqualmie Falls Info Sign Converting Water to Power
Click to expand photos
About the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Project
Click to expand photos

We turned and jogged back to the base of the trail, which now seemed to stretch on without limitation. It had taken us five minutes to run downhill…how long would it take to haul our tired butts back up? Luckily, there was a parking lot at the lower falls, and with some good fortune, Mom was able to locate it from the main road without any directions (or even a lot name) at all. Exhausted, sweaty, and grateful to be back in the AC, we headed back home.

I miss hiking so much, especially back home in Washington. Watching the video linked above made me nostalgic, even though this trip happened just a few months ago. I love the crunch of gravel around a campsite, and the chirping of birds just out of sight. I miss the physical challenge of overcoming fallen trees and finding a path through small streams. Hiking is such a fun way to stay in shape. It’s certainly more fun than pushing through an elliptical workout! I miss Washington as a whole, and it’s days like these, hiking with my family, that make me miss it more than ever. I may not know my future, but I hope that one day, when it’s time to settle down, I get to come home.

Hiking in Farragut State Park, 2012
Farragut State Park 2012

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