A hiking trail is not merely a means to an end or a sprint to a desired prize on some remote peak. It is part of the destination itself. A journey into another world. The Otherworld, but also our world, where humans were once at home even if now we have become estranged from it. It is truly a crossroads in time, where our journey meets the inexorable path of evolutionary forces that have forged a particular point on Earth into the form it displays at the precise moment of our passing. An ancient landscape, born of chaos and ordered through eons, layered by cycles of cataclysm and resurgence, reposing now amid the lush tapestry of life conceived in its latest epoch. It is a glimpse of the elements that imbue a specific location with its sense of place, from the ephemeral to the enduring. The creatures, the flora, the very stones that inhabit it. The bedrock that has shaped it for ages. The waters that, in turn, have etched it with their comings and goings, again and again. And, it is the spirits of the land. The names left upon it by their children, the First Peoples who have lived at one with that world since time immemorial, who have understood its mysteries and nurtured its natural ways to the benefit of all its kindred beings. This is the world that opens as we step onto the trail: a space truly greater than the sum of its parts. This is our world.
Western Washington hiking trails vary richly as a result of their individual natural endowments. A single trail can progress through several distinct ecosystems: leafy, riverine woodland, solemn colonnades of venerable old-growth giants, sky-topped alpine meadows, and stony summit heights, accented throughout by ringing birdsong, dashing brooks, luminous wildflowers, curious fungi, and reclusive creatures. These unique combinations of features invest each with its sense of place.
The trail profiles linked on this page offer samplings of the various features one may encounter on a given trail. Each profile leads with the essential trail details, followed by a short written description of the trail and any tips or suggested precautions, and concludes with images from the trail. The photos are dated to help provide a sense of trail conditions and highlights at specific times of year, although seasonal variations are common. To the extent that featured trailside plants and fungi can be identified with reasonable certainty, their common and species names are included (although they should not be relied upon to determine suitability for consumption).
So, seize this moment in the ages and venture wide-eyed into the wild, to the spaces that connect us across time and place to our origins, to our fellow beings, and to the world that is ours to share. However you choose to enjoy this spectacular heritage, you are assured an experience as unique as the exceptional landscape that surrounds you.
© 2014-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.