Saturday, February 27, 2021


Big Leaf Maple leaves at Erinswood

The closest I came to playing in the leaves this year was hiking over the leaf-covered trails at Erinswood, outside of Index, WA.  The leaf coverage was just enough to make the trails and surrounding wooded area seem like autumn, without being too deep to impede passage.  Autumn is the perfect season to view the colorful big-leaf maples before they drop and the leaf-covered woods thereafter.  It is also the perfect time for the exhibits of fungi on display.

Even without the color of the maples, however, the hike would be beautiful, because of the many stands of western red cedar trees, as well as the ubiquitous moss and ferns of the western Cascades.  If you time it right, you can also find salmon- and thimble- berries.

The .8 mile (round trip) trail is located outside of Index, WA, across from the rock-climbing mecca of the Town Wall.  There is a medium-packed gravel parking lot.  There is no outhouse, and I don't remember there even being Honey Buckets there.  The first .1 mile of the trail is accessible, but not officially ADA, leading to a turn-off to Heybrook Ridge.  

After that junction, the trail narrows and is encroached upon by brambles and bushes for about .1 mile.  

The trail then reaches a .4 mile loop which is wide and relatively flat, with a few short/steep hillocks.  I could wheel the entire trail by myself (but I have levers, a large third wheel, big tires, and some muscles).  The trail, named after a local resident-hiker with a disability, is intended to become a truly ADA trail, with the addition of a hard-packed gravel surface on top of the dirt.  Until this layer is added, the trail has a few roots sticking up, but it is mostly smooth.   

There is a small creek, which comes close to the trail at one point, presenting a rocky section and a possible wash-out point.  

My biggest question, however, is how one is supposed to get to the ADA trail, since it seems that the only access is down this .1 mile overgrown and narrow trail.  If that is resolved and the ADA portion of the trail is completed, this will be a wonderful wheelchair-accessible trail -- short, but full of a variety of beauty.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Deception Pass State Park

Driftwood at Deception Pass State Park

I know I've said this before, but it bears and even demands repeating: I live in a beautiful place. Especially when viral pandemics and closed borders keep you close to home, it's all the more important that your home is a place offering opportunities and beauty.  Hooray, Washington State!

Lookout onto Strait of Juan De Fuca

Taking advantage of a sunny -- but very cold -- day, we headed to Deception Pass State Park and the Sand Dunes Trail.  The trail is located at the main entrance to Deception Pass State Park on the Whidbey Island (south) side of the bridge.  Follow the signs to the large, paved parking lot at West Beach.  The trail begins at the south side of the parking lot.  There were disabled parking spots, and I assume the restrooms were disabled, as well, but they were locked, so I couldn't confirm that.  Parking requires a Discover Pass; however, vehicles with a disabled placard or license plate are exempt.

The trail can be accessed from the parking lot either by a paved trail that goes past the beach on Cranberry Lake, with a beach house, outdoor showers, and a large picnic area.  There is even one picnic table with space cut out for a wheelchair and a paved path leading to it.  The trail can also be accessed by a wide unpaved road next to the water.  Either way, the Sand Dunes Trail, officially designated an ADA trail, is a paved 1.2 mile loop.

West side of Sand Dunes Trail

One side of the loop goes along Puget Sound, with views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands. The beach is covered with driftwood, and trail name (Sand Dunes Trail) is reflected by the small dunes along the trail.  There are several informative interpretive signs.  I've read that in the summer, porpoises, eagles, and osprey can be seen.

South-east side of
Sand Dunes Trail

The other side of the loop goes along Cranberry Lake and then through a stretch of mossy trees.  

Among the trees, and perhaps best seen from the Puget Sound side, is a tremendous, twisted 850 year-old Douglas Fir.

This root is easy to bypass
The thing about trees is that they have roots, and big trees have correspondingly big roots.  Unfortunately, at the south end of the trail are two large roots crossing under the trail which have seriously broken through the pavement, causing an upheaval which makes the trail impassable.  I was able to get around both of these obstacles by going on the side of the trail.  Even if I hadn't been able to, I would have gone down and back on both sides of the loop, because the views were so stunning.

This root is harder to bypass,
but possible

Padilla Bay Shore Trail

PBST looking out at Padilla Bay and the Salish Sea

"Where the Skagit River meets the Salish Sea." This trail description on The WTA website sounds so romantic and foreign.  However, the Padilla Bay Shoreline Trail is really just about 72 miles north of Seattle.

South entrance
North entrance

The directions to the trail can be found on the WTA trail description webpage, along with a prosaic description of the trail.  The trail can be accessed from either the north or south trailheads, but the south trailhead is a little easier, since it provides a parking lot with Honey Buckets.  The trailheads are guarded at both ends by barriers to keep out motorized vehicles.  Fortunately, they are both wide and long enough for wheelchairs to fit through. 

PBST along the estuary

The trail itself is 2.25 miles each way, built of hard-packed gravel on top of a dyke.  It is fairly well trafficked by pedestrians and bikers, most of whom are wearing masks.  The southern half runs along the Skagit River estuary, and the northern half runs along Padilla Bay.  If you are a birder, you'll want to bring your binoculars.  Others will be captivated by views of water, islands, mountains ... and, of course, the Shell Oil Refinery.

As an extra treat, the route from Seattle to the trail winds through the small towns of Bow and Edison, allowing a stop or two at The Farm to Market Bakery and/or The Breadfarm.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Monte Cristo

Monte Cristo Trail (and resident)
Monte Cristo Trail (and resident)

Monte Cristo (town) -- in 1889, a vein of gold- and silver- ore was discovered in the mountains at the head of the South Fork Sauk River, and over the next twenty years, mines produced millions of dollars in ore.  A bustling town sprung up at the foot of these mines -- complete with a school, hotels, and a train to Everett.  This town of Monte Cristo is now a ghost town, 4 miles from Barlow Pass, on the Mountain Loop Highway, near Granite Falls.

Monte Cristo (trail) -- I've tried twice without success to get there (once on each side of the river).  I've come to terms with the probability that I will never see Monte Cristo.  The trail on one side of the river starts out promising, but it becomes narrow after a steep dip, and it eventually requires crossing the river without a bridge.  The other, longer side has a wide and rocky road, but it's very hilly, and the road surface is not always very firm.  Thus, on both sides I had to turn back way before reaching the town of Monte Cristo.  However, my attempts added a new picnic destination and trail to my repertoire -- short, but accessible, with mountain and river views, all kinds of berries, and wildlife.

Attempt #1: June 2020

Gate guarding entrance to Monte Cristo Trail
Since the road to Monte Cristo was damaged by flooding in 1980, a gate has been installed and locked at the trailhead on the west side of the Sauk River.  According to the trail guide provided by the Monte Cristo Preservation Association, keys are available to rent through the Snohomish County Department of Public Works, with MCPA members receiving a discount.  Hopefully this procedure works, since the hiker access space on either side of the gate is not wide enough for wheelchairs (I was able to manipulate the opening, with the help of a strong hiking companion, a second chair, and some creativity, so I haven't actually tried the key).

Beginning of Monte Cristo Trail
The first section of the trail is fantastic for wheelchairs.  The wide path, surfaced with hard-packed gravel, travels along the Sauk River through the trees, with mountains in the distance.  The vegetation is both inviting and threatening, as we saw blossoming berries and devil's club alongside the path.  At about .8 mile the trail comes to a short and steep downhill run, after which it narrows and becomes inaccessible for wheelchairs.  Eventually, an able-bodied hiker would cross the Sauk River over a log and join up with the Monte Cristo bypass road to town.  

Sauk River on MC Trail
We went a little farther, finally stopping for a picnic by the river before turning around at about 1.2 miles,  This is a great short hike, with beautiful scenery, wild berries in season, and the possibility of seeing bears.  As we were hiking along, we noticed a large pile of scat, that could have been bear scat.  A little farther on, we saw a second large pile that was definitely bear scat.  A little farther on, we noticed that the grasses were trampled down into an inviting bear-shaped nap spot.  When we stopped by the river for a picnic, we were treated to a perfectly Goldilocks-distanced (not too close, not too far) black bear!

Monte Cristo Trail Resident

Attempt #2: September 2020

Gate to Monte Cristo Road
We had been advised that the trail to Monte Cristo on the other side of the Sauk River was built upon an old access road and did not require any river crossing.  With this in mind, we set out for Monte Cristo on the east side of the river.  Again, the trail is guarded by a gate. On sides were hiker's passage ways sided by rocks and too narrow for a wheelchair.  

Monte Cristo Road
The trail is built on top of an old road and doesn't cross the river, but it is very hilly, and the surface is uneven, loose gravel.  It begins miles before the trail on the west side even starts, because of a turn in the Mt Loop Highway), making it even longer.  Maybe a power chair with off-road wheels would be able to drive this way, but it was too much for me!

Road surface
Monte Cristo Road

Hike #3: September 2020

View from Monte Cristo Trail
We returned to the trailhead on the west side of the Sauk River and did the short, accessible section down to the river.  The berries were gone.  There were no bears.  The mountains in the distance were out. It was a short but beautiful hike.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Camp Brown

 Camp Brown,overlooking the Middle Fork Snoqualmie 
and Garfield Mountain

Things change.

20 years ago, I was in an airplane, embarking upon a year-long trip around the world. Now, we talk about "staycations" and plan road trips near to home. Things change.

20 years ago, I was walking with my own two legs, using hiking poles only to hike. Now, I am unable to take even one step, and I am only able to hike by using my wheelchair. Things change.

Several years ago, we drove down a pothole-filled, dirt road past Mailbox Peak, to hike along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River -- only to have to turn around very quickly, as the trail soon became impassable to my wheelchair. Today, we drove 11 miles down a smooth, paved road --this same one -- to a fantastic ADA trail a little down-river from where we'd hiked previously. Things change.

Camp Brown was historically a logging camp, boys' camp and US Forest Service Guards' station, and it is now -- thanks in large part to the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust -- a beautiful day use area.  Framed by mountains (especially Garfield Mountain), the Camp sits next to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, in a forest filled with a variety of conifers and deciduous trees, covered by moss and lichen.  11 picnic spots with picnic tables, charcoal grills, and views are nested within the trees alongside the congressionally-designated Wild and Scenic river.  The parking lot offers disabled parking spots and accessible outhouses (temporarily closed), while each of the picnic tables has a place for a wheelchair and its inhabitant.  Visitors must display a Discover Pass; according to the Discover Pass website, however, visitors with disabled placards/plates are exempt.

The main attraction, in my mind, is a .45 mile gravel-lined, hard-packed dirt accessible trail,
which is always wide, usually level, and mostly flat.   There are s
mall ups and downs, especially at beginning and end of the loop, but I made it without help around trail (disclaimer: my Freedom Chair wheelchair is propelled by levers and fairly strong upper-body muscles).  A friend completed this trail in a power wheelchair with no problem.  There is one bridge, but the edges are level with the ground.  
There is one area that looks as though it had already been washed out and rebuilt.  Since the trail is positioned next to a river, I'm curious to see if the path and accessible features will remain intact after the winter and spring rains.

The trail and the picnic areas are accessed from the parking lot.  After a brief straight path, the trail loops to the right.  The hiker can travel around the loop in either direction, taking either the first or second turn-off.  Continuing straight leads to stairs down to the river.  Those who can not (or prefer not to) do steps can reach the river via an accessible path jogging out from the ADA loop back to the bottom of the steps.  The loop circles through trees and ferns, showcasing displays of moss and lichen, interspersed with educational placards.

Camp Brown is a wonderful place for a picnic or a short hike or both.  Things change . . . but hopefully this is one that won't change much!

Monday, November 30, 2020

North Cascades


Rainy Lake, North Cascades National Park, WA

For the past four years we've taken an autumn trip north.  Way north. The first road trip was the most dramatic  -- to and beyond the Canadian Arctic Circle.  The next two years, we completed ferry-automobile loops in northern British Columbia.  This year, with the Canadian border closed due to Covid19, the far north was not a possibility.  To complicate destination decisions even more, fires in the east and the south (not to mention that large body of water to the west), hemmed us in further.  Nonetheless, we went north to Washington's North Cascades. 

We were able to continue our annual search for gold, since the timing was perfect for autumn colors (the beginning of October); in addition, we happened to time our travels just as the larches were turning golden, and we caught glimpses of them high up near the tops of peaks on the eastern side of the Cascades.  

Our intention was to spend the first day in the Marblemount area.  Of course, that was based on the intention -- also one of ours -- to leave before noon that day.  In the end, due to nothing but our own tendency to start everything late and take longer than expected, we ended up leaving at about 4:00pm, which meant that we didn't even get up to the North Cascades until after sunset.  We didn't enjoy any of the accessible offerings I had discovered in books, and we didn't find any available campsites at either Goodell or Colonial Creek Campgrounds.  

We decided to drive back towards town and hope for some place to stay, when we happened to see Alpine RV Park near Marblemount on the side of the highway.  It was geared toward RVs, with just a few sites designated for tents, and with very few trees or site separation.  While I put together the tent poles, I heard what sounded like chickens behind me in the dark.  Turning around, I was surprised to see instead two deer chewing and "clucking."  Luckily for us, there were no other tents there, so we had a lot of space.  Also lucky for us, the campfires ended soon, and the people went inside their RVs, so it was quiet.  To top it off, the full moon shown brightly through the tent window.  Really, it was perfect for what we needed. 

We will, however, have to return and explore the accessible activities we missed this time.  Besides the magnificent drive on Highway 20, the numerous accessible options include:

Shadow of the Sentinels Trail - .5 mile boardwalk through old-growth forest near Baker Lake

West Loop Interpretive Trail - .5 mile trail through old-growth forest in Rockport State Park

North Cascades Visitor Center - the center and its restroom are wheelchair accessible

Sterling Munro Boardwalk - 300 ft boardwalk starting at northwest corner of Visitor Center

River Loop Trail - 1 mile of the 1.8 mile packed dirt trail is accessible, by starting between campsites 37 and 38 at Newhalem Creek Campground (rather than at the Visitor Center), and then traveling along the river through the forest and the campground 

"To Know a Tree" Nature Trail - .5 mile packed-gravel trail with interpretive plaques through forest, along river, accessed from Newhalem Creek Campground entrance station and amphitheater

Linking Trail - hard-packed dirt trail in the forest between trails, starting at the ranger station near Newhalem Creek Campground.  .1 mile to Newhalem Creek picnic area. (one accessible table), then .3 mile to Newhalem Creek Rockshelter trail, then .25 mile to Newhalem Powerhouse and Trail of Cedars

Newhalem Creek Rockshelter Trail - between .1 and .7 miles, depending on which webpage you believe, this hard-packed dirt trail passes an ancient hunting camp and and old-growth cedar grove.  The trail starts past the steel-grated Newhalem Creek Bridge (service Road in Loop C for Newhalem Creek Campground) 

Trail of the Cedars - .3 mile gravel loop along banks of the Skagit River through stands of old-growth forest, which begins at Newhalem Creek Powerhouse or at suspension bridge in Newhalem

Gorge Overlook Trail - .5 mile (.2 m is paved) trail to the overlook of Gorge Lake and Dam, east of Newhalem, at the start of Diablo and Ross Lakes 

Happy Creek Nature Trail - 1/3 mile loop through old-growth forest on boardwalk and gravel (trail to falls is not accessible) at Milepost 135

The next morning, we got up and left at a reasonable hour, giving us time to do about 50% of our planned activities for the day.  The first stop was at Rainy Pass (Milepost 158).  Rainy Pass is on the part of the highway between Lake Diablo and Mazama which closes due to winter weather and snow,  so it is only open in the summer and fall. The parking lot includes a few picnic tables and accessible outhouses, as well as the trailhead to Rainy Lake and to Maple Pass.

Rainy Lake Trail  

The accessible, paved Rainy Lake Trail is 1 mile each way.  It is not very wide, with little opportunity to step to the side (this matters during the time of Covid19), but most of the crowds turn off at the path up to Maple Pass.  The trail to Rainy Lake traverses the hills, so it is very steep and hilly, with a significant side slope. In addition, it is in the forest, so the path may be blocked by fallen trees.

Rainy Lake

However, it is one of my favorite trails, since it winds through the forest to Rainy Lake, with a view showing colorful mountains on the other side. This first week of October included the added bonus view of colorful vine maples on the slopes across the lake and golden larches near the distant peaks.

Liberty Bell at Washington Pass

After a picnic at Rainy Pass and the hike to Rainy Lake, we drove eastward to Washington Pass, pulling off at the Washington Pass Overlook.  In the parking lot, there is an accessible outhouse, and there is a short paved trail to overlook Liberty Bell and the pass.

  • Due to time constraints, we had to miss the creekside Lone Fir Trail at Lone Fir Campground, off of Highway 20.  Supposedly, the first 0.4-1.0 mile of this trail is paved and accessible.

  • Blackpine Lake

    Instead, we drove to and set up camp at Blackpine Lake Campground outside of Twisp.  We had discovered the existence of the accessible Black Pine Lake Trailand thus the Blackpine Lake Campground, on the US Forest Service's Interactive Visitor Map that allows users to filter searches by accessibility.  The campground was a jewel of a find -- so magical that I considered not sharing the information about it in order to keep it secret.  It is only the difficulty and distance of getting there that makes me feel comfortable about sharing this selfish secret!

The campground is 
Fishing pier at Blackpine Lake
30 minutes outside of Twisp, WA, on a partially paved road. The campground can be accessed from two directions, giving the visitor a choice of a shorter but more unpaved road (with potholes) or a longer but more paved road.  We tried both, finding that the shorter way would have been better in a high clearance vehicle, because the unpaved section included some rocks and potholes. In general, it seemed that most traffic reached the campground via the longer, more paved road.

  • Blackpine Lake is full of fish.  I know that, because I saw the fish jumping and the people in canoes and kayaks with fishing rods.  There is a dock and an accessible fishing pier.  Running along the lake for a while is an accessible, paved path, bordered by rose hips.  The parking lot for the day-use area next to the lake includes a few picnic tables and an accessible outhouse.  Across the lake are mountains, with larches near the peaks

  • Most of the campground is perched above the lake, with space between campsites scattered through the pines.   In the winter months (Sep 21 - May 21), there is no water (the pumps are dry), and the camping is free, but the campground is still open, as are the accessible outhouses.

Walk-in campsite #10 near Blackpine Lake

Near the day-use area and along the lake are three walk-in campsites.  The farthest away (#10) is down a straight, firm-surfaced, wide path, not too far from the parking lot.  This means that the site is completely wheelchair accessible, as long as you're willing and able to carry all of your camping gear (or have a companion who is).  This lakeside site is spacious, with its own fire pit, grill, and picnic table.  

  • The lake was visited by swimmers, paddlers, and fisher-people during the days, but the campground was quiet at night.  In fact, the first night, we may have been the only ones there -- and thus the only ones for miles and miles around.  The silence was beautiful, peaceful, and eerie all simultaneously, as we are so used to some ambient noise at all times.  We could even hear the beating of the ravens' wings as they flew above us.  Like some cartoonish "whoosh whoosh whoosh," at first it startled me, but then it became part of the background.  

During the day, we explored the campground, read by the lake, and hiked the accessible trail along the lake and through the pines.  There were lots of small critters -- a little too brazen to leave unwatched for long. At night we were treated to a full orange moon.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of my discoveries were already documented in one of the Forest Service videos on accessible adventures People interested in visiting the North Cascades with a wheelchair should also take a look at Barrier-Free Travel: WA National Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers  in Candy Harrington's Emerging Horizons series.

We drove back to Seattle via Highways 153 and 97.  On the north side of Wenatchee, we stopped at several fruit stands to buy fresh fall fruit.  Conscious of a needy cat impatiently waiting at home, we decided to head directly back to Seattle on I-90, saving the accessible trails (Iron Goat and Erinswood) on scenic Highway 2 for another day and another blog.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Suggestions for Accessible Hikes in WA from Facebook's WA Hikers and Climbers

In addition to  the usual suspects (Gold Creek Pond, the Iron Goat Trail, and Rainy Lake), there were lots of good, fresh ideas, including the following (no order, no or minimal editing, no endorsement, probably not comprehensive -- I think more comments have already appeared!):

Hurricane hill in Olympic National Park‚ (they just paved the whole trail a few weeks ago)


Big Meadow Loop at Hurricane Ridge

Trails at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic national Park (paved, but some steep) 

Madison falls

Olympic Discovery Trail


Quinault Forest Nature trail


Picture Lake near Mt. Baker! (ADA, paved)


There's about 150 yards of paved trail at artist point by Mt. Baker ski area. Not much but excellent views with lots of other little places nearby in the same area.


Shadow of the Sentinels by Mt. Baker (boardwalk) through old growth forests with several view points and picnic spots. All ADA accessible.


If you do head up to Mt Baker make sure you swing at through boulevard Park is completely paved and or wheelchair accessible and a gorgeous walk on the waterfront!


Paradise, at Mt. Rainier, has some paved, but steep trails, such as the Skyline Trail to Myrtle Falls


Carbon river on Mt Rainier (first 5ish miles, make sure the chair has big wheels for this one)


Chambers Bay Beach Access, University Place, WA 98467

411 S 348th St, Federal Way, WA 98003

(Chambers bay has a pair of Osprey that have a nest)


Deception Falls. Off of Highway 2 (may have closed gate, so no access)


The Foothills Trail that runs from Puyallup through Orting and on to Buckley (paved)


Cedar river trail


Soos creek trail


Magnuson park waterfront trail are all wheelchair friendly.


Greenwater lakes trail


Sammamish River Trail i(paved)


Centennial Trail from Snohomish north to Arlington is paved.


Rhododendron Trailhead just north of SR 92 at Lake Stevens and heading north.


Nisqually wildlife refuge (wooden boardwalk)


Old Sauk River trail (ADA, gravel loop) on Mt Loop Highway


The Ho River trail, on the Olympic Peninsula (paved for the first couple of miles, flat)


Anacortes, Fidalgo island : 3 different paved trails with water views, Tommy Thompson trail that goes over Fidalgo bay ,the Guemes  Channel trail  by the ferry terminal, and the loop at Wa park


Padilla bay trail in Bow (paved)


Part of Rockport State Park.


Tradition Lake Loop (Around the Lake Trail) of Exit 20 (High Point) on I90 (wide gravel path)


Puget Power Trail  (not paved, but a hard-packed access road) at High Point, exit 20


Friends Landing, Montesano, Wa.


The Willapa National Wildlife Refuge (ADA, 0.3 mile round trip)


Franklin falls had a stroller/wagon trail that ends with a little sort of picnic area by the river.


Ebey waterfront trail


The Theler Wetlands trails in Belfair


Mima Mounds in Capitol Forest (1/2 mile ADA accessible path)  


The Big Four Ice Caves has a paved/boardwalk pathway and picnic area on the Mountain Loop Hwy. It is not accessible (steps) after the boardwalk.


Des Moines creek (paved all the way up along side the creek. And not too steep going up). There is the marina as well with the boardwalk out over the water.


Fucia falls


Miles of trails along the Skagit County sound are paved and quite flat.


Erinswood, the new ADA trail in Index at the bottom of Heybrook Ridge!



Snoqualmie Valley Trail ( hard-packed gravel)


John Wayne Trail / Iron Horse Trail  (grave), bring headlamps for tunnels


Coal miners trail in cle elum (road, hard packed gravel)  connects Roslyn, Cle elum, and Ronald


Chehalis Western Trail through Olympia and down past Tenino (paved and flat)


Stimpson Forest Preserve , Bellingham, is full of great access trails.


Bradley Lake in Puyallup is paved all around.


Nathan Chapman park on 144th in Puyallup ,


Cross Kirkland Corridor between Bellevue and Kirkland. (mostly flat and wide)


I-90 Trail. It follows along I-90 from Seattle to Bellevue (paved)


Whistle lake in Anacortes (Not paved but very flat and wide)


Snoqualmie falls


Point defiance has a beautiful park with a ton of accessibility


Bpa trail in federal way (paved)


Downtown Issaquah Rainier Trail.


Deschutes Falls


North Creek County Park, wetlands in Bothell


Bridal Trails State Park in Kirkland and Bellevue


Mt. Grant on San Juan Island



The Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest has videos of many of their accessible trails, narrated by a man using a wheelchair so you get a better idea of just how accessible they are.‚Ķ See More

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - Recreation