Admittedly we have had rain, but this post isn’t about that. That water was welcome however, a few heavy days of rain in Seattle meant really significant snow fall in the mountains and in no time a snowpack which had been at 50% the norm was back up to usual levels. As well as bringing much joy to those heading out for snow sports (well once the many high avalanche risks reduced) it also meant concerns over summer water shortages have disappeared.
So other water – because yesterday was a very spectacular visit to Wallace Falls State Park with Seattle Transit Hikers. This is a Meet Up group that mostly walks on weekends which doesn’t work for me, so I was fast to sign up when a trip was planned for a week day. They always catch public transport out to their hiking destination, hence their name. It takes about twice as long to get the Wallace Park on bus than a car would take, but when you haven’t got a car (and your driving licence doesn’t cover you in Washington anyway) this is a perfect solution – not to mention the environmental benefits. Getting up at 6am wasn’t so welcome but by 9.30am we were in the very small (and somewhat odd) town of Gold Bar, and setting out on a 2 mile stretch up to the park and trailhead to then walk the very beautiful 12 mile Wallace Fall and Lake Loop.
Apparently this is a really popular location, especially the part of the walk that goes by the falls, and in summer there can be queues for parking and at view points. A friday in February is clearly the perfect time as we only passed 6 people all day. The last couple had snowshoes in their backpacks – fortunately they weren’t necessary although we did have the joy of both falling and settled snow to help us along the higher path. Next winter I will be searching for excuses to put snowshoes on, as I am very keen to learn, but yesterday walking was quite enough.
This Washington State park is one of many here. The official website describes: “The Wallace Falls State Park Management Area is a 4,735-acre camping park with shoreline on the Wallace River, Wallace Lake, Jay Lake, Shaw Lake, and the Skykomish River. Located on the west side of the Cascade Mountains, the park features a 265-foot waterfall, old-growth coniferous forests, and fast- moving rivers and streams. Opportunities to view local wildlife, including cougar near Wallace Falls, and peregrine falcons inhabit the rock cliffs of the Index Town Wall”. We saw some of Index mountain at the trailhead, and a little more of it when we returned – but its top remained in the clouds. It is apparently named as it sticks up like an index finger.
Setting off we passed a number of mini falls among the tree lined paths and walked along the river before reaching ‘lower falls’ – a viewpoint heaven that allows you to experience the full majesty of the 265 foot waterfall. The climb from there to the top of the falls allows different perspectives, each worth a look for sure but it is that lower view that won for me – I loved the grandeur and the fantastic noise. I guess the experience could only have been enhanced by the recent rain, although I’m sure it is always dramatic.
At the top of the falls we headed over to Wallace Lake, along a snowed covered route and with snow falling. Whilst that made the hiking a touch harder, it was fairly flat so not too difficult, it was magical. The lake sits at 1844 feet, but apparently snow falls here more than is usual for its elevation. Arriving takes your breath away. I had read it was worth the walk but hadn’t expected quite such a beautiful vista. The snow only adding to the gorgeousness. You can walk to the lake without visiting the falls and, for no reason I can understand, it is usually a far quieter route than the falls trail. I was really glad to visit both, but expect to return before too long with the bloke, who prefers shorter hikes, so having these options is brilliant.
Our return was mainly by the Greg Ball Trail, a gentle decline through moss draped trees on a fantastically well kept track. Greg Ball was an executive director at The Washington Trail Association and started their volunteer trail maintenance programme when government funds for such work began to decline. The Pacific North West climate is harsh to trails and without regular maintenance they quickly become overgrown, unnavigable and impassable. The WTA programme is largest of its kind in the world, with over 100,000 hours of volunteer time given annually. It seems only fair to give back what you gain from, and I will be looking to support this work myself. Greg himself sadly died early, at 60, and this trail in Wallace Park was designed by him and completed by others in his memory. A fine memorial given the both visitor levels and range of people it helps bring through the park.
It was just after 6pm when I got off the return bus in Seattle. Perfect timing as I was able to meet the husband, have dinner and make a Seattle Modern Orchestra 8pm concert. I love that – that living here offers both natural and man-made delights. World class culture and the widest range of outdoors adventures are equally accessible. And nobody blinked an eye lid when I turned up to listen still wearing my boots and gaiters!
Despite its reputations for crowds I think Wallace Falls and Lake should be on every visitor and resident’s list, and if you are lucky enough to go on a quiet winter day it is just perfect. And remember – not having a car is no excuse…