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Recently, we had a unique opportunity to try a new hiking program with Willamalane Parks & Recreation District. My daughter and I went along for the inaugural hike. We’d never been on a guided hike before so we didn’t know what to expect. The day of the hike, we drove to Shotgun Creek, met a group of fellow hikers, and set out for 3.5 miles around Shotgun Creek park. We had the best time and definitely plan to repeat the experience soon!
Two more hikes are planned for 2020, each with a volunteer guide from the Obsidians hiking club. Here are 7 reasons why you should definitely sign up!
1. Easy hikes are perfect for beginners
While these hikes aren’t specifically for beginners — anyone can sign up — they’re perfect for people who want to start hiking. Not too steep, not too long, and a guide to make sure you don’t get lost. Each hike also has a Willamalane staff member who follows the last hiker. That way, no one can get separated from the group but everyone can go at their most comfortable speed.
2. Fascinating hikes with lots to see
Our first hike, at Shotgun Creek, wound around the park, beginning and ending at the creek. Along the way, we saw some old growth trees and several adorable wood bridges. At the end, we stopped for a rest and lunch near a great wading spot. My daughter took off her shoes and waded in the creek for a bit before settling in for a snack.
Future hikes will take you to the Thurston Hills with gorgeous views, the old Weyerhauser haul road past a pioneer cemetery, and on a history walk at Dorris Ranch (I can not wait!)
3. Safety in numbers
Several of the participants on the Shotgun Creek hike told me that they loved hiking, but didn’t feel comfortable hiking alone. Hiking with a group ensures that help is available in case anything should go wrong. This is especially helpful for anyone who is uncomfortable hiking alone or who is new to hiking. Willamalane carries a first aid kit and basic necessities.
This might be the biggest benefit to me: meeting new friends and sharing the camaraderie of the trail. There’s a certain magic that happens when a random people come together for a common purpose. Shared experiences bring us together and give us a temporary bond that enriches the experience. In fact, one of the hikers on our trip was also on our snowshoeing trip in February. It was wonderful to see her again, akin to seeing an old friend.
5. Something to do that is safe, great exercise, and fun
With so many activities still closed or limited due to Covid-19, hiking is one activity that is still open. It’s safe to hike as long as precautions are taken. Willamalane asks everyone to bring masks and to observe social distancing on the trail. We didn’t actually wear the masks unless another group came to pass us, then we each donned our masks and stepped off the trail a bit.
And of course, if you enjoy hiking, then you already know how much fun it is! Seeing different types of terrain, finding odd trees or unique plants, perhaps seeing wildlife, it all adds up to a very enjoyable afternoon. It’s my favorite way to spend a day.
6. Hiking is for everyone
While the inaugural hike was entirely women, hiking is for everyone of all ages! Whether you’re young or a little older (wink!), Willamalane hikes are perfect for you. Hikes are at a moderate pace, and if you need to move more slowly, it’s no big deal. The Willamalane employee at the back of the line will always stay with you and hike at your pace. If you want to move faster, then you’ll fall in with the front of the line, behind the Obsidian guide. Every pace is accommodated. Men, women, and kids are all welcome (except for the upcoming Dorris Ranch trip which is 18+). Willamalane encourages families, couples, and single hikers to join.
7. Hiking trips support Willamalane
Willamalane’s budget has been gutted by Covid-19. It has forced them to close or severely limit most of their regular activities. The hiking trips are something new they’ve come up with to help fill their calendar while social distancing is in affect. The Obsidian guide is volunteering her time, so every dollar goes directly to supporting Willamalane.
Upcoming Willamalane Hiking Trips:
Sept. 16, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.: Thurston Hills Mossy Maple Trail (cancelled due to smoke)
Sept. 27, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.: Weyerhauser Haul Road Hike
Oct. 6, 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m.: Hazelnuts & History at Dorris Ranch (18+)
What you need to take on a Willamalane Hiking Trip
The requirements are simple:
- wear a good pair of shoes with a solid sole (hiking shoes are best, but sneakers are fine)
In fact, water is optional since Willamalane provides it. All of us did have backpacks on our trip to Shotgun Creek. You don’t need any specific type of backpack, just something comfortable to hold your water and a snack or lunch. If you enjoy taking photos, then definitely take your phone or a camera, because the next few hikes will be very picturesque. Lovely valley views, the worn stones of a 140-year-old cemetery, and tidy rows of filbert trees all make for great photos!