By Beth Ann Bauer
As twelve of us encircled a 1,000-year-old cedar tree, clasping hands to see if we could encase it in a big group hug, I smiled deeply. I was enjoying my new friends and relishing in that “back to nature” feeling I get when I hike through a pristine forest. I had no idea what to expect during the first of this year’s Brews and Views Summer Hiking Series, sponsored by North Jetty Brewing, but I’m so glad I participated. It was a perfect day!
We arrived at the award-winning North Jetty Brewery at 9:00 in the morning to get acquainted and go over the plan for the day. Matt and Cheri Lloyd, who work diligently with the Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge to preserve the beauty of Willapa Bay, introduced themselves and gave us the plan for the day. We loaded up on bug spray, got our swag (a nice North Jetty Brewery day-pack), and were soon our way to our first stop.
The Art Walk
We began at the Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. The Art Walk winds along a boardwalk above a marshy tidal flat and salmon spawning stream. It features several works of art created by Public Art Program students from the University of Washington. From the giant salmon skeleton to the “1 in 8” sculpture of bird feathers commemorating the sad fact that one in every eight species of birds is now extinct, it’s a perfect mix of art and education. A brochure with details about the pieces is available at the refuge headquarters
Near the end of the Art Walk, some rough cuts of wood help cut a trail up the hill through the forest. The path is known as Cutthroat climb. It’s not too hard to master and is probably less than a few blocks long. At the top, you cross over a bridge and arrive at a beautiful Labyrinth surrounded by Spruce and Alder trees, mossy patches, a variety of ferns, and some mushrooms popping up through the fertile, dense forest floor. Before long the trail heads back down and loops back down into the Art Walk.
Next, our group loaded into our vehicles and headed a couple of miles north for the trailhead of Teal Slough. After just a short walk up a small hill, we took a little trail to the left and came upon two ancient cedar trees that Matt said are probably over 900 years old. Their gnarled old trunks seem to stretch forever above the neighboring trees, making it hard to see their tops. I found myself wondering about the pioneers and Native Americans that probably stood, or camped below the same trees. During our 45 minute hike in Teal Slough, we came across another half dozen similar ancient cedar trees, each with its own wonders and personality.
When our hikes were over the group of happy hikers headed back to North Jetty Brewery to drink some of the best-handcrafted beer around and toast to new friends. I can’t wait for the next hike in the series of Brews and Views, which heads to Leadbetter State Park on August 25th. It’s hard to believe that the experience is free and open to everyone! Make your reservation because space is limited!