Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Feeling Good at Federation Forest State Park

FEDERATION FOREST STATE PARK (A Washington State Park) The siren of high country trails may be calling but beware - there’s still snow at higher elevations. Fortunately there are trails where you can hike without getting into snow. Federation Forest State Park is a good example. In fact, any time of the year is good to visit the park, the Catherine Montgomery Interpretive Center and/or a picnic overlooking the White River. In late April it still felt chilly but trilliums know its spring and have populated the park accordingly. This is also one of our favorite parks because it can be enjoyed year-round and trails are well-signed for first-time visitors. Come back in the fall for colorful displays of vine maple (we’ve even enjoyed a picnic in December). In August you’ll appreciate the parks shady trails. We started out on the Fred Cleator Interpretive Trail that meanders through the forest and leads to more options for loops and/or further exploration. The trails are named to honor Fred W. Cleator, an early conservationist and forester. The West Loop is about a mile, the East Loop (1/2 mile) that parallels the White River. Starting from the parking area we started out on the Fred Cleator trail, hiking west and took our time along the West Loop trail. This is not a place to get into shape but rather a place to contemplate, taking time to read interpretive signs describing the medley of evergreens as well as a rich under story of native shrubs and woodland flowers. On our April visit with a friend the first thing that caught our attention was the trilliums, swirls of false-lily-of-the-valley and ferns unfurling to fill in the blank space between the trees. Though the trails are easy they can be muddy with standing water in spring so sturdy boots are suggested. Later this spring you’ll also see vanilla leaf, bleeding hearts, Canadian dogwood and bead lily. Though the main trail junctions are well-signed secondary trails bisect the main ones; unless you continue heading west or cross SR 410 to check out the White River trail all trails lead back to the Catherine Montgomery Interpretive Center, the White River or Highway 410. There are approximately 12 miles of trails, including a stretch of the historical Naches Trail. That segment dates back to 1853 as the Naches Wagon Road when the Naches Trail connected Puget Sound to Eastern Washington. The park provides picnic shelters, picnic tables, a covered shelter, restrooms with running water, drinking fountain and an ADA-compliant restroom. The lower picnic area (a little east of the Visitor Center) beside the White River is a appealing place to hang around and watch the changing light on the White River as it surges downstream (in spring the river is brown with silt). In summer graze on an abundant supply of thimbleberries. Gardens at the Catherine Montgomery Interpretive Center highlight edible and poisonous native plants from different regions of Washington. Montgomery was considered a pioneer in education with a passion for conservation. Inside the interpretive center are interpretive displays that elaborate on the differences in ecosystems ranging from the east side to the west side of the mountains. When is the interpretive center open? Upon doing some research we learned that the park was originally called Big Tree Park and was situated near Snoqualmie Pass’ by the 1930s logging, wind-storms and fire had damaged the forest to the extent that park advocates sought a better location to protect old-growth forest. They rightly anticipated a future in which few old-growth trees would remain outside of national parks; hence the park was relocated along the White River and dedicated in 1949. With the support of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Washington (GFWC-WS) and with the cooperation of state legislature, State Parks was able to purchase land for the park in 1941. Much of the parks development took place when Montgomery willed a generous sum to the Washington State Federation of Women’s Clubs (her bequest was used to build the interpretive center). As we headed west we came upon skunk cabbage (swamp lanterns) and puncheon that was damp and slippery. Wire has been nailed down over the worst of it but the heavy rains of late have left stretches of standing water on the trail. Today there are over 600 acres of forest within the park with some 18,000 feet of shoreline along the White River. The park has something for all visitors ranging from history buffs to families with children. Looking for the Hobbit House? A kiosk near the Upper Picnic Area displays the trail system, including where to find the Hobbit Trail though it does not show on the park’s handout – when the Interpretive Center is open you can borrow a more extensive trail guide. Whether 6 or 60; you’ll be delighted if you find Hobbit House (or it finds you) with its arrangement of thumbnail-sized mailboxes (complete with flag), gardens, fences and wee figurines tucked away in the nooks and crannies of stumps, trees and rocks. Sometimes we find it, sometimes we don’t. Having found Hobbit House only twice in several visits, we’ve come to the conclusion that finding it may be more to serendipity than skill. If it finds you consider it a gift. No matter - whether or not you find Hobbit House, the beauty of the forest is guaranteed to put a spell on you. All the trails within the park are enchanted. To get there: From Enumclaw travel east on SR 410 about 18 miles, at milepost 41 find well-signed Federation Forest State Park on the right-hand side of the highway. Stats: Mileage is variable as is elevation (no significant elevation gain) Additional Information: Camping is not allowed, dogs must be on leash and under physical control. Fires are only allowed in fire rings in designated picnic areas. Bicycles are allowed on paved roads only. The park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk (year round). For additional information on this park, including closures, rules and regulations, visit Washington State Parks online at: For photos go to Flickr, click on the first album: Karen Sykes

No comments: