Tucked into one end of Newberry Hill Heritage Park in Silverdale is a tiny new addition called The Children’s Forest. Newberry Hill Park is a multi-use park of 1200 acres and nearly 15 miles of trails allowing horses, mountain bikes and walkers. It’s well maintained trail website provides a brief description of best and permitted uses of each trail and the volunteers who maintain it had clearly been hard at work when I walked it over the weekend. But it was The Children’s Forest that captured much of my attention.
The wide gravel paths are ideal for strollers and a new covered outdoor meeting area is a perfect group space for classes, youth groups, day cares or families to use.
There appear to be plans for interpretive signs such as this first one providing facts about the Oregon Trail.
Similar to the rest of Kitsap County’s heritage parks that are not supported by public funds, Newberry Hill Heritage Park is maintained by a loyal group of volunteers that include Scouting troops, church and community groups, the next door Klahowya High School Environmental Club and an oversight group of Stewards who work tirelessly to build and maintain the trails including the Children’s Forest. Because this park is a multi-use facility, its oversight Stewards represent the hiking, mountain biking and equestrian interests in the county who work together to insure the park is safely used by everyone. They’re always in need of more volunteers.
While commuting Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island most drivers are probably unaware that some of the highway parallels a trail located in a park with the biggest ledum bog in the state. Or that some of the land in the park was once a dairy farm owned by the founder of Port Madison on Bainbridge. Or that the park gate features a rat sculpture.
Meigs Park consists of 120 acres of preserved land, some acquired by the Bainbridge Parks Department and Bainbridge Island Land Trust in 1992 and some under a joint agreement with the Parks Department and City of Bainbridge. Most of the park isn’t accessible because of the fragile nature of the ledum bog but there is a maintained public trail that runs parallel to Highway 305 and a parking area at the corner of Koura Rd. and the highway.
Ledum is a plant whose leaves are used to make Bog Tea. Also known as Indian Tea and the Indian Tea Plant, ledum was used first by local Native American tribes as both tea and for medicine to cure inflammation. The last owner of the property considered building a spa featuring the bog’s water.
Before the land was owned by the parks department and city it was a dairy farm owned by the descendants of George Anson Meigs who built the Port Madison sawmill and founded the community that now exists there. In addition to his Port Madison waterfront holdings, Meigs, began the dairy farm which operated until 1950.
The trail has remnants of its use as a farm. Just off the trail is the ruined shell of an old trailer.
The gate that used to divide the park from the Meigs property is still there along with its decorative and inexplicable rat eating a piece of cheese.
On my walks I’ve been watching the slow progression of Poulsbo‘s newest public art, the mural under the Lindvig Bridge bordering Fish Park. Did you know Lindvig Bridge is named after Maurice Lindvig, the Mayor of Poulsbo from 1970-76? The progress has been slow because it was originally proposed as a mural of trolls but the artist ultimately decided that it was more appropriate to paint outdoor scenes to complement the adjacent Fish Park scenery.
Work has been suspended temporarily because the rains and winds this winter make painting (even under a bridge) uncomfortable.
However some graffiti artist has been at work in the interim using the blue plastic tarp as their medium.
“People really live out here?” I found myself repeatedly muttering on the drive to find Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve for my post on the Shire of Kitsap. (I’m a Kitsap urban dweller. I walk to the grocery store, the dentist, the post office, three local brewpubs, restaurants and the monthly art gallery walk.) Then I’d round a back roads narrow corner and there would be a guy in a Seahawks jersey walking his poodle or a woman out for a run (they all waved) or a large home set back in the trees. Getting to Guillemot requires turning west off the highway, following the road to Seabeck and taking two more turns on increasingly narrow roads til you can go no further or drive into Hood Canal. Its the kind of place mostly trod by the US Postal Service, Puget Sound Energy and intrepid Kitsap adventurers.
It didn’t help that the sky was colored Northwest Gray or that it was the first dry day in five. Everything seems longer and more primeval when its wettish and darkish. It also seems much more Hobbitish – like Mirkwood in Middle-earth.
Originally called Frenchman’s Cove after Henri Querrette, who had a cabin on the cove, the nature reserve was renamed Guillemot after the ubiquitous small black seabird by the Reynolds family who homesteaded the original 80 acres of the now 184 acre park.
The reserve still has remnants of it’s former human inhabitants including a barn built in 1940 by the Reynolds family out of wood milled on the property. The barn was destroyed in a 2014 windstorm.
In 1946 the Reynolds family built a summer beach house known as the Nest House which is slowly giving way to vines and weather.
Off trail its easy to spot other vestiges of human habitation such as the rusted remains of this vehicle.
But its Mother Nature who plays the starring role here. The Reserve hosts a rare old growth stand of cedar maple. In addition to being a bird habitat, there are beaver dams everywhere. Boyce Creek flows downhill through the property and after rainy spells the reserve becomes noisy with water flow coming making its way to the creek or downhill to Hood Canal. It’s a mandatory galoshes kind of place if you want to explore it in the winter or spring seasons.
It’s also evolving trail-wise as the creek seeks new tributaries and bridges get washed out. There’s a trail map on the Guillermot Cove county parks website that may not be entirely accurate or to scale. It’s best to print it out and bring it along if you want to explore the reserve or find the Stump House.
I lost my virginity in Nepal in 2007. My status as a Hash House Harrier Virgin ended after a Hash sponsored 10K walk through rice fields when I managed to slog down the required Hash urn of beer before the end of the ceremonial group initiation song. I even have the t-shirt to prove it because if you’re going to lose it, there’s no better t-shirt to boast about it with than the Kathmandu Himalayan Hash House Harriers. The U.S. Ambassador to Nepal was an avid Hasher (he was a runner; I was a walker) and helped with the initiation. It turns out there’s a Kitsap County Hash Club which requires further investigation on my part because as the tagline goes for all international HHH Clubs – “Hash House Harriers – “A Drinking Club With A Running Problem.” But I digress. It’s really volkswalking I want to talk about in this post.
I was grabbing a latte at the Port Gamble General Store when I noticed the plastic box next to the front door. “Kitsap Volkssporters Walk Box”. Inside were maps, registration logs and information about the Kitsap Volkssporters. It sounded like a significantly tamer version of the Hash House Harriers.
Volkswalking, also called volksmarching, originated in Europe as a way to encourage fitness by offering non-competitive biking, swimming, walking and other activities in scenic or historical areas. Volksmarsch is a German word that literally means “peoples’ march”. Kitsap County has a Volkssporters Club that offers a full array of volkswalking (and some biking) activities from one time traditional walks to year round walks. This coming 2016 summer, the Kitsap club will be offering a Tuesday Night Guided Walk Series all over the county.
The group sponsors regular group walks on the first and third Saturdays of the month. The 2016 schedule can be found here.
If you don’t have the time to participate in the guided walk series, the club has walk boxes in eleven locations throughout the county. Inside each box are specific directions and descriptions of local walks between 5 and 10 kilometers. Each walk is rated from 1-A (easiest) to 5E (hardest) and the description advises whether it’s appropriate for strollers, pets and if it has bathroom facilities. I checked out two other walk box locations in addition to the one in Port Gamble. Located in coffee shops, stores and medical facilities, I found that employees in the locations often didn’t know there was a walk box there. Ask around. They’re generally located in a visible location in the front of the premises.
The traditional group walks often end with group refreshments, though I suspect not with drinking songs and virgin initiations. And while I’m not sure if there are t-shirts, there are club sanctioned achievement awards based on mileage and number of walks completed.
Finding the Bainbridge Halls Hill Labyrinth and its Community Tibetan Prayer Wheel is not so easy if, like me, you don’t know the island’s backroads, but I’ve been there a few times now.
It’s stunning in the summer when the Asian inspired landscaping fully complements the labyrinth and prayer wheel and it’s stunning in the winter when rain highlights the varied colors in the four quadrants of the labyrinth. However, I never remember how to get there and so on my most recent foray I asked The Google for directions and he revealed four more Bainbridge labyrinths also on private land (all of them churches) but regularly open to the public and another one in a public park. How many public labyrinths are there in Kitsap County?
It turns out there are two more – one in Kingston and one in Silverdale, both of them on welcoming church property. And the south end of the county lends its own unique contributions to the county labyrinth culture. A Port Orchard couple who have a semi public labyrinth belong to a state network of labyrinth events and consult on building labyrinths. And a Bremerton based artist makes finger labyrinths.
I set out to walk them all and discovered each is unique. While most of the county labyrinths accessible to the public are on church property, labyrinths are not part of any specific religion. The earliest ones are from the Middle Ages and were intended to be used as both a meditative and spiritual practice.
The labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church on East Day Road, Bainbridge is one of two walking meditative features. The architecturally stunning church is located down a long driveway and the labyrinth is on a small north rise above the parking lot. Made of gravel and lined with stones, this labyrinth was built in the Chartres pattern of two circuitous paths to the center. Beyond the labyrinth is a meditation trail that winds through the trees.
Bethany Lutheran Church on Finch Road, Bainbridge maintains a seven circuit stone and gravel medieval labyrinth on the southwest part of their property. Since the church also hosts a large park and ride parking lot, I wondered if the labyrinth also provided stress reduction for the island’s significant Seattle bound daily commuter population.
The Eagle Harbor Congregational Church labyrinth in downtown Bainbridge was nearly indistinguishable from its surroundings when I visited. Covered with needles, the seven circuit brick lined labyrinth is on the south side of the church just off the parking lot.
Eagledale Park on Bainbridge has a large, well-signed hilltop labyrinth with a view of Mt. Rainier. The park was once part of a Cold War Nike missile complex which made me wonder how many of THOSE we have in Kitsap County – a future blog post.
In Kingston, the United Methodist Church on Shorty Campbell Road has a small three circuit labyrinth behind the church. While open to the public the church asks that it not be visited on Sunday mornings while services are in progress.
It was one of our recent cold, frosty days when I found the Silverdale labyrinth located at the Silverdale Lutheran Church on Ridgepoint Drive. I like that walking the pathway leads to a contemplative bench.
And for anyone not wanting to brave the elements of an outdoor labyrinth, Brian Watson, a Bremerton artist and woodworker makes beautiful finger labyrinths. The above photo is from his website.
ADDENDUM: Readers of this post informed me of two more labyrinths on Bainbridge Island; one at Sakai Intermediate School and another at Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church. Check out this link from the Smithsonian for more information about labyrinths.
They were still there. Standing like sentinels as though it was the African wetlands. As I waded closer I could see they were both sporting Seahawks gear – a scarf on the giraffe and a sort of Turkish Seahawk fez on the elephant – the 12’s in inanimate animal form. It’s football Sunday in Seattle and likely about the end of the first quarter. I wonder if they can tell me what the score is? But more realistically I wonder, yet again, how they got there -two life size wooden African animals in the bush known as the Clear Creek Trail in Silverdale, Kitsap County. I’d seen them many times before the torrential fall and winter rain had turned the Clear Creek savannah into a wetlands. It’s a mystery how they got there. Even Google doesn’t have an explanation.
Clear Creek Trail is one my my favorite walking trails in the county. While the entire trail system amounts to seven miles, my favorite section is the northern end. It’s easily accessed just off Viking Way NW (aka Silverdale Way NW) between Poulsbo and Silverdale and has a habit of nagging me to take 30 minutes to park and walk whenever I drive by.
I love that the changes of the season are on constant display there. When it’s monsoon season as it has been lately, there are parts of the trail side that look like the Louisiana bayous, all dark with submerged signs of civilization. On some days galoshes are required footwear on the main trail. It’s a valley formed in the last ice age 13,000 -15,000 years ago and in that section Clear Creek moves slowly because the watershed is low lying. When it rains heavily the creek overflows its banks.
I also love that the entire trail system is maintained and is being restored by a variety of volunteer organizations including twelve trail adoption groups. Donated to the Great Peninsula Conservancy by the last private owners of the land, it was not until the Clear Creek Task Force was created in 1993 that a vision of how to manage and restore the vast Clear Creek ecosystem was developed. Each time I walk the trail it seems as though a new interpretive sign has been installed or a bench that was an Eagle Scout project.
Restoration is a major undertaking. The valley was originally the fishing and hunting area of the local native Suquamish people who called parts of the current Clear Creek ecosystem, Duwe’iq and Sa’qad. In the 1850’s loggers moved in and clear cut the valley turning lush forest into fertile farmland, but in the process destroying wildlife habitat and resources for the native tribe. The efforts to replant the valley are visible everywhere and today the Suquamish Tribe is part of the Clear Creek Task Force.
Whenever I walk the trails I get to witness the slow healing taking place. Part of that healing process is the return of native animal life like the coho salmon who return to Clear Creek between October and January annually. My favorite encounter occurred two weeks ago as I rounded a turn in the boardwalk and came upon this blue heron. The photo was taken with my cellphone so you can see how close the heron let me creep. We spent five minutes staring at each other (me hoping nobody else would interrupt our special moment) before it spread its magnificent wings, cast me one last glance and took off in the air. I wonder how it co-exists with Kitsap County’s African wildlife?