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Published August 2006

A date with Mother Nature
August Hike-A-Thon an excuse to get acquainted
with region’s natural wonders

By Kimberly Hilden
SCBJ Assistant Editor

With the Fourth of July over, the Puget Sound region has entered its unofficial sunny summer phase, when weekends become an opportunity to pull weeds, stain decks and paint siding.

Ugh.

That’s not to say that home improvement doesn’t have its place this time of year (I, too, have a date with some GacoDeck before the rain returns), just that Mother Nature’s charms extend beyond grass clippings to include flowing rivers, towering evergreens, pristine lakes and mountains — lots of mountains.

And if you need an excuse to experience such treasures firsthand, look no further than the Washington Trails Association’s Hike-A-Thon. The event, now in its third year, runs through the month of August and combines hiking with fund raising for a good cause.
Photo courtesy of Brian Hosey/
Washington Trails Association

A hiker en route to Snowgrass Flats in the Goat Rocks Wilderness of the South Cascades finds breathtaking views and abundant wildflowers. Closer to home, Snohomish County residents can enjoy views of waterfalls at Wallace Falls State Park or pick huckleberries along the Tonga Ridge Trail.

It works like this: Participants register for the event (either online at the WTA’s Web site, www.wta.org, or by calling 206-625-1367), set a fund-raising goal, raise money through pledges, log their miles hiked throughout the month and send in pledges and mileage total to the WTA by Sept. 8.

The money raised supports the nonprofit organization, which maintains the region’s hiking trails with the help of thousands of volunteers, advocates for trail funding and educates the public on the environment around them, said Lace Thornberg, WTA’s development director.

With the Hike-A-Thon, people really have their own strategies for raising money, she said. “I know some people like to ask their friends in person; other people will have an event; other people make it into a Web campaign.”

Pledges can be a set number or based on miles hiked, and participants tend to have a pretty even mix of both, Thornberg said.

Prizes are awarded for the various pledge levels, with an OR Exped Venus II Tent going to the hiker who raises the most money, and Timberland hiking boots awarded to the hiker with the most sponsors and the hiker with the most miles hiked.

“Last year, the person who hiked the most miles hiked 165 miles in one month,” said Thornberg, a Midwest transplant who became “enchanted with the mountains here.”

But every little mile counts, and there are plenty of trail miles to be had fairly close to home, including:

  • For more information on the Hike-A-Thon, the hiking trails listed in this article and tips on hiking essentials, visit the Washington Trails Association online at www.wta.org.
    Big Four Ice Caves: This family favorite, 14.5 miles east of the Verlot Public Service Center along the Mountain Loop Highway outside Granite Falls, is a 2-mile roundtrip hike that includes old-growth timber, views of ice fields and the north face of Big Four Mountain. According to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest/Darrington Ranger District, the caves “usually are exposed during August and remain visible through October” but are extremely dangerous and should not be approached.
  • Wallace Falls: Another family-friendly hike, this one located 2 miles northeast of Gold Bar, is a little over 6 miles roundtrip with views of the 265-foot waterfall. A side note: The WTA is finishing construction on the 1.9-mile Greg Ball Trail at Wallace Falls State Park, which will enable hikers to access Wallace Lake. Thornberg said the trail should be completed near the end of August.
  • Tonga Ridge Trail: This hike, which the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest/ Skykomish Ranger District measures as 4.6 miles each way, includes striking views across the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, a breathtaking meadow near the end of the trail and prime huckleberry picking during the fall. The trail is located east of Skykomish.
  • Boulder River Trail: A series of cascades and waterfalls are among the sights to behold on this trek, measuring 4 miles each way along the Boulder River, with an elevation gain of 400 feet. The trailhead can be found by driving east on Highway 530, turning right on French Creek Road (No. 2010) — it’s about 8 miles west of the Darrington Ranger Station.
  • Mount Dickerman: Located 16.6 miles east of the Verlot Public Service Center along the Mountain Loop Highway outside of Granite Falls, this hike is for those desiring a physical challenge coupled with gorgeous views (when the skies are clear, that is). The Darrington Ranger District measures this hike 4.3 miles each way, with steep trail switchbacks for the first 3 miles. There are blueberries to be picked during the fall.

Before you get to any of the trails located in the USDA Forest Service’s Northwest Region, which includes the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, be sure to get a Northwest Forest Pass ($5 for a day pass or $30 for an annual pass), which is required. They can be obtained at ranger stations, ordered online at www.naturenw.org/store-passes.htm or by calling 800-270-7504.

“I think that to take up the Hike-A-Thon challenge is not too difficult and is a great motivator to make the most of your late-summer weekends,” Thornberg said.

Besides, those weeds will still be there to pull in September.

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