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Local Adventures: Trillium Community Forest Raven Loop

From our farm, we look across at the Trillium Community Forest’s ridge (and above that floats the Olympic Mountains) on the south end of Whidbey Island. The Trillium Community Forest is a free to use protected land, that is slowly being returned to a healthy forest. In the coming decade it will return to what it should have been, before it had been clear-cut in the late 1980’s. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust has done a considerable amount of work on the land in the past 6 years – and even over this summer numerous improvements were done.

The trail map has been updated again – and be sure to grab it before you go online and download it. While I get solid phone service/bandwidth, doesn’t mean everyone will (and we run on T-Mobile) The south end of the island is notorious for dropping and dead zones. Kirk and I started on Bounty trail, out of the trailhead on Bounty Loop, off of Mutiny Bay Road, which is just off of Hwy 525, north of Freeland.

If coming from the north end of the island, take a right onto Mutiny Bay Rd, then a right onto Bounty Loop, which is the first road you will encounter to the right. If you miss it, you can turn onto the second entrance to Bounty Loop. There is a large parking lot, vehicles only, no trailers. Bounty Loop is a quiet place, full of homestead sites, and enough feral domestic rabbits for a lifetime (they are gorgeous black ones).

Bounty trail is paved for the first part, as it is part of the Level Loop, which is an accessible trail for all. At the first junction with Level, stay straight ahead. The next section was prettied up this summer, with water bars and tons of gravel put in. It was also widened. No more mud bogs and stinging nettles in the trail. At the next junction, take a left onto Crossroads trail and follow the trail through the forest, gently gaining elevation till you pop out into a sunny area:

All the trails are old logging roads, but some you can barely tell, as they have grown in over the past 30 years. This section was quite pretty. The alder trees are nearly done with their life cycle – and are dying off. The evergreens are now gaining size as they die back.

As we crossed the 4 way junction of Crossroads and Mainline/Patrick’s Way, I realized this wide open area is visible on Google satellite view. We chatted a bit with the only other person we saw, at the junction, and then headed downhill on Mainline. The name is now being changed to Patrick’s Way, but not all markers are up to date. Mainline shoots down fast and is a wide road.

Looking up Mainline near the end. We decided to take Raven back across, to make the loop. Raven is an interesting story of restoring a forest’s health. The majority of Trillium was highly neglected when it came into protection, and much of it was choked with too many trees (we have battled this for 6 months on our land as well). With careful stewardship they have lowered the amount of trees, and in the next 5 to 6 years it will be thinned again. However, the first half of Raven is the forest I despise. Dark, choked and lifeless. It is what happens when it is planted and the owners walk away. 30 trees where there should be 1 tree. Not a forest for evening walks. However, in a few years that section will be thinned yet again, and the undergrowth will come back – such as below.

Kirk walking ahead of me in the second half of Raven trail. Here, the trees are open, sun spills in, and the ground cover is evergreen coastal huckleberry, red huckleberry and salal. Birds were moving, squirrels running above us. This section was separately owned, and was properly maintained over the years. It was a joyful section of trail to hike.

I really didn’t want that short half mile to end, but alas it did. We took a right back onto Crossroads trail, then a right onto Bounty and back out.

~Sarah