Willapa Hills Trail is the former Northern Pacific spur line from Chehalis Washington to South Bend Washington. The right-of-way has been acquired by Washington State Parks, and now serves as a biking and hiking trail.
I’m happy to say that the photo above is not a stock photo, but my picture of yesterday morning! We are enjoying a Washington trip to see friends, family, and to enjoy the Willapa Hills Trail for the first time. It was my intent to ride the trail from Chehalis to Raymond (my hometown). A bit of 65-year-old realism caught up with me. That realism has been expressed in “pre-arthritic” knees! So it has become a ride from Chehalis to Pe Ell along the trail.
My daughter Erin came up from Portland to join me on the first leg of the ride. We rode from Logan Street in Centralia to Rainbow Falls State Park. I chose to ride from Centralia rather than starting in Chehalis at the trailhead, because Logan Street was the home place of my Grandpa and Grandma Henkel. Erin and I rode the paved streets of Centralia and Chehalis about 6 miles to the trailhead. Then we rode the trail from Chehalis to Rainbow Falls. The trail was a joy. To see this area, away from the traffic (modest though it may be on highway 6), and at a slow pace, is an experience I’ll always remember, and I’m so grateful that Erin chose to accompany me!
The trail from Chehalis to Rainbow Falls is about 15 miles, a distance I often cover at home on morning rides. But those rides are on paved trails and start at mile zero, not at mile six. The first five miles of the trail are paved, and the rest of the trail to Rainbow Falls is gravel. My sixty-five year old knees learned that its not the miles but the total pedal rotations that count to determine endurance. But we had a marvelous time!
After Erin returned to Portland, the next day I returned to the trail and rode to Pe Ell, where my wife, Terri, met me. The knees told me I’d rode enough. My mind tells me I had a wonderful time, despite riding half as far as I had intended. Perhaps next spring there will be another adventure.
While visiting family in Grays Harbor, we stayed at Artic RV Park. It turned out to be a beautiful place. I suppose that Good Sam Club would give it less than 5 stars, but I’d give it 6. Nestled in the trees, along Highway 101 about 18 miles north of Raymond, Washington, it was a surprising delight. We were greeted warmly by the owners and offered veggies from their garden! Certainly having grown up in Raymond, I never thought that I’d ever spend a night in Artic, but there we were.
This scene makes me think of my Mom, who often told the story of her “dream cabin” just a few miles down the road at Elk Horn. As she would tell it, she was on a road trip with her parents and her boyfriend (also known as my Dad!). When stopped at the Elk Horn, she snuggled up to her boyfriend, and said, “Oh wouldn’t that little cabin be a wonderful place to live?” Not long after, she was living in that cabin, and making a lifelong friend with the owner, Maggie Thornton. Of course she also said she was very happy to move out, because when the wind blew, the thought of trees crashing into that little cabin scared her to death! And as the telling goes, a few years later a giant fir destroyed that little cabin.
Some tree hugging with a centuries old spruce tree, and a photo of my intrepid explorer, Terri!