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Learning to love the crowds

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Mar 07, 2006 12:00 AM |

If you'd asked me five years ago--before I had two daughters--about the hike to Wallace Falls, I probably would have dismissed it as a crowded lowland hike. But having a 3-year-old and a 3 month old, you learn to appreciate short hikes not too far from home.

And simply put, Wallace Falls is a fantastic hike.

Saturday was balmy and clear, and it was time to pack the kids, mom, and grammy into the car for a little adventure in this state park just outside of Gold Bar. Yes, the crowds were abundant, but I've learned to love crowded trails. Seeing babies in carriers, teenagers, grandparents, and young couples all out for fresh air and exercise never fails to inspire me. It gives me hope that folks are giving up the couch and the XBox for day packs and trail mix.

Middle Wallace FallsIt's not an easy hike. It's over 5 miles round trip to the Upper Falls and steep enough to get even experienced hikers sweating a bit. The rest of our gang only got as far as the first bridge before deciding to head back to the car and nap time. Although she didn't make it to the falls, my daughter saw plenty to catch her attention: water trickling from moss by the side of the trail; a piece of bark scribbled with a maze of beetle tracks; and some cool trail bridges. If you do make it to the falls, the Middle Falls is the most spectacular, and it's roaring this time of year. You couldn't ask for a more pleasant late winter day: the sun was shining and the air was thick with the scent of Douglas Fir branches, which littered the ground after a recent windstorm.

Wallace Falls has many connections to WTA. Over the past several years, WTA crews have really improved the trail to the falls. And WTA youth crews--open to all high school students in the summer--are building a new trail to nearby Wallace Lake. That trail has been named for WTA's late director of operations, Greg Ball. The Greg Ball Trail Fund is making that trail a reality.

Sure, I like to hike in solitude, but I've also learned to appreciate the crowds. Even if I have to say "hello" as I let the hundredth hiker pass, I don't mind a bit.