Hiking Olympia’s Watershed Park
Some could argue that “hiking” could be a bit of an exaggeration, given that Watershed Park is technically a city-owned property just a few blocks south of downtown Olympia. But do it on a day when the rain is coming down in lines and throw in eight soggy Cub Scouts and their parents along for the ride, and the challenge suddenly becomes more strenuous.
I’m the Den Leader for a local bunch of scouts who needed to accomplish a one-mile hike in order to satisfy some of their requirements to graduate from Wolves to Bears. I didn’t pick the rainiest day of the year on purpose, but it sure made the experience that much more interesting. And I’m not afraid of hiking in the rain, as long as I have the proper rain gear. Sadly, some of my scout parents did not.
Watershed Park in Olympia is anything but a traditional city park. There is no landscaped expanse of grass, no tidy playground made of plastic and no meandering, ADA-approved asphalt path to stroll along. No, Watershed Park is a system of rugged trails that crisscross over Moxlie Creek and all it’s tiny tributaries. However, when flood watches are in effect those tributaries can easily make the trail impassable. We had our work cut out for us.
All seven of my Wolves (plus one tag-along Bear) showed up despite the downpour at 9 a.m. Saturday, October 31. After the safety briefing and check that everyone brought their six hiking essentials – a first aid kit, filled water bottle, flashlight with batteries, trail food, emergency whistle, and sun protection…yes, sun protection that we did not have any use for – we started on the 1.4-mile loop trail through the watershed.
The environment is more like walking through the Hoh Rainforest, with everything covered in green moss, lichen and fungus. Where old giants had been felled by lightning strikes and windstorms, nurse logs were busy raising new trees to replace them. Steep inclines and sharp drop-offs were interspersed with wide, flat sections of trail that wound through the watershed. The cascade of water that Moxlie Creek had become was spectacular to observe from several set-aside viewpoints.
And all the while, the rain. The pouring rain that soaked a number of our hikers to the bone simply wasn’t enough to dampen the kids’ spirits. Every one of us made the full loop with relatively little complaint (a miracle, frankly, for a bunch of seven and eight-year-olds). So if you’re an outdoor enthusiast living in Western Washington, you already know that you can’t let a little rain spoil your plans. Or a lot of rain. And if you’re used to hiking on beautiful days, try a rain-hike once in a while just to shake things up. It’s a whole new twist on one of your favorite activities!