Trip reports

A walk in the woods at the end of an endless winter

Trees in Millersylvania State Park (Lauren Danner photo)
Millersylvania State Park sign
Millersylvania State Park is about 20 minutes south of Olympia, Washington. (Lauren Danner photo)

Those of us fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest expect lots of rain. It’s what makes western Washington so green and mountain streams flowing year-round. But boy, this year, the rain has seemed neverending. I read recently the last full week without rain was last September. The dry days have been few and far between, so when the last day of winter dawned clear and bright, Mr. Adventure and I took advantage of Washington State Parks’ fee-free day and headed to Millersylvania State Park for a little vitamin D.

The 842-acre park has plenty of amenities and is popular year-round. During warm weather, families pack the shores of Deep Lake to enjoy picnics, swimming, and fishing. Hikers can park at the entrance and start on a trail system that circles the entire park. Just keep taking the right fork, and you’ll end up walking about six miles.

trees and trail in Millersylvania State Park
Tall trees filter welcome sunlight on the last day of a very long winter. (Lauren Danner photo)
Spruce Creek in Millersylvania State Park
Several branches of Spruce Creek meander through the park, connecting Deep Lake and Scott Lake. (Lauren Danner photo)
trees in Millersylvania State Park
In the late 1800s, the Miller family homesteaded the area that is now the state park, eventually bequeathing it to Washington State Parks in 1921. Although remnants of the family’s orchard can be found in the center of the park, the forest has reclaimed most of the territory. (Lauren Danner photo)

Signs of spring are everywhere. Indian plum is one of the earliest bloomers in Pacific Northwest maritime forests, and we saw many bushes already in leaf and some in flower. The native salmonberry is leafing out, and skunk cabbage (back East, we called this jack-in-the-pulpit) announces its presence with vibrant yellow blooms and a pungent odor.

Evidence of the wet, wet winter abounds. Just look at the trail! This is a short section of about a half-mile across some wetlands, emphasis on “wet.” Most of the trail in this area was underwater, but intrepid hikers had dragged some logs along the edges to provide a somewhat drier toehold. Getting through this area required patience and willingness to get our feet wet.

Submerged trail in Millersylvania State Park
Submerged trail through a wetland area in Millersylvania State Park. (Lauren Danner photo)

The Civilian Conservation Corps worked in the park during the 1930s, building trails, shelters, and cabins. The National Park Service listed the park on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 in recognition of its CCC landscape, most of which still exists.

CCC-built picnic shelter
This CCC-built picnic shelter is just one example of many sturdy log and stone structures in the park. (Lauren Danner photo)

Our hike through Millersylvania was an excellent way to bid winter farewell, at least on the calendar. More rain is headed our way, but it’s only a matter of time before our gorgeous Pacific Northwest summer is upon us again. Happy spring!

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About Lauren Danner

When I’m not out hiking on our public lands, I'm either buried in a book or writing about Pacific Northwest and environmental history, outdoor recreation, and public lands policy from my home near Puget Sound.
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