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Fellow Hikers,

I wish you a very exciting year for exploring. Whether you want a two-hour hike, a day hike, or a two-week long hike, youíll find it in our own backyard, and every one offers the most beautiful scenery, wildlife viewing and fishing. This column is geared toward more adventurous and experienced hikers, just to give a taste of what our area has to offer. In my opinion, you wonít find prettier places anywhere. I call the Olympics Americaís Alps.
Please remember that even on shorter hikes you should always be prepared. Take food and water and dress properly. The weather can change almost instantly and you may have to hunker down somewhere for a while. Always tell someone where youíre going. Itís also important to remember to always hike within your limits and physical capabilities.

So much for the warnings. This year Iíve decided to feature the Big Creek Trail. A lot of work has been done recently on the trail. What is so fabulous about this hike is that there is a 1-mile loop, a 4-mile loop (recently opened), and for the most adventurous hiker a 6.2 mile trail to Mt. Ellinor. These trails parallel the historical trail where you may site the old trail or old bridges used in the Phoenix logging days. The trail starts at the Big Creek Campground over by the large picnic shelter. Follow the 827.1 trail (this is the 4-mile loop), which is well marked. I have provided on the opposite page a well described trail map for your convenience.

At the beginning of the trail you cross a bridge and you climb in elevation through the woods. After about 1.5 miles you start crossing the numerous creeks which are surprisingly large. On the day we hiked it was snowing and absolutely a winter wonderland. The tree branches in the creeks actually had icicles on them and the standing trees were covered with snow.

Each creek is crossed by bridges and has individual qualities too hard to describe, but each had numerous small waterfalls and pools. Donít forget to take the side trips marked as confluence; one of them is where the Big Creek and Branch Creek meet. While hiking, I noticed all the red-barked trees and the mountain paper (moss) hanging from their branches. Towards the end of the hike, as you make your way to the campground, the trees get quite large and it seems to me youíre in an old growth forest with a small pond snuggled within. I look forward to exploring the area again when the sun is shining.

Surprisingly there are a number of benches to rest or enjoy lunch. I suspect this is a popular trail but a definite must, and Iím sure on a weekday or off-season you will run into very few people. I loved the fact it was a loop trail and you can access the trail all year round.

As I was speaking with Ranger Susie she informed me that there are places on the trail where there are views of Mt. Ellinor on a clear day. She also informed me that if you take the 827.2 trail towards Mt. Ellinor and continue on a little over one mile you will find a magnificent view point overlooking Lake Cushman. The viewpoint is even equipped with benches. I will have to return on a clear day for I missed it.
I canít believe that all the years Iíve been hiking that Iíve just discovered this trail. I look forward to returning to the Big Creek Trail when the sun is out, but my experience on this hike in the snow was breath taking.

In closing, I enjoyed the feedback we received regarding the Copper Creek Trail. I offered some of your responses to the Ranger and they were happy to receive them. The more feedback they receive the more they work on keeping trails open and finishing the work on trails such as Copper Creek. Enjoy and be safe.