words + photos by Roger A Ward
We were firmly into summer, which is a sweet time here in the Pacific Northwest. I don't travel much outside the region during this short season because not too many places can call me away from the relaxing warmth of the sunny days and the stimulation of the cool evening breezes. I love hiking and walking in summer, and the Pacific Northwest is scenic poetry. Just a few blocks from my home there is a short trail through Titlow Park where I can escape for an hour or two when longer hikes are not practical. The walk leads down to the waterfront of Puget Sound through a small patch of old-growth forest and a larger area of secondary growth. It ends up at a good fish and chips place with a great view of the waterfront, of the twin suspension bridges across the Tacoma Narrows, and of the hills and trees of the Kitsap Peninsula across the Sound.
This is the only time of year when sun and shade have much temperature relevance. The shade of the forest provides relief from the bright sunlight and reflected heat of the surrounding neighborhood like a cool, wet cloth does in a dry sauna. The meandering trail evolved from a gravel logging road, active from the late 1800's until the 1930's. The weathered foot hills and cliffs bordering this part of Puget Sound consist of huge deposits of gravel left by retreating glaciers. Loggers only had to scrape away the accumulated detritus of the forest cover to build a road. The evolved path I walked is more spongy now than crisp and crunchy. Leaf litter, tree needles and tree bark from the better part of a century have reclaimed the top foot or so. Incursions of shrubs and trees have narrowed the road into a trail that is only a little wider than one originally built for hiking.