The invitation reads “A Spring Ramble,” and attracts twenty eager hikers who gather at the trailhead of Lopez Hill. Curious wanderers, we soon brush by salal and the trail narrows with its closeness of green undergrowth braided together. We all pause when Odlin Parks’s ranger, David St. George, abruptly stops, and his astute hearing teases out the mating song of a Townsend’s warbler, the first of many birds on this day’s journey.
As we meander along, we cross one of nature’s bridges chiseled from a fallen tree covering a soggy spot. In a grove of alders, we note surrounding hemlocks scarred by lightning strikes. Our steps take us over a grand root of cedar, re-bronzed by the wear of feet traipsing this way. Our eyes capture the hardened curve of parasites hugging tree trunks and a bed of deer bones left in the lee of a tree, remnants of a harsh winter storm.
Our botanists, Adrienne Adams and Beth St. George, offer names of wildflowers. Some nestle in swaths of carpeted moss, others cling to rocks at path’s edge: Siberian miner’s lettuce, foam flower, great camas, spotted coralroot, and a heart-leafed twayblade. In the absence of the familiar vine maple is the larger-leafed Rocky Mountain maple tree, another haven for birds.
We sprint on, ascending through the wind-blown and gnarled branches of native shrubs, to the top of Lopez Hill. More wildflowers greet us, poking up from the edges of flat rock formations, large shards of ancient sea ledges. Here we also find an unexpected hammock offering rest to the weary hiker.
After a brief respite, we descend with our guides, Mike Moore of the Lopez Island Trails Network and Tim Clark of the San Juan County Land Bank. Reaching the parking lot, thanks to a system of color-coded signs, we part ways, sheathed now by the tranquil beauty of one of Lopez’s finest treasures.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Friends of Lopez Hill, the BLM and the Land Bank, islanders and our summer visitors will shape their own sense of place and spirit as they hike this stunning hillside wilderness.