There was a time in my life when I became so jaded with hiking I looked down upon “local” hikes. They were for when I couldn’t be in the mountains, chasing altitude and miles. A few more kids, and a farm changed that attitude. If 2018 brought one theme it was never-ending farm work and little time to give to hiking. It was sadly the first year in nearly 20 years I didn’t walk in alpine. I just couldn’t justify carving out that time, but it affected me. This fall and winter we have gotten out more, and just enjoyed being in the woods. The muscles have to be trained again, but it feels so good. January 1st brings First Day Hike and we woke up to clear skies, so you just cannot waste that chance!
We decided on visiting Saratoga Woods Preserve, outside of Langley on Whidbey Island. For a color topo map, see here. And yes, you will want it. While lovingly maintained, this honestly was one of the more confusing local trail systems I have walked in. Like most trails on the island, you won’t get lost-lost but you might be slightly confused and on the wrong trail. There is a system for the trail signs – and not all are marked on both ends, or are overgrown over the signs. Just pay attention at junctions is all. It makes sense after your first hike 😉
This is a special woods though – it holds the (presumed) second largest glacial erratic, Waterman Rock, on the island. (I am thinking the always dumbly named “Big Rock” in Couepville is the largest?) It’s a great hike for children to talk science and nature on.
The trailhead sits on the edge of a large meadow off of Saratoga Road. Ample parking, but if you are not coming from Langley, it isn’t well-marked to turn in. Being an Island County park, parking and use is free to all.
The meadow, with the cold winter sun at its height for the day. For an easy hike, the Meadow Loop Trail (marked MLT on signs) follows along and into the woods. However, we walked to the main set of trails at the edge of the woods and entered in. There are a couple trails you can take, all will eventually gain a little altitude, to reach the old airstrip.
We entered the woods on Indian Pipe trail.
The nurse log tree stump was taller than me.
This section of woods had a very positive feeling – healthy, full of light and a cathedral to walk in. The trail shifted on Twin Flower Trek. We missed a junction (it has a large tree over it, but is passable – it came down in the storm in December). We realized we had passed the junction and backtracked, heading up.
We came out onto the old airstrip. This section had some mud and water issues, but was passable and my lack of hiking boots wasn’t an issue (I was wearing trail runners). We took the forested section of trail that follows the airstrip. There were some trees and branches down, but was passable. The trail ends and to the left is the trail down to Waterman Rock.
It’s a gorgeous glacial erratic.
The boys explored the trail around it, down below.
I decided I wanted to hike the length of the airstrip, so Kirk and Walker took Bent Tree trail back and the rest of us headed off.
Alistaire and Ford always ahead of me.
Christmas Tree at the junction for Wood Nymph Way.
Ford and Alistaire on the only switch back we encountered – on Wintergreen Trail.
A great way to spend part of a day locally. No long drive, no parking fees, and plenty of other happy hikers out enjoying the day.