Hiking · Local Adventures

The čičməhán Trail: The End Of The Trail

It’s middle of November and cold at night, but so clear outside. It seemed to me that the wind was telling me it was time to finish the čičməhán Trail in Port Townsend, Washington before winter comes, and with it the short, dark rainy days that don’t encourage one to go outside.

It took us 7 trips to complete the entire hike, and we saved one of the longest sections for last, and ended our trip at Chetzemoka’s grave. We started this hike in 2019 and did sections as we had time. All sections were done on foot, and we didn’t have a car with us, to encourage us to see more.

The čičməhán Trail has 18 stops, and is meant to broken into sections, all across Port Townsend. The sections are offered as a walking path, or for biking, or even for driving (only one stop cannot be accessed by car directly – on the Bluff Trail in Fort Worden).

We started at the ferry dock, having walked on from the Coupeville ferry dock on Whidbey Island. We turned right onto Water Street (the main street in the historic district). At 9:15 am on a Thursday it is a lonely place in late fall. We took a left onto Taylor Street, went a block, then crossed Washington Street and went by the naked lady fountain, and headed up the stairs up the bluff, arriving at Jefferson Street.

We walked up a short block on Jefferson Street, till these three deer looked down at us. Mama and her babies having breakfast. (1 child is camouflaged in the ivy)

We turned up Tyler Street (which is how you get to the farmers market on Saturdays here) and headed up towards Clay Street, which we took a left on. We walked 3½ short blocks till we came to the Racoon Lodge.

To give a size, Walker is around 5’4″ now. This massive tree stump has been turned into an art installation that the city is fighting. And I never miss showing street art to the boys, especially one with angry people fighting the man….. sure it wasn’t “part of” the trail, but it was totally on the way, and not out of the way, so why miss it? If the city gets its way, it will be torn down at the end of November.

The man who lives here is a long-time carpenter and quirky artist. It was worth the walking by and getting a chance to talk art with the boys. Not everyone agrees of course that this is art, but that is what makes art hum.

Back on the trail, we turned right onto Van Buren Street and walked uphill 4 blocks. Markers are sometimes in the pavement, so keep an eye out.

At the cross streets of Van Buren and Blaine Street sits an entrance to the high school, and in front is the 4 Points site. It has a park bench to rest at and enjoy the views. You can see Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier from here, and the Olympic Mountains as well. Mt. Constitution  on Orcas Island is hidden by the high school though.

This high spot has options going 3 ways.

Being that it was still early (not even 10 am) we decided to head and do more. The next sections were nearly all downhill, so why not. We dropped downhill 5 longer blocks.

As with many parts of the hill of Port Townsend some areas have sidewalks, some do not. But there isn’t much traffic on the hill on a Thursday morning, and it is safe. The shoulders are wide. What we found is the roads going across often have sidewalks, the residential roads do not. I have often wondered if some of those roads were long ago alleyways for horses and wagons, and then were paved when cars came. I could be wrong, but that is my feeling about it.

When you walk the hill you are surrounded by long-ago history – giant Victorian homes, churches that spared no details. It’s very over the top and you can feel the ghosts of the timber barons up there. They lived in Uptown and worked down in the historic district (which then was the bawdy district – more men were knocked out and taken to sea at one point than in San Francisco in the bars).

As we walked downhill we could hear the bell that rings at the hour. 10 rings it did. It’s one of the charms of Port Townsend.

When we reached the bottom we crossed the street and to an actual sidewalk and walked along Walker Street for a short bit. Then a left back onto Blaine. We used the crosswalk (there are 2 close together, so take your choice). We walked on the right side. There isn’t a sidewalk on this side but there is a bike path, then on street parking, then the land you can walk on – it’s flat grass.

We turned into the Port Townsend Golf Course where the next 2 markers are.

Follow the paved road into the golf course. You will see qatáy prairie sign to the right, with the golf course buildings in front of you. The open prairie is protected it seems now – with signs about staying out to ensure the plants can grow. It has a lot of historical value (besides little of it being left and not built on….), the tribe harvested Blue Camas bulbs as a main carbohydrate of the S’Klallam diet, which was roasted and ground into a starch that could be stored for winter eating.

They would burn the prairies to encourage growth on a regular basis, similar to how other tribes burned the hillsides in the subalpine mountains to encourage wild blueberry bushes.

I learned that they did similar in Ebey’s Prairie on Whidbey Island, and that they were doing this over 2,000 years ago at least.

The many native plants/flowers in the prairie.

To find the second site, look to your leftish from the golf buildings. On the pile of rocks stands a statue, where in history, Chetzemoka stood to let his people know war had been averted.

“… each morning I will sit on top of the big rock on the east side of qatáy Valley. If you are still in danger I will keep my blanket over my head and then you will know that you must have your guns handy and place your women and children where they will be safe, for they are apt to be captured and held as slaves. If the danger passes I will stand up, throw off my blanket and give a great shout. Then you will know that you are safe.”

I’d love to visit in early summer when it is blooming.

The view from the Sentinel Rock is of the Olympic Mountains and Kah Tai Lagoon.

The statue is well done but really odd in that he is presented in white man’s clothing from the 1930’s or so. Very odd. Chetzemoka lived from 1808 to 1888.

We left the golf course, and headed along Blaine Street. We turned right along San Juan Avenue, where a walking path cuts across to save time. We crossed San Juan Avenue to get to the crosswalk. Then walked along till we got to 24th Street (the Unitarian Church is on the corner) and walked uphill to just past Kuhn Street.

The marker for Swan School is in front of the school, hidden in the shade.

We headed up another block to the end of 24th Street and came to Discovery Road. We crossed the road (it was the busiest of the roads we walked along) and had a crosswalk on the other side. We walked to the left after crossing, to enter the Laurel Cemetery. The entrance can be confusing as it looks like a private residence. If you see the Freemason sign at the driveway, you are there. Walk into the cemetery.

Take a right onto the first road, and follow it as it eventually turns to the left and heads uphill gently. The final marker is on the left side, and Chetzemoka’s gravesite is covered in shells.

After resting at the gravesite and talking about the history the boys and I set out to complete the loop we were doing.

We returned to Discovery, walked about a block or so, crossed the road carefully and headed down 22nd Street, till we reached Landes Street. We turned right and walked downhill on crumbling pavement till we crossed Blaine Street. This is a crossing to pay attention to, as it can be a busy road. Continuing down, we walked the side of the road but there was little traffic, passing the side entrance to Kah Tai Lagoon park and then the Haines Place transit center (Safeway is across the road). We walked the back sidewalks along the lagoon on 12th Street, till the wide paved path pops out onto Hwy 20 (East Sims Way) in town. The path follows a tiny section of Jefferson, then crosses Kearney across from the Co-Op store. Walk a short distance to cross Hwy 20/ East Sims Way and just stay on the sidewalks and eventually you will pop out at the ferry dock, completing the loop.

How many miles? Well….I didn’t track the miles we put in (where I run S Health app on my phone for walking or hiking) but my step count out me at 7 miles in Port Townsend. I’d think it was around that as my step count is pretty accurate in my phone. But the miles were not hard. The real climb isn’t bad going the way we did, especially if it’s cold outside. By the time it warmed up to 49°, we were on the flat land. Doing the loop how we went, meant much of it was downhill, or flat-ish. It is on pavement, so that can be more knee jarring.

Why should I hike this trail?

Because you will learn so much. I used the trail as part of our homeschooling, to widen what our children learn. That there is more to the world than just colonizer history. By listening (and reading) to what others have to say, you see a time before, of how they lived. That the people lived with the earth, rather than battling it to conquer it.

We should never not learn – seeking new things is a good thing.

Why should I walk it?

When you walk, you see so much more. You are not zipping by quickly. You see the quirky sides of an area. More of the whole picture. By leaving your car behind it also puts you in the mind set of how it might have been more like 150 to 200 years ago.

Other sections of the trail:

Chetzemoka Park

Kah Tai Lagoon Park

Point Hudson

Point Wilson & Fort Worden State Park

Historic Downtown Port Townsend

North Beach


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