I'm always on the lookout for preschooler-friendly hikes. However, the nature of our... um... nature doesn't always lend itself to a trail that a two year old, or even a four year old, can easily tackle. So when I discovered King County has a whole series of parks with "Natural Area" tacked on the end I was intrigued.
Toward the end of March we tried out Three Forks Natural Area between North Bend and Snoqualmie. It will be a cool place, but the trail is still under construction so it was a sloppy mess.
I've got a bunch queued up and today it was time to visit Moss Lake Natural Area just north of Carnation on Stillwater Hill.
The drive was longer than I had figured so by the time we arrived Lilly was ready to get out of the car. As we drove up the last half mile of unpaved road I was surprised to see a ton of cars filling the lot and then some. What a magical place this must be to have brought 30 hikers out on a so-so Saturday!
We started wandering around for the actual trail, but it didn't look as though it was the old road with the big "No Motorized blah blah blah" sign on it so we did a loop through the parking lot. Aside from seeing a snake (and nobody freaking out) it wasn't very exciting. So we headed down the road and almost immediately found ourselves at Moss Lake.
It wasn't very mossy, but was plenty swampy. The lake itself is pretty small and featureless, but it was water and the girls were duly impressed.
The trail continued past and through a huge thicket of salmonberry bushes complete with purple blossoms, green berries, and a billion bees going about their business with little regard for us. Thankfully, we never incurred their wrath or it would have been very unpleasant indeed.
The trail took a turn to the north and into some less swampy woods where I felt more at home. Unfortunately, they didn't last and we were soon back into the salmonberries. In another couple of months these will all be in bloom and a great place to graze as you walk, but now they just obscured what few views there were.
We passed a whole bunch of people thrashing about in the thickets without really figuring out what they were doing. They had left backpacks and gear on the trail, but also shovels. My first thought was they were building a new trail in the less soggy areas, but without shovels that seemed unlikely.
Beyond the thrashers we climbed a small hill with somewhat interesting, but obscurred views, of the wetland that was probably once part of Moss Lake. There were tons of small logs across the trail that I could easily step over. Clara didn't have much trouble, but Lilly required a hand until Clara showed her how to straddle the log and move one leg over at a time. Clara also decided we needed to say, "Leap!" each time we crossed a log. Being followers, Lilly and I played along.
At the top of the hill there didn't appear to be much more ahead so we took a side trail cut through the salmonberries. It was headed in the direction of the lake and parking lot so I thought maybe it was heading back. We wandered up for a while before Clara said she was ready to go back. This is the point where I realize we should have turned around long ago, but this time it was better. We had a snack and headed back.
Along the way we ran into two kids who had gone to the end of the real trail and onto some of the logging roads beyond before climbing the alternate trail. They were also looking for a new way back, but didn't know where this went.
Back down in the lowlands we talked with a woman who was part of the thrashers group. They were a wetland delineation class at the UW. Presumably they were doing something useful and valuable, but exactly what I don't know.
At the lake there was a boulder sitting in the middle of the trail. Clara decided to climb it and did really well. She got to the top (three feet above the ground) and came back down without issue. As I was helping Lilly climb from the other side Clara tried again, but slipped and slid down the side. She got a sweet scrape from about her bellybutton to her nipple, but was a real trooper once she got a few extra M&Ms.
After Lilly got herself all wet by stepping into the lake instead of just throwing rocks we returned to the car. The kids we had run into before got back about the same time we did. They had gone another mile up the spur trail before turning around.
Even though it was way past naptime the girls were in good spirits all the way home. They both went down for naps easily, which isn't surprising since they did about 2.5 miles over the course of the morning. With a few little ups and downs all added together there was about 200 feet of gain.
Moss Lake looks like it might have some hidden gems to discover. We passed a few trails heading into the Snoqualmie Tree Farm that we didn't have time to explore. On the map we were fairly close to the canyon the North Fork of the Tolt runs through so some of the trails must wind up there. However, I'd want to head back by myself (or at least without the kids) to really get an idea of what's there and whether it would be a good trip for the little ones.