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Miles Away

A mile from town in Russ Park



A short hike in Ferndale's Russ Park with a walking group aroused my curiosity about the paths we didn't take, so I returned to explore. At the parking area along Bluff Street, less than a mile from town, an unseen congregation of birds sings in the trees and the trail immediately welcomes the hiker into a cool, dark canopy of Sitka spruce and fir as it heads up the ridge. Jumbles of fallen logs draped in wispy green moss glow in the scattered patches of sunlight. On the ground, twigs are covered in a wild array of gray, purple, white and green lichens.

At the first fork in the trail, just minutes from the parking area, a large colorful map provides trail names, altitude changes and walking distances. The first stretch, up the Lytel Ridge Trail, leads to Zipporah's Pond. Heavy wooden benches grace the trail occasionally, providing places to rest, to wait for dawdling companions, to hear and see things at a slower pace. Bright pink petals on the ground near one bench made me look up and I found salmon berry vines arching high above the trail.

Though smaller than I had imagined, Zipporah's Pond is beguiling. The surface is covered in a bright green mat of tiny water plants and dark green skunk cabbage leaves stand tall in the middle. The man-made pond is named for Zipporah Patrick Russ, a Ferndale pioneer who donated this 100-plus acre property to the city of Ferndale in 1920 as a park and a refuge and breeding place for birds. It now has more than three miles of interweaving trails.

Four paths spider out from the pond. At each trail juncture a small, handsomely engraved map positions you, allowing carefree wandering. But I discovered that the loop path we had taken previously, listed as the Ferndale View Trail on the colored map at the foot of the trail, was named Eucalyptus Trail on the engraved map. Several trails had different names on different maps, but the "You are Here" stars keep you on track.

To explore beyond Zipporah's Pond, I chose a 1-mile loop with a short side trip along Eagle Point Spur to Bunker Hill View Point. The trail rose steadily, growing drier, and ferns were replaced by huckleberry bushes. Entranced by a swath of dainty white flowers growing beside the trail, I was caught unaware by the heat and light when I stepped suddenly from the cool north slope forest onto the south facing viewpoint. It smelled like summer. Turkey vultures circled high overhead and several hawks were cruising the meadows at the bottom of the valley, but I saw no eagles. Hearing the low roar of wind blowing through the tops of the trees behind me, I realized that I could no longer hear the distant riding mower, the din of which had dogged me up the trail.

Returning down Eagle Point Spur, I turned left at Francis Creek Loop Trail. This trail traversed the south side of the ridge and the more open forest allowed the breeze to penetrate. Saw marks on freshly cut logs and piles of golden sawdust along the trail told of recently fallen trees — and conscientious trail maintenance. I reveled in the breeze in the tree tops, an occasional squirrel chittering and the scratching of birds in the brush, which were the only sounds, though so close to town.

Fetid adder's tongue caught my eye with its big, heavily veined leaves and blotchy maroon spots. In early April they'd be in bloom, with delicate purple and yellow striped flowers, and there was trillium nearby, too.

At the juncture with Eugene Street Trail, the loop I was following becomes Daddy Bush Trail. I wondered where that name originated as I walked the switchbacks up to Zipporah's Pond. Choices again — the expansive view out over Ferndale to the Pacific Ocean along the Ferndale View Trail would be worth enjoying again, but since our group walk took that route, I opted for the Village Trail to return to my car.

This section wends its way through dense forest for a while before descending into a series of sunny, open areas filled with berry bushes: Salal, blackberry, thimble berry and salmon berry tumbled over one another. One stretch of the trail was composed of long, gentle, rocky steps that made me wonder if this was an old stream bed.

There are several entrances to the park, and three of them have spurs along this section. I had met only two other people on the far side of the ridge, but here, closer to town, I encountered several local residents and their happy dogs. I continued along the Bluff Street Trail, which dipped and curved its way back to the parking area. Though the riding mower was again audible nearby, the sense of refuge prevailed.


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