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Preston-Snoqualmie Trail, Fall City—December 2002

By Fred Weinmann

It's time to hang up the mountain boots, get out the tennies and have a leisurely stroll in our luscious Puget Basin forests. Take this walk in any weather and with the whole family.

The walk: From the Alice Lake trailhead, head north on the blacktop trail marked by a sign indicating a Snoqualmie Falls viewpoint in 1.8 miles. Follow the trail for about 15 minutes. You will pass by one hog fuel trail on the right, then look for the second hog fuel trail about 100 yards past an overlook with benches. The start of the side trail is flanked on the left by a clump of five or more western redcedar trees, a 6-inch DBH (diameter-at-breast-height) bigleaf maple, and a snowberry bush. On the right are a 6-inch DBH red alder and a snowberry bush. Views in this first mile look across to Cascade foothills and down to pastoral scenes in the valley of the Snoqualmie River.

Follow this over-constructed side trail for 15 to 20 minutes to the top of a ridge with benches and picnic tables. Here is an expansive view of the Snoqualmie River Valley and, if ceiling is above 5000 feet, a great view of Mts. Si and Teneriffe. The trail continues, but this is the turnaround point for this easy stroll. As you start back note a log across a trail going down to the right. This is a closed but navigable trail which returns to the hard surface Preston-Snoqualmie Trail. When you regain the blacktop, turn right and continue another 10 minutes to its end. Take a moment to appreciate a distant view of Snoqualmie Falls. Return the 1.8 miles to the parking lot for a total distance of about 4 miles. If time and energy permit, take the trail in the opposite direction for a mile to the Preston/Fall City Road.

The botany: This is the time of year to begin forensic botanizing based on whatever leaves, fruits or other evidence is offered. Wet and dry soils, stream courses running through gorges, and disturbed trailsides provide diverse habitats for native and non-native species. Nearly all of our local native tree species—bigleaf maple, vine maple, black cottonwood, red alder, cascara, Douglas fir, western redcedar, western hemlock and Sitka spruce—can be seen here and compared. Use characteristics of twigs and other evidence remaining in late fall to identify common shrubs such as Indian plum, snowberry, elderberry and more. At least five species in the sedge family can be seen without leaving the trail, including Carex hendersonii, C. deweyana, C. opnupta, Scirpus cyperinus, and S. microcarpus. Maidenhair fern, deer fern and several other ferns will be in reasonable condition for identification. Trailsides, although carefully maintained and mowed, are wild enough for devil's club, water parsley and other native wetland species. At the manicured overlook on the wood waste trail, areas around benches and picnic tables have been planted with native species. Identify the roses and critique the landscaping choices.

Enjoy this easy walk among familiar plants as many of them end their growing season while others begin theirs. For example, many species have new leaves emerging at this time of year to give them a head start next spring. Claytonia sibirica and Poa pratensis are among these. For inspiration think about Joe Arnett's essays from the CPS Chapter newsletter, many of which remind us how to appreciate whatever plants are around us. There is much to learn from even the most common species.

The directions: Travel to Fall City, and from the center of town go 0.5 miles toward Preston on the Fall City-Preston Road. Turn left on the Alice Lake Road and go 0.9 miles to the parking area on the right. If arriving via I-90 from Preston, turn right on the Alice Lake Road 0.5 miles before reaching Fall City. For your convenience there is a portable toilet at the trailhead.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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