Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Third Time's the Charm - Hike of the Week : Mima Mounds

Today's hike was ... underwhelming, and slightly unsatisfying. Here's why.

We set off bright and early to drive south to the Capitol State Forest, just south of Olympia. Our aim? Mima Falls Trail. As we got closer we saw signs for the 12th Annual Great Gravel Pack-In. Ohhhh. For a moment I thought, well, okay, they'll ask us to carry in a bag of gravel and we can drop it in a puddle to help maintain the trail.


We arrived in a very full parking lot just as a big group of people were posing for a photo. The lot was rammed with horse trailers, horses, pickups, and a whole lotta quad bikes. And gravel. So much gravel. Realizing that the trail would be filled with horses and quad bikes and dozens of people, we waited until some space cleared out, and then inched out of the parking lot. [Quick aside: this is a great program, and enables the Department of Natural Resources to maintain the trails -- it was just bad timing for us.]

Now what?

We then considered Capitol Peak, which seemed like it was quite close but was actually a long, slow drive away. We drove around to the road up to the trailhead... which was marked as closed for snow (as of December), and just narrow, pot-holed, and windy enough that we got about 4 miles up it before deciding that we didn't really want to keep going.

It must have been destiny ... giant gopher destiny ... because we were drawn, inexplicably, to ...


Growing up in Washington state, we must have all been exposed to the phrase "Mysterious Mima Mounds" during some childhood local geology lesson. Wil, of course, was immune to this, but I was driving, so into the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve we went.

Until Saturday I had never seen the mysterious mounds... so I squealed, just a little, when I saw them. And I couldn't resist saying, "Oooh, mySTERious!" over and over again. Wil probably just thought I had finally lost my mind.

Ideally we would have hiked for 2 or 3 hours on Saturday ... but we only had 2.7 miles on which to wander. But what fun!

There's a short, paved loop trail from the parking lot that leads to an interpretive shelter.

The shelter is shaped like a large mound, with informational signs inside, and a stairway up to a viewing platform.

photo by Winter Photo Project blog
And there's a nice panorama from the top.

We left the paved loop and joined an unpaved trail that wound around the mounds. (See what I did there?)

This area was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1966 to protect its unique topography. 

And, later in the spring, the preserve will be full of wildflowers. We were a bit too early, so all we got was reindeer lichen.

And mounds, lots of mounds.

Now, I know what you're wondering. What causes these mounds to form? Well, see, that's the mystery. There are lots of theories, from aliens to receding glaciers to gophers (!!!) to vegetation.

We had the reserve pretty much to ourselves ... only a handful of other people out walking. The route was essentially flat, though the trail did take us up over the top of a mound a few time... which was the tiniest of thrills.

However, the constant gunshots from a nearby rifle range -- no danger, just annoying noise -- and the too-short distance made this a less than perfect hike. We'd have to do better the next day.

Mima Mounds 

2.7 miles
29 feet elevation

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