Deep forest experiences
What: Deep Forest Experience
Where: Rockport State Park, State Route 20, milepost 96
WHEN: 11am-4pm Fri.-Sun., through Feb. 24
Cost: Free; a Discover Pass required
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
In 1935, Sound Timber Company sold approximately 670 acres of old-growth forest to the state of Washington for the bargain price of one dollar. Then in 1961, Washington State Parks acquired the picturesque property at the foot of Sauk Mountain.
Now, nearly 85 years after Sound Timber wisely refused to log the dense canopies of fir, cedar, hemlock and maple trees that populate Skagit County’s Rockport State Park, visitors can still experience the full spectrum of the ever-expanding ecosystem that remains firmly in place.
If you’ve never explored the mossy marvels of the park off Highway 20, a “Deep Forest Experience” taking place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday now through Feb. 24 will elevate the experience.
While visitors are free to explore on their own, guided hikes beginning every day at 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm will feature park staff and volunteers leading half-mile, 45-minute excursions along the park’s trails and topography. During the walks, interpretive staff and guest speakers will discuss the unseen ecosystems that keep these forests healthy, including salmon-bearing streams, animal scat and mycorrhizal fungi.
While wandering the trails, you’ll also learn that most of the trees at Rockport State Park are more than 400 years old and top out at 250 feet—including a 500-year-old miracle of nature dubbed “Grandmother Cedar.” Not surprisingly, the canopy is so dense in the rare, natural forest that minimal sunlight makes it through to the ground.
Dress warmly and bring along suitable footwear, and know that if you catch a chill, it won’t be long until you can duck into the park’s family-friendly Discovery Center, where a wood stove, free refreshments and hot cocoa will warm your core while you explore interactive displays, watch nature videos and peruse books.
For kids ages 5 and older, Junior Ranger programs also invite youth to identify animal tracks and pelts, make crafts with a nature theme and discover what “salmon trees” are. Junior Rangers can collect a special wooden badge when they complete the activity book, which is available at the center.
And while the final lineup isn’t yet set in stone, experts in the fields of biology, forestry and beyond will also be dropping by Rockport State Park during the winter programs to share their insight. For example, Washington State University professor and Native Trees of Western Washington author Kevin Zobrist—who is pointing up in the photo on this page—was one of last year’s guest speakers, and may return (updates will be posted on the state park’s online calendar and on Facebook).
The Skagit Eagle Festival will also be taking place in Rockport, Concrete, Marblemount, and beyond through January, so consider adding the “Deep Forest Experience” to your weekend wanderings while you’re immersing yourself in nature. Grandmother Cedar will thank you.
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