Tales from the Trail
OLYMPIA — On a foggy and chilly day, with a dusting of snow, this stretch of the Chehalis Western Trail didn’t look inviting for a contemplative walk. But of course Bonnie Tucker was game.
She logged more than 1,100 miles on foot last year. She wore out three pairs of sneakers doing it.
Recently, we spent two-and-half hours walking over this old railroad line.
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Is it possible to frequent parks and trails around Olympia and not run into Tucker? Seems like one out of every two walkers around Thurston County I ran into said, “You must meet Bonnie.”
These walks she takes — for exercise, for social meet-ups — have become a part of Tucker’s life, especially after she retired as the head librarian at Fort Lewis five years ago.
On the Chehalis Western
We chatted over — shocker of shockers — a walk, through a section of the Chehalis Western Trail, a route she hiked 26 times last year though all four seasons.
The trail runs north and south through Olympia and Lacey, a 21.5-mile track bikers and horse riders frequent on weekends and retirees on weekdays.
For our stroll, she chose the three-mile stretch on the north end leading to the Woodard Bay Conservation Area (see a map with this story online).
The trail is a snapshot of small town Americana, she said. It’s flanked by red barns and horse ranches, ponds and iconic firs.
She’s seen a couple walk their five goats here. She once walked this trail while a friend rode on her horse by her side. Last summer, a farmer saw her walking and invited her in for iced tea.
As we strolled, she pointed to the home of a family that grows vegetables and barters with a farmer down the road for eggs and meat.
This setting “reminds me of when I grew up on a sheep ranch in Sunnyside,” the 69-year-old Olympia resident said.
A bad back prevents her husband of 45 years from walking with her. She often walks with local members from the Evergreen State Volkssport Association (ESVA), which organizes walking excursions as well as cycling and cross-country skiing. The club tracks distance, which is how Tucker knew she logged more than 1,100 miles last year, the most among her Olympia peers.
Sunsets and cedars
For our walk, we started at the trailhead at the intersection of Shincke Road Northeast and South Bay Road.
There will be a majestic sunset glowing over that duck pond by evening, she pointed out. How about sunrise? “Couldn’t tell you. I’m not a morning person,” she said, laughing.
The farther we walked, the colder it got; the pastoral setting fading to the shade of cedars and firs.
We reached the end of the Chehalis Western Trail and the start of the Overlook Trail in the Woodard Bay Conservation Area, a lush forest of Douglas firs, big-leaf maples and other trees draped in moss. A half-mile in, we spotted stick nests of blue herons high in the trees, and the rattling calls of kingfishers lured us to the sandy-clay bank.
“It feels like you’re in a cathedral of nature here,” Tucker said.
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle