Under the Open Sky: Beat the Heat, Take a Woodland Hike

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
According to the weather report, the temperatures are supposed to soar this weekend.
If you want to beat the heat you could walk in an air-conditioned mall — which is cool, but the kind of wildlife you tend to meet there tends to walk on two legs, not four.
Why not head for the woods and walk in the shade? If you plan on visiting the Mossyrock Blueberry Festival on Saturday (and I highly recommend you do!), there are two hiking trails nearby that fit the shade-laden bill.

Walk to the Mossyrock Cross
You’ll find the “Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel” behind the DeGoede Bulb Farm fields at the base of the hill. Make the turn at the bulb farm greenhouses and follow the signs to drive under HWY 12 and onto the dirt road leading to the chapel. The trail to the cross is at the base of the hill, just beyond the chapel.
It’s an energetic hike up the hill to the Mossyrock Cross, but there is plenty of shade and ample opportunities to sit and rest along the way.
There are 14 Stations of the Cross along the switch-back trail; each station has bench or two for you to sit and pray or to simply catch your breath. The images at each station have been hand painted and encased in brick and are beautiful to contemplate as you sit under a canopy of green.
At the top of the hill sits a 50-foot cross, erected by DeGoede Bulb Farm founder Hank DeGoede, and a view that is worth every laborious step up the hill.
A new walk has been added to the trail called “Mary’s Garden.” If you don’t have the strength to climb to the top of the hill, Mary’s Garden is an easier shaded walk. You can also stop in for a visit at the chapel, which is open to the public and remains unlocked during daylight hours.

Kim Mason / For The Chronicle: You should always take the time to stop and smell the roses, but beware! a Flower Crab Spider may be hiding inside. This spider doesn't spin webs, but only uses its silk to protect its eggs. Their venom is deadly, but only if you are an insect.Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. Watch and listen for Pacific Wrens as you hike woodland trails. In summer the territory-protective songs of the male wrens are replaced by the sweet trills and buzzing, jingly phrases of the young wrens as they learn to sing.

South Swofford Pond Trail
I hiked this gentle trail on a warm evening last week with a dear friend, Jody Vogel of Mossyrock.
I have walked down this shaded pathway many times before (but never in mid-summer), but it was Jody’s first trip down the trail. The walk had a few surprises in store for both of us.
Jody was surprised by the several muddy (but narrow) creek crossings — she had on a new pair of hiking shoes she wasn’t happy to dirty up. I was surprised by the ferocity of the infrequent (but frequent enough) nettles attacks on our bare legs.

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. Watch and listen for Pacific Wrens as you hike woodland trails. In summer the territory-protective songs of the male wrens are replaced by the sweet trills and buzzing, jingly phrases of the young wrens as they learn to sing.

The trail starts just to the left of the Swofford Pond boat launch and leads deeps into the woodlands along the south side of Swofford Pond.
It is a dead end trail, less than a mile and a half long, but you don’t have to hike the length of the trail to enjoy the beauty that is Swofford. It’s worth the trip just to hike to the bridge spanning Sulphur Creek, where you can sit and enjoy the cooling waters as the bubble and tumble downhill and over the large rocks.
As you walk further down the path, look and listen for the happily chirping families of the little Pacific Wrens, the woods are littered with them.
To get to the South Swofford Pond Trail, travel through the town of Mossyrock (after you’ve stopped at the Blueberry Festival, of course) on Mossyrock Rd E for 2.2 miles, make a slight right at Swofford Rd (there will be a sign at that turn), then turn left at Green Mountain Rd and follow the road as you drive around the side of Swofford Pond until you reach the boat launch.

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. The Flower Crab Spider is a master of disguise and can change its color from white to yellow, depending upon the flower the spider chooses to use as its hunting base of operation. The color change from white to yellow takes between 10 and 25 days, the reverse only about six days. They trap their prey between their claw-like, longer and stronger front legs (the other six legs are used for walking), insert their poison and suck their victims dry.

Stinging Nettle Relief
One immediate solution is to apply the juice of the leaves of certain plants that conveniently grow near the nettle, such as broad leaf plantain or dock leaf or you can try rubbing the spores from the underside of ferns on the affected area.
If botanical identification is not your forte, apply mud over the area instead — you’ll find plenty of it along the South Swofford Pond Trail.
Once you get back home, anti-itch creams or sprays or calamine lotion may be helpful, and milk of magnesia (topically, not internally) has been known to ease the nettling sting.
Or, you can simply ignore the stinging sensation (as I did) and let the nettles stinging nature run its course while you curse under your breath (as I did).

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News (almostdailynews.com), find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.