Seven years ago, planners envisioned a new state park on Miller Peninsula opening in time for the centennial of state parks next year. State funding cuts have put those plans on hold. In the meantime, volunteers have been maintaining the informal trail system on and around the 2,800-acre property.
A mix of mountain bikers, equestrians and hikers use the trail system. Except for the trails to the beach along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, there’s not much scenery so hikers seem to stick mostly to those trails.
I decided to revisit a trail I last hiked eight years ago before public planning efforts began. There were signs of recent bicycle and horse tracks (and horse apples; I guess since the Backcountry Horsemen do most of the trail maintenance they can be forgiven for not packing out their animals’ droppings) so the trail is utilized.
There aren’t any mountain vistas, ocean views or towering old-growth forest. But there is some interesting scenery … if you like abandoned washing machines, refrigerators and the rusted-out hulks of bullet-riddled cars.
A marker noting the state ownership of the land is visible at the trailhead on the right immediately across from a farm gate on Cat Lake Road. The trail heads uphill, not too steeply, through second-growth forest of fir, cedar and madrone. Pretty soon the dogs (I was walking my pooch, Dodge, and my in-laws’ dog, Shasta) and I came to the first of several illegal garbage dumps. Most consisted of old appliances. There was some fresh garbage and, oddly, a colorful child’s plastic lawnmower toy overgrown with moss and vines.
The trail appears to be a former logging road, which, I imagine allowed the motorized access needed to haul so much junk up here. For an interesting side sojourn (if you think garbage is scenic), take the first left through a much overgrown side trail. Duck some branches and vines and climb over downed trees. Before long you’ll find more debris — these batches are peppered with bullet holes — including a Buick Wildcat that has seen better days. Once garbage has been there long enough, it becomes an artifact, I suppose. Maybe if the park is ready to open in time for the bicentennial future hikers can read an interpretive signs about the history of illegal dumping, booze, bullets and backwoods parties.
Back on the main trail, the route continues to gently climb and makes a few twists and turns. There are several trails heading off to the right. I stayed on the main trail. Signs of former logging — including clearcuts filling in with young trees and massive stacks of logging debris, bleached nearly white and as high as a two-story building — were visible along the route.
Near a four-way intersection, I spied the first sign along the trail: “cable route.” Subsequent trails along the way marked the path of a buried Pacific Northwest Bell telephone cable. (Signs were dappled with bullet holes.) The company was formed in 1961 before it was split from AT&T by court order in 1984 and became defunct in 1991.
There are several more signs along the route indicating the cable, and giving the trail its informal name “cable trail.”
I found a map online after returning naming the many informal trails in the area. Two I must have crossed include the “Belly Deep” and “Two Cedars” trails. Not knowing at the time how much further the trail continued and needing to get home to take care of some chores, I headed back somewhere around the Two Cedars Trail. Had I continued another 0.6 mile or so, I would have reached gravel Fireweed Lane.
However, I’m not sure I trust the map completely; there was no indication of the four-way intersection I clearly crossed. My best guess is that the “trail” heading west (left) was merely a defunct logging or telephone access road overgrown with grass and wasn’t used as a trail and therefore didn’t warrant map marking.
By the way, the second half of the Cable Trail apparently is not on state park property. However, as there are no signs or fences prohibiting trespassing, state law allows access.
The state is having a hard enough time keeping its current parks open, so I doubt there’ll be money available for fulfilling this park’s potential anytime soon. That’s a shame, because there are some really good recreation opportunities here. For now, it’ll have to remain a North Olympic secret.