One of Snohomish County’s little treasures, The Youth on Age Trail, is easily bypassed on the way to better known hiking spots along the Mountain Loop Highway. But it’s a perfect place to stop and explore on a sunny (or misty) fall afternoon, especially if you have children or disabled people along.
The short loop, approximately a quarter mile long, is paved except where, back in the 1980s, the rambunctious Stillaguamish River cut into the old-growth forest and carried away a piece of real estate. The repaired section is still wheelchair-passable. Toppled trees have been left in the riverbed to provide fish habitat. Four-inch fingerlings dart through shaded pools beneath them.
The trail’s name comes from the Youth on Age, or piggyback, plant which is common in the area. Late in the summer and into the fall, new leaves grow from the base of the older, heart-shaped leaves as if they’re riding piggyback. (Don’t dig them here, but these plants do well in the house if transplanted into a pot.)
Kids will enjoy looking for seedlings growing on nurse logs, mossy logs which hold the baby trees up into the sunshine and nourish their roots while their rotting wood slowly turns back into soil. If you look for them, you can find mature trees lined up along the resting place of their former nurse log.
Thickets of vine maple add color to the understory in the fall. Some of the spruce and fir giants towering above them have been growing since Columbus discovered America. You can marvel at the spreading root systems of trees that have fallen. Where logs were cut away from the trail, you can count the rings that tell their age.
There are picnic tables and vault toilets at the trailhead. A side trail leads off to the river. To get here, drive eleven miles east of Granite Falls along the Mountain Loop Highway, then seven miles beyond the Verlot Public Service Center. The parking area and trailhead is on the right.
|Come walk through the woods|
|Color and pattern|
|A nurse log with baby firs|
|Log jams make good shelter for baby fish|
|A mystery! What made the pile of fresh sawdust?|
|Little homebuilders...carpenter ants|
|Each ant drops its mouthful of sawdust on the pile and vanishes, to be replaced by a constant stream of others.|
|Old growth trees on the riverbank|
|Pitch dripping from an old wound on an old-growth spruce|