Adventure Log: Porter Falls & Lake Sylvia

It’s been a spectacular week in the PNW. I had the week off from my usual Monday/Tuesday trip to Seattle for time with grandchildren because my sister from Virginia was in town. We three sisters spent Monday painting trim for our house renovation and, after dinner, going through several small boxes of audio and VHS tapes. I found some treasures to add to my growing stash of material for my new writing project—a video and an audio tape of family reunions—a reel-to-reel that includes footage of my 5th birthday party, which I think was the costume one, and the Weyerhaeuser ads that featured my father shown on NCAA football coverage in the 70s; but most of the rest were non-keepers.


Tuesday, though, I went on my first adventure of the season. It was the last day of winter, and my father’s 102nd birthday. I picked an easy hike to ease my body in, and because it was close by and I wasn’t getting my customary early start so I could see my sister off to SeaTac. (Alas, no Road Trip Latte.)

The Porter Falls trailhead in Capitol Forest is just 45 minutes from home; and the falls at the trail’s end only a bit over a mile in. I’ve driven into Capitol Forest, but never hiked, so the first adventure was a newbie. I had the road and the trail all to myself: just me, the moss and licorice fern covered trees, the filtered sun across the sword fern understory, the birds, and the constant rumble of the tumbling river, er “creek.” Except for the water feature, it is not unlike the woods behind my house, but it was good to be away from the tasks that distract me at home.




I sat at the falls, where two branches of the creek rejoin to continue their downward rush together, and ate some of my lunch—an experimental homemade trail bar (needs chocolate chips, what was I thinking?) and apple slices— while contemplating eddies, then headed back to the car.



I didn’t even notice that spider, or I would have focused on it!

I wound upward for a while through the labyrinth of logging roads, through clearcuts that opened a commanding view of the Olympics. I got a little lost making my way back down toward Highway 12. Capitol Forest is a 110,000 acre trust land that has multiple entrances on all sides, connected by DNR logging roads that wander sign-free around the mountain. One has to pay attention to landmarks at intersections to get back out the same way you came in. I didn’t. I was grateful for my new dependable car.



Back down in the valley after the unintended sidetracks, I picked up the creek that had rushed down the mountain, but here spreads out in a placid meander through pastureland before joining with the Chehalis to become a real river headed for the Pacific.

There was still plenty of day left, so I decided to go on to Lake Sylvia State Park outside Montesano and hike another short trail a friend explored last week. I’ve never been to Lake Sylvia either, or into Montesano—a cute small town with many beautiful historic homes, it turns out.

Lake Sylvia is a small lake with a 35-site campground and a swimming area. Perfect, I’m thinking, for a camping trip with the Littles at some future Camp Gigi. I ate the rest of my lunch on the picnic table at Site 5, my pick for a solo campout, maybe soon!






The hike around the lake was even shorter than Porter Falls, but completely different. The Porter Falls trail is through an old conifer forest, nearly a rainforest, along a fast-moving creek. Lake Sylvia has more hardwood rising up through marsh with skunk cabbage just beginning to bloom and waiting for the promised trillium to show up next to a placid lake.




It was exhilarating to be out again after the long winter. The rains are returning—and we need it, less than an inch in March to date—but I’m already plotting my next adventure when the sun shows up again. I turned toward home past a sacred grove of ancient trees that looked as if, if I placed both palms flat against just the right one, I would be whooshed back in time.


And now spring. Time to start a new thing, adventuring and a new writing project; and let go of the old, the memoir manuscript is out of my hands for now. I wish I could let go of yard care, but I continue to try to see it as a privilege, to see it as lighter than air.

4 thoughts on “Adventure Log: Porter Falls & Lake Sylvia

  1. I love Washington State Parks. I started going more often last year to get outside even when a big hike wasn’t possible (and to get more value out of my Discover Pass). What I realized was, that if a big hike is like a big pitcher of orange juice, most state parks are like the concentrate. As with most things in life it is the quality and not the quantity that really holds the meaning. Your visual storytelling is always a bonus. Nice shots !


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