Adventure Log: Seminary Hill Natural Area

I wander all over this beautiful corner of the state, but my own backyard is so special too. And I don’t even need a car. Yesterday I meandered into what I called “the woods” in my childhood, and is now more officially the Seminary Hill Natural Area (SHNA) for Music on the Hill, one of several summer programs sponsored the Friends of SHNA.


As I walked the trails of my youth, originally built by the Works Progress Administration nearly 85 years ago and expanded, rebuilt, and maintained by the Friends and other volunteers, and saw townspeople of all ages enjoying it now, I was overcome by the fact of my family’s responsibility in its existence. I’ve written about it here many times, so I won’t belabor the point, because though my mother and her friend Chloe Palmer got the ball rolling, our neighbors Robert and Sandy Godsey, Chloe’s husband Ernie, and my father, along with then mayor Bill Moeller, brought the idea to fruition. Since then a whole cadre of volunteers have made it what it is today.

New signage at the official entrance tells the history, including my mother’s part in it.


Yesterday, I separated from the groups moving among the three music ensembles and walked the loops in solitude. It rained the night before and I was nearly overcome with the smell of fresh earth that comes when rain falls on dry ground; a scent called “petrichor.” It rivals the alpine and floral scent of the high mountain meadows I love.

I used to ride my horse  on these trails—horses are not allowed now, by the way—and took special interest in the one scary spot where I just closed my eyes and trusted Scout. I stood for a long moment, lost in memory. The eroded bit of trail was exceedingly narrow back then, in the 1960s. I remember loosening my grip on the reins and letting Scout have her own sure-footed way. The trail has been widened now,  thanks to the Friends, and shored up, leaving little hint of past treachery. Of course it is entirely possible that it really wasn’t the sure-death danger I remember it being. Yes it was.


Me on Scout, with my sisters and our mother.  Wait, is she  holding a pitchfork? I don’t remember her ever mucking out the stall.

My woods walking these days has been self-limited to the trail between my home (where the paths are not part of the official SHNA) to the top loop of the trail above the former “park,” where it descends to a lower loop. And then back up, of course, which is why I restrict myself to  the top, preferring frequent short walks to infrequent long ones. It was a treat yesterday to extend my wander. I think I will do it more often.

Thank you, Friends, for your commitment to this place of beauty in my back yard. And now, come walk with me. Then get yourself up here to walk it yourself.












For more information about hiking in Seminary Hill Natural Area, its history, and how you can be involved, visit these links:

Discover Lewis County

City of Centralia

Facebook: Friends of Seminary Hill

Hiking Project: Seminary Hill Loop

Lewis Talk: Friends of Seminary Hill Natural Area

The Seattle Times: Seminary Hill Natural Area

Tacoma New Tribune: Trail of the Week

Washington Trails Association

Lewis County Community Trails


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