The canopy over Shady Lane is dense. The trail is lined with Douglas-firs and hemlocks that are far older than any relative I could ever trace back to on a family tree. The behemoth trunks rise up, giving life to an ecosystem high above our heads. Branches extend in all directions; some bearing fresh needles that are very much alive while others are barren except for the moss that adorns the branch like a necklace. So naturally, when one walks along Shady Lane, heads are raised to take in the sights above. However, our most recent walk along the path begged us to look down.
Shady Lane is a great Olympic National Park trail for kids and those who want to go for a walk–not necessarily a hike. The primary trailhead is in the park at Staircase. But I think the better way to access the trail is to turn onto USFS 2451 just before the park entrance. Once across the causeway, the trailhead is roughly one half mile down the road on the right. This route allows you to hike toward the park entrance and campground where there are bathrooms and good views of the rushing Skykomish River. Then, you can turn back at your leisure.
After about five minutes from the beginning of the trail we descended a hill and the trail wove around near the River. Grandpa spotted a tiny little frog, no bigger than a nickel. The kids clamored to see the creature, but it instinctively hopped into the brush alongside the trail. “Awe, I didn’t get to see it,” my four-year old said with disappointment. We continued walking.
Then it happened again…and again. With each footstep, there were more frogs hoping away, dozens at a time spreading out like skipping stones skimming across the trail’s surface. Scared to smash one of our amphibian friends, our pace dropped to a slow, soft tiptoe. Still, frogs departed in all directions.
In the end, this was not a fast hike. Grandpa said he clocked a family record for the slowest time ever–a tad faster than one mile per hour. We did make it to the park entrance where we had our snack and potty break before turning back. Unlike previous walks along this trail, I don’t remember the trees at all. This time it was all about looking down.