Last weekend I wandered the trails of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.
The park sits just outside Bellevue, Washington. There's been a lot of construction in the area thanks to the steady influx of tech workers and others. Passing housing development after housing development along the way gave me low expecations for the park itself. Suddenly there were more trees than houses, and moments later there was a 3,100 acre woodland park.
Cougar Mountain only became a park relatively recently. Warning signs remind you about the area's long history as a coal mine. Collapsed mines could collapse further with just a little weight on them. A decades-old underground fire presents ongoing danger from heat and toxic fumes.
Basically: if a sign tells me to stay back, I stay back.
The trails are well-labeled, perhaps partly due to those hazards. I still managed to get myself turned around, because there were so many trails. Somewhere along the way I lost my paper map, but had enough signal to get the Washington Trails Association Trailblazer app installed on my phone and follow the links to a PDF map.
Look at the trees
I think I focused a little too much on the hazards. Those are really in specific sections of the park, and are all clearly indicated. The park itself is lovely, green, and very Pacific Northwest.
We have some lovely woods around here. I started taking that for granted over the years. My assorted sauntering trips have done a great job reminding me to not do that.
The trees on Cougar Mountain are young. When the mines started winding down, logging picked up. I saw several thick old stumps near the trail, giving me a hint of what the older growth must have looked like.
Some of those stumps had sprouts on them, while a few had full grown trees.
We got some rain recently. Everything that could be green was very green indeed. Even the rocks. I walked a little out of my way to see Fantastic Erratic, a glacial erratic boulder left here by glacier action in some past ice age.
My image shows the scale poorly. That single rock is roughly fifteen feet high. I took a rest break sitting on top of it, with room to stretch.
I spent three hours walking about ten miles of trails around Cougar Mountain, enjoying the scenery and history. It didn't feel as epic as walking up a mountain, but I want to avoid chasing that “epic” feeling. I'm not racking up accomplishments. I'm getting out and appreciating more of the world around me. That includes epic moments, little details, and everything in between.