What is the difference between a walk and a hike? Its something I’ve been pondering as of late. To me, a walk you have just a water bottle and trainers, while a hike involves a pack and hiking boots or shoes. But what about paved ‘urban hiking’? That I only bring water on. Or if it’s walking in a park–it might not be paved, and it might be miles, but is it still just a walk?
These are questions I mused as I planned a trek to Lord Hill Park. Located just outside of the city of Snohomish, WTA said this park had miles of trails (some shared with mountain bikers and horseback riders) and offered river views, ponds, a quarry, and forests–the right set of intertwining trails could net you 10 miles, and the complicated network of trails definitely required a map. That’s a hike, I thought. However, I wore training shoes and only brought a water bottle instead of a pack. That’s a walk! The debate raged on in my head, even as my friend and I followed the signs to the main parking lot of the park (there are three total). I assumed the park’s trails would be similar to the Anacortes Community Forest Lands–weaving, intersecting trails, but that with a map one could easily find their way to their destination. I was wrong.
I printed out a PDF map of the trails from the park website here, and followed the instructions on WTA to trace with highlighter our planned route. Easy peasy, I thought. We’ll just follow the signs and the map and see everything we want to! From the main parking lot, you go down hill until you reach an almost marshy area, complete with boardwalks to keep your feet mud-free. We finally reached our first junction, which even had a helpful large map of the park to help orient you.
We turned left, as my map instructed, onto the Beaver Lake trail and continued onward to our next junction, supposedly .3 miles away. However, when we got to a junction, it was unmarked. We guessed this wasn’t the junction we were supposed to hit, because why would a junction not be labeled? We went onward to our next junction…still unmarked. Feeling like we had definitely gone 0.3 miles, we tentatively turned and walked a bit, only to reach yet another unmarked junction. We also saw no lake, despite our map indicating it should be right next to us. We instantly got both annoyed and confused. How were we supposed to know where we were going if no trails were labeled? We kept stopping and studying the map and guessing where to go, which I’m sure meant most of that first two miles offered little, if any, cardiovascular benefit.
Finally, we came upon a signed junction for the English Pond trail. Huzzah! I looked at the map to figure out exactly where we were and…neither English Pond, nor it’s corresponding trail, were on the map. At the point, I finally decided to check my notes from WTA on the hike. It was there I helpfully learned that many trails in the park are not on the map. At this point, Casey and I were near boiling point. Why bother naming trails if you aren’t going to make signs for them?! Why bother making a map if not every trail is on it?! Why bother making signs only for trails not on the map?! Nothing made sense! At this point, we reached the, ahem, ‘Chuck It’ mentality at every intersection we crossed. Left? Right? Straight? We’d make knee-jerk decisions, usually choosing whichever was widest, figuring at some point, we’d reach the parking lot again. How am I not reading every week about someone getting lost here?! I pondered out loud.
Finally, we reached a pond. We figured it was Temple Pond, the largest one in the park and home to beavers. While we saw no beavers, the pond was certainly a welcome sight. We agreed if we saw nothing else but stumbled into finding our car again soon, it wouldn’t have all been for naught. We looked at the various places trails came close to the pond and guessed which one we were at, continuing counter-clockwise around the pond. There were quite a few pond views from the trail, and I marveled at the size of it.
The marveling would end as we reached yet another unmarked junction. We asked a passing group if we were on the Temple Pond Trail or if they knew how to get to the Pipeline trail, they knew neither. We went on to the next junction, where we re-met that same group. It felt like we were going in circles! Our Chuck-It method had us continuing down along close to the pond (along what turned out to be an unnamed, unmarked, but still groomed trail). Every junction we reached was maddening. Finally, I asked Casey if we could see our location on Google Maps, which sometimes has trails on it. It worked! Well, we could see ourselves and get a general idea of the vicinity we might have been in.
We turned and were back in an open area, similar to a path where we first got confused. Turns out, this was the elusive Pipeline Trail we had been seeking, just a half-mile plus or so further south than we intended to join it at. There was a bench at a viewpoint, and by some miracle–A SIGN! Just like one from the beginning of the hike, this was the first true confirmation of our location we had seen in three miles. It felt great and maddening at the same time.
Here the map offers two options–at .1 miles, a straight, steep, rocky downhill, prime for falling down, or switchbacks down that same elevation for .41 miles to lead you to the (what will be unmarked) junction with the River View Quarry Trail. One look at that hill and we opted for safety and the longer distance. When you join the River View Quarry Trail, it remains uncovered for quite a bit, so you might want to reapply SPF or don a hat here.
The River View Quarry Trail lived up to half of its name, as we soon saw evidence on the road of former mining and current partying. Beer cans, broken glass, and hundreds of nails littered the area, along with remnants of bonfires. If that made us sad, the turn around the corner made us mad.
Between the paper map and Google Maps, we were clearly spit out in some sort of hub, with only two trails visible–the one we came from, and what we guessed (incorrectly) was the junction with Old Teeter Road. However, the path for where we were to continue on the Quarry Trail was less obvious. We did nearly a whole 360 around this wagon wheel of options before Casey spied behind the grass the third trail, the one we wanted. PHEW!
Now sick of this labyrinth, we vowed to just take the quickest route back to the car and to hightail it to the nearest brewery. So naturally, we turned left when we wanted to go right, and went downhill towards the river a bit. A quick correction, our only time turning around all day, and we were hopefully back on track. We reached the (yet again, unmarked) junction with the Quarry Trail (different from the River View Quarry Trail) and felt confident we were only two miles away from our car. We came across another large (unnamed, according to maps) pond, this one with ducklings and multiple bellowing frogs. It would actually be our last pond of the day, so I’m glad it was the most idyllic.
Confidence growing with every step, we turned where we thought we should and after a few junctions and corners, there it was–the Main Trail. It was obvious to us by just the width alone, but suddenly, signs returned. Practically every junction from here on out had a perfect sign telling you the name of the trail, and even, your distance back to the parking lot. It’s like they could only afford to buy 10% of the signs needed for the park, but decided to put them all in one place! If the whole park was like this, I’d have been raving about it. Instead, we shook our heads, threw our hands in the air, and obediently followed the signs back to the parking lot, muttering for most of the trek. I’ve never seen such a stark contrast before inside of one location, and hope to never again! Looking at my Runkeeper, by some miracle nearly all of our guesses were correct for the path I had intended for us to go on. While it made me want to think it was gut instinct, I think really it was pure luck.
The good news was, in my frustration, I forgot all of my musings on walks versus hikes–so I turn to you, readers–what to you is the difference between a walk and a hike?
Distance: Choose Your-Own Adventure, but can easily go over 10 miles of unique trails
Elevation: Depends on route, but many uphills and down
Parking: No Pass Required
Bathrooms: Honey Buckets in main parking lot, unsure about other parking lots