Walking the John Wayne Pioneer Trail
Day 5: Around Lake Easton (5.5 miles)
I arrived at Easton State Park a day earlier than I had intended and decided to use the extra day to walk around the Lake Easton. I wanted to use my GPS tracker to double check some distances against my estimates from the walk from Roaring Creek to the Lake Easton State Park.
Bonnie, my dog, and I set off from the State Park Gate, turning right and traveling southwards along the frontage road that leads into the little community of Easton. Although Easton was once a bustling railroad town of over 2000, today the population of Easton sits at just under 500 residents. The remains of the town’s glory days can be seen in the boarded-up facades of the businesses along the main road.
About half way through town, I followed the signs pointing to the Iron horse state park, and found the trail along side an existing rail line. Bonnie and I walked along the back side of ranches that climbed the hills on the southwest side of Lake Easton, following the road like track into a magnificent pine forest. The shrill squeal of a freight train’s brakes and the clacking of the wheels over the tracks briefly pierced our quiet walk before fading down the tracks leaving us alone on the trail once more.
A short tunnel, Tunnel #48 added some excitement to our morning’s stroll. We saw no one else on the trail. Signs around town indicate that this section of trail is popular in the winter among Snow-Mobilers, but on a July morning, the trail was deserted. Bonnie ran off-leash to her heart’s content – chasing squirrels up trees and sticking her nose into every passing bush or flower that caught her fancy.
The trestle over the Yakima River – a modern, purpose-built pedestrian bridge – is one of the prettiest on the trail. The triangular supports that enclose the walkway capture the imagination as it crosses the modern railroad tracks and the Yakima River as it flows into Lake Easton. The “no-diving” signs created a peculiar temptation to jump off of it. I’m not usually one to want to jump off a bridge – and don’t worry, I didn’t succumb – but still the pull was there.
A short walk later brought us to the turn-off into the Lake Easton State Park (No Horses Allowed). We retraced our steps from the day before through the towering trunks of old-growth evergreens. Sometimes it puts things in perspective to consider the life of a tree. A tree can see the birth and death of nation. It can witness the rise of new technology, and the advent of a new age. When I think about the average evergreen – perhaps a couple of hundred years old, I remember that the tree was already old when the bed for the first railroad was laid through here, when the foundations for the first homes in Easton were laid. A little perspective can be a good thing in this modern world of ours – a welcome side-effect of a day spent in the forest.
After a swim in the lake at a little beach on her northern shore (not a designated swimming area), Bonnie and I cut through the RV camping area, where children sped along the quiet roadways on their bicycles, passed the amphitheater and the deserted playground, and along the footpath back to the main gate.
The total distance was just over five and a half peaceful miles – a nice conclusion to our week on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail.