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On the Trail: New Kamikaze Falls route nears completion

Don’t lace up your boots quite yet.But soon, you will have a new, official trail up to Kamikaze Falls.

I usually don’t write about a trail until it is officially opened, but this is my first exception. This trail has been a well-known unofficial hike for decades, and saw significant erosion as thousands of boot treads carved up the hillside and stream bed of Kamikaze Creek.

Articles promoted the hikes for years, including a well-known one by Nancy Sykes in her Seattle Post-Intelligencer Hike of the Week column. She took some serious abuse for writing that column and promoting an unofficial trail, and mentions it most recently in her blog, karentrails. That trail was officially closed in 2006 and plans are under way to develop a new trail.

I mention it as I too face the dilemma of writing about a trail before it is officially opened. My reasoning is based on the number of inquiries I am receiving about the trail, the number of people actually hiking the trail, the number of publications talking about the trail including backpacker magazine, and recently the added ability to download the new trail into your iPhone.

The surprise is that it is still not open, and I was dismayed to see there are no official work parties scheduled for the rest of July and August on the Mountains to Sound Greenway Web site. There was a July 17 work party, and the signs of the continuing work are very evident. Inquiries did not produce a firm opening date.

Back in March, I discussed doing a column on the trail with Kelly Heintz, Natural Areas Manager for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, who politely asked me to hold off until the trail work was finished. During that discussion she indicated the trail would most certainly be done in late spring and possibly open around National Trails Day, although she could not be certain. The DNR Web site states that the trail is part of the Mount Si NRCA, which encompasses 9,522 acres of land and is composed of steep, rugged and mountainous terrain. Four mountain peaks are located within its boundaries and include Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, Green Mountain, and Little Si, ranging from 1,600 to 4,800 feet in elevation.

Well, it’s the end of July and the trail is still closed. I decided to pay a visit and see where things were at. A half-dozen cars at the trail head early one weekday morning told me that this was an active spot. I had previously been to that trailhead on my trek up another local peak.

The hike follows the old trail until, just shy of one mile, it turns back and meanders through second and third growth with a significant number of native species of plants. My knowledgeable hiking partner whipped these off one by one with stories to accompany each, including native blackberries, fireweed, foxglove, thimbleberries, goats-beard, and a dozen others. The remnants of old growth firs could be seen from time to time, making me wish our ancestors had saved just a few of these amazing trees along this trail.

And so it went until the trail became new, and the work became evident. Tons of rock and hours of hard labor went into this new trail, which is beautifully done and in spots expertly laid out.

Once complete, this will be a new gem in our midst, but for now, wait for the official start and for work party requests. It is not done yet, as is evident when you near the falls which, when the water starts to fall, will be something to behold. Even the trickle currently flowing down the rockface was a beautiful sight. It will not be a trail for the little ones, or dogs without some foot protection. The trail in sections is made of sharp edged granite and good boots, not sneakers, are the footwear of choice. For those of you who will still venture out before it’s done, be careful at the top: a slip can be painful, or worse.

To the powers that be, it’s been long in the making and the results look good, but it is time to get this thing finished. I guarantee you would get lots of local help in completing this trail if you asked for it. Some that would help are not web-enabled, so info sheets at the local spots in town would work as well. I know two people that would be at your next work party, and I will list any further work parties in upcoming columns.

One last request that may further annoy you: leave the name alone. It is and always will be Kamikaze Falls to most folks, as the DNR sign currently reads, not the Teneriffe Falls Trail as listed in the Mountains to Sound Greenway web posting. I know I’m getting grumpy in my old age, but I think we’ve all had enough of political correctness run amok.

• E-mail Mark Nicholas at marknich2@comcast.net.

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