Popular destination receives new trail

NORTH BEND - One of the area's most popular hiking trails just got a little easier thanks to a huge volunteer effort and the organization of area conservation groups.

It's taken about 20,000 hours of volunteer time - about two hours per foot of trail - but the Washington Trails Association is ready to unveil the new portion of the Rattlesnake Ledges trail at Rattlesnake Lake on June 7. The opening ceremony will begin at 10 a.m., followed by guided hikes until 3 p.m. A barbecue will run from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

For the past year more than 1,000 volunteers from the Washington Trails Association, the Mountains To Sound Greenway and Earthcorps have been forging a new, flatter trail to the popular destination overlooking Seattle Public Utilities' Rattlesnake Lake.

"This region is blessed with a population of people that are eager to get out and do this stuff," said Mike Stenger, trail project coordinator for Mountains To Sound Greenway, the agency heading up the effort. "We're lucky to have that out here."

Stenger, who designed the new trail, said the improvements will not only make the trek easier but will ensure the trail remains intact for many years to come.

According to Stenger the old trail was built on the "fall line," meaning that it went straight up the side of the hill toward the ridge. Because of its steep slope, water did not drain off the trail properly, causing erosion that made for less than perfect conditions at times. Steep slopes also cause hikers' feet to tear into the ground due to slipping, which can cause damage, he added, and over the course of thousands of hikers the wear adds up.

The new trail will follow a less steep route, meandering around the fall line, and contain fewer switchbacks, said Stenger. The trail's new route will allow for better drainage and provide more room for hikers to pass each other, he added.

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