I will start this entry by saying I’m quite proud of myself for this Forest Park loop today. Not only is it the furthest solo hike I’ve done yet (5 miles) but I was able to navigate this web of trails from directions I wrote down on a sticky pad that I got off of a website. That may have been a rookie risk, but I took it, and (thank Buddha) it was a success. Holler! In other news, note to self: Purchase Forest Park trail guide.
After completing mostly more leisurely, smaller hikes lately, I wanted to go out and give my lungs a run for their money. I’ve been craving a longer trek, and preferably one with varied terrain (ie: uphills). I definitely got both of what I wanted with this trek.
The breakdown for this trail is as follows:
From the Leif Erickson trailhead (where NW Thurman dead-ends): 0.0 miles in.
Leif Erickson to Wild Cherry Trail: .3 miles in.
Wild Cherry Trail to Wildwood Trail: .9 miles in.
Wildwood Trail to Alder Trail: 2.6 miles in.
Alder Trail to Leif Erickson Trail: 3.4 miles in.
Back to Leif Erickson trailhead: 4.9 miles completed.
On one of my recent previous treks, I went as far as the Wild Cherry trail where it met with Wildwood, not knowing you could loop around with other trails, so I’d only experienced a small portion of this previously.
After Leif Erickson, going the .6 miles up Wild Cherry is a full, steady incline. The nice thing about a solo hike is I can huff and puff on the ascents and not give a crap because no one has to hear it. Literally the only folks I encountered on this trail were runners descending from the opposite direction (I guess running up this trail in my direction isn’t too fun). When I did this section of trail with Andrew and my friend Marissa, we stopped a good deal so I could take ample photos. This time, alone, I pretty much powered through it in one swoop, stopping only to take a photo of a gross banana slug.
Once I turned onto Wildwood, the terrain leveled out and my heart rate started to settle. This is the longest section of the loop, and it stays pretty even. I only encountered two people, which surprised me, because I figure the WW trail in summer would be packed. Though I was there by early evening at this point, which could have been it. Anyway, this section of Wildwood is quite pretty.
Once you reach the Alder Trail, it descends straight down almost it’s entire .8 mile section. And some of the descent is pretty crazy steep. So unless you have some sturdy trekking poles, I’d advise against this loop on a rainy day or just after a rain. I did not encounter a single person on this entire stretch. Not one. Alder Trail gets no love. The trail itself here is pretty narrow, and definitely the wildest section of the loop with the most old growth.
The Alder Trail then meets up with Leif Erickson, which for a cool 1.5 miles will lead you back around to the trailhead. This was definitely the busy section of trail, and for obvious reasons. It’s wide and gravelly. I encountered plenty of people running in packs, mountain bikers, and dog walkers. For 7:30pm it certainly had plenty of people traffic.
Overall I found this loop incredibly peaceful, which is sort of the ideal for me on a solo hike as it affords me to sink into focus with nature and be alone with my thoughts. With the exception of Leif Erickson, I encountered probably less than 10 people overall on Wild Cherry/Wildwood/Alder. This is a great ‘clear your mind’ kind of hike,
I estimated I would probably finish this loop in 2.5 hours, and I surprised myself by finishing it just under 2 hours (I started at 5:40pm, finished by 7:36pm). Having done this by myself gives me more confidence to pursue even longer solo hikes. Ideally I want to tackle longer hikes, especially ones by myself, much earlier in the day, preferably morning. But I worked today and got a late start, so I was still proud of myself for hitting this one despite the time.
Oh! And I broke in my brand new hiking boots. Stellar traction, handles mud like pros. They remained comfortable and awesome.
And while I’m showing off self-snapped photos, here’s one of me at the end of the loop being super proud of myself on completing my longest solo hike yet:
For great, crystal clear detailed loop directions, I went to this website and followed their ‘Wild Cherry – Alder Loop’ directions. So easy, you can scribble it on a piece of post-it.
Treks Down: 13, Treks to Go: 39