Everyone always talks about the beauty and glory of the old-growth cedar grove on Long Island in the middle of Willapa Bay. And it truly is something to behold. I’ve been there myself and written about it.
But there’s another group of ancient trees in the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge — and you don’t have to possess a kayak or canoe to get to them. They’re located at Teal Slough Trail, about 1.6 miles north of refuge headquarters on U.S. Highway 101.
Following a tip from a fellow writer who’s familiar with the refuge, I decided to check out Teal Slough for myself. Who can pass up huge cedars? Especially when it’s an easy walk to get there.
My friend and I parked at the trailhead, which is right on the side of Highway 101 near the mouth of the Naselle River. There isn’t a lot of room — perhaps enough for three cars — and a sign warns not to block the gate itself. Luckily on that cool afternoon, we had the place to ourselves.
Beyond the gate is an old logging road, grassy now and covered in leaves and pine needles. We walked up a moderate incline, which soon leveled off to a relaxing stroll. Along the path, arrow signs point you to step off the trail, peer into the forest and suddenly find yourself at the feet of giant trees.
“Oh my gosh!” my friend exclaimed upon our first sighting. “They’re huge!” It was his first time seeing a remnant of coastal old-growth forest.
Ancient cedars weren’t the only big trees there to admire; there were also Sitka spruce and Western hemlock. Native salal bushes lined part of the trail, the berries a bit past their prime. We didn’t spot any, but the sign at the trailhead informed us that the Teal Slough forest is home to two protected species, marbled murrelets and spotted owls. We also missed seeing any salamanders (with such little rain this summer, it was too dry) or woodpeckers.
But the lack of wildlife wasn’t a bummer. The trees were the stars. And the end-of-the-trail finale tree is well worth it.