Out & About: Visiting Long Island’s cedar grove

The cedar grove on Long Island is home to some truly tall trees.

Ever since I first heard about Long Island in Willapa Bay, I’ve wanted to visit it.

An uninhabited island full of hiking trails and dense forest that’s only accessible by private boat or kayak? Sign me up!

Problem is, you sort of need to know someone who has kayaks and a day to devote to the excursion. (Me? I am boatless. And while I love hiking, it’s always better with a companion.) Luckily, I recently found a friend who was in possession of both. So to Willapa Bay we went.

It was raining in Astoria when we left. Perhaps the weather would be different on the bay? No such luck. It sprinkled when we launched our kayaks and down poured by the time we reached the island’s shore.

Turning back was still an option — but we’d come this far, hadn’t we?

True Pacific Northwesterners don’t let a little rain get them down, we told ourselves. So we set off, hiking north on the old logging trail. The goal of our outing was to find the Don Bonker Cedar Grove, a section of forest full of old-growth Western red cedars. Bonker, a former U.S. representative from Washington state who served from 1975to ’98, helped to protect Long Island as part of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.

The island is home to not only the old-growth trees but also lots of wildlife. Black bears, black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk call the island home — though we didn’t run into any. I did spot a bald eagle, and we tip-toed around several orange-bellied newts on our 2.5-mile hike to the cedars.

The grove includes a 0.75-mile loop trail, allowing you to tour the tall trees and appreciate their beauty from several angles. As we sat under the cedars sharing smoked salmon, coconut cookies and an apple with almond butter, the rain stopped and the sun peeked through the trees, throwing its bright yellow glow down into the forest. A humming bird, seeking the nectar of early salal flowers, paused in its quest, hovering an arm’s length away, eyeing us curiously before continuing its journey.

The hike back was considerably less wet; the air was fresh and the forest quiet.

A higher tide greeted us back at our kayaks. The sun glittered on the blue waters of the bay, and the sky was a masterpiece of fluffy clouds. I know I’ll be back.

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