Geology hike gives people a fun challenge wrapped in a lesson
July 5, 2012
By Sebastian Moraga
On the day before his 74th birthday, Tom Pinto’s wife Vicki told him to take a hike.
So he did.
“He’s only here because of me,” said Vicki, halfway up Rattlesnake Ledge with Tom by her side.
The Pintos and about 10 others met at a trailhead near the Cedar River Watershed Education Center for a trek up Rattlesnake Ledge to learn the geological history of the region up close.
At least that was the plan. Halfway up, the Pintos called it a day. They had plans for Tom’s birthday and Vicki was starting to feel weary.
“I love this hike,” Vicki said. “I’m just out of shape, and the top terrifies me.”
The rest of the group, young and old, fit and this journalist alike, soldiered on until they reached the top about two hours later.
Along the way, the group saw peregrine falcons, woodpeckers, slugs, rocks and boulders, all which help tell the tale of how this area looks the way it does.
They also saw photos of camas plants, whose seeds rattle in the wind, and which gave the area its name.
“The ledge is a tiny core part of what the glaciers used to be — it all eroded,” said Pierre LeBarge, a naturalist with Seattle Public Utilities, the hike’s lead guide.
LeBarge talked about the flora, fauna and the geological history of the region, from its abundance of woodpeckers to what it means when a rock is angular or round.
A self-described geology layman, LeBarge never got too professorial or chummy, striking just the right chord to make the hikers feel safe and engaged.
“Understanding basic concepts of geology is pretty easy to do today,” he said. “You can get on the Web and get some basic concepts, from plate tectonics to volcanic activity.”
The hike, he said, helps people become familiar with what is around them.
The hike lasts two miles, with 1,200 feet in elevation. Taxing but didactic, the hike is almost thoroughly safe, even at the top of Rattlesnake Ledge.
“You really have to go out of your way to bite it,” said Tom Eslava, the hike’s volunteer guide.
“Anybody can come up here,” he said. “Just need to be safe.”
On this day, the narrow trail welcomed some folks on their Sunday-best behavior, sharing encouragement, greetings and information.
“Is it worth it?” a teenager on his way up asked a returning group.
“Totally,” came the answer.
Besides, when you’re high enough to stare down at Mount Si, there’s no room for funny business. So leash your dogs, watch your children and get ready to learn how little you really matter.
“Geologic time is humbling,” LeBarge said. “Human civilization, there was not much going on when these rocks first formed.”
Take a hike
A new geology hike is scheduled for Aug. 2. Spots are $5 and you can reserve one by emailing email@example.com.