Busy on the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail

An unusual number of hikers are encountered along the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail.

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Trail work takes place along the South Fork Walla Walla River.

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Trail riders enjoy the scenery along the trail.

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Day hikers rest along the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail.

Usually I expect to see one or two people on a weekday hike along the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail.

So much for expectations.

Nora the Schnauzer and I saw 17 people, including three riding trail bikes and two riding horses, on a recent Friday.

A dog accompanied each horse rider, and the woman rider led a second horse.

Overall, we saw some people twice and some three times, which gave the trail an unusually crowded aura.

Nevertheless, with a blue sky and a soft breeze rustling the abundant shrubbery, we enjoyed a pleasant trek. Everyone we met, including dogs and horses, seemed to feel the same.

We reached the trail's parking area near Harris Park at 11:46 a.m. I donned the daypack, with water and snacks, and the camera.

We headed up the trail four minutes later.

The trail begins as a two-track, and Nora soon scooted off toward the river where a man and woman dangled their legs over the bank.

A bit later we turned left and crossed a small bridge. We passed a family of five heading home, and followed a narrow trail 72 feet above the sparkling river.

I walked slowly on the cobbles of the next two-track section of trail, and the man and woman from the river bank caught up and passed us.

Then we detoured to see, once again, a decades-old rock fireplace and chimney. A five-person group rested there. Nora trotted over to be petted. A young man named Vince from Walla Walla knew her name.

Ten minutes later, we turned left onto another one-track trail. We walked slowly, and the five people from the chimney soon passed us going on upstream.

Then the man and woman from the river bank passed us going back downriver.

At a junction where the main trail led along the hillside away from the river, we followed an older, wider section near the water. We continued until two deep puddles blocked our path, unless we wanted to wade.

We did not.

Neither of us.

Nora doesn't wade above her knees.

I don't wade above my boot tops.

Not on purpose.

Then, barely visible through the shrubs, a woman riding a horse and leading one headed upstream on the main trail. We backed up and followed her.

Eventually, at a rocky bank five feet above the river, we met Vince again and his four friends, visitors to Walla Walla.

They wrapped stick boats with grass and yellow flowers as passengers.

They dropped the boats into the swift current, rushed to the bank's edge and gave spirited support for the imperiled passengers.

When Nora and I reached another foot-wide portion of the trail, two trail bikes approached from the rear. Nora dashed back, and we stood inches from a gnarly drop off and inches from the passing bikes.

The riders slowed, however, and passed with care.

We paused at the nearly fallen Demaris Cabin, where cool spring water gushed from a dark pipe. We tromped up a hill, and before we went down toward the cabins a man on horseback and a dog caught us from behind.

The man and I talked about the pleasant weather, a bear he had seen near the river and so on until he moved on ahead.

Nora and I followed past the cabins obscured by tall grass and verdant shrubs. Soon after that, we passed a dark sign (plugged by two shotgun blasts) warning about trail work ahead.

We continued for another half mile, often on trails resembling sidewalks.

Eventually, with an increase of shadows, I checked the time at 3:29 p.m. We had walked almost four hours.

On the way back, three bike riders passed us, including one we hadn't seen. He had elk antlers in his backpack.

Then both horse riders passed us as we neared the section of narrow trail 72 feet above the river and 15 minutes from the trailhead.

The man wished a "happy hike" to Nora.

At the truck, we hurried to load up and leave.

Then I saw a moth fluttering among the leaves.

"Oh, well," I thought and lifted the camera. "I'm late for dinner already."

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com.

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