Sarah glances down at me. “You ready to go?” she says with excitement in her voice. ‘Go’ is my favorite word! I wag my tail and circle her legs while she grabs the keys. The jingle of metal gets my tail wagging faster in anticipation. I jump up and lick her cheek, leaving a wet trail of dog slobber down her face. “Jack,” she scolds me halfheartedly as she wipes her face with the back of her hand.

When Sarah opens the front door, I take off running for the car. It’s the same car she picked me up from the animal shelter in five years ago. Going on walks with her is my favorite thing to do since my adoption. Well, that and our cuddles on the couch while Sarah watches her shows on the BBC.

The Chehalis River flows past the Willapa Hills trailhead. Photo credit: Sarah Rutherford.

I stick my head out the window and sniff the air as we drive down the back roads. The smells coming from the farms we pass are now familiar indicators of progress on our journey and I whine as we get closer to the trial head. There’s a unique beauty in the rural countryside of Lewis County. The tall evergreens fused with the low farm lands create a moving tapestry for the eye. The leaves are starting to return on the deciduous trees and I can smell change in the air. It’s the end of winter and I’m anxious for spring. Spring means warmer weather and more days on the trail.

Sarah parks at the Willapa Hills trail head in Chehalis and I whine in excitement. This is our favorite place to walk. Sarah lets me out of the car and I jump around her, yipping in delight. The sounds of the Chehalis river greet us as Sarah slips the red leash onto my collar. I shake my fur and sneeze into the wind as the fresh air hits me. It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and there are so many new smells on our trail. As we cross the two century-old train trestle over the Chehalis river, a lone cyclist raises his hand in greeting as he passes.

Old train trestles support new walking paths over the Chehalis River. Photo credit: Sarah Rutherford.

“Good boy, Jack,” Sarah says as she pats my back. I’m working on sharing our trail by not barking at every person or animal we pass. I want to be a good boy for Sarah but it’s hard to share my trail. We also work on sharing by staying on my leash and using the blue bags in Sarah’s pocket to pick up any messes I leave behind. Sarah says the trail belongs to everyone and we need to help take care of it.

The Willapa Hills trail was an old train track before the aged rail ties were removed and the path was paved over for pedestrian traffic and cyclists. The trail is 52 miles long stretching all the way from Chehalis to South Bend. The first 5.2 miles of the trail are paved; the remaining miles are mixed surfaces of compact gravel and paved areas. There are stunning views of mountains, rivers and farm land all along the path and we often see two bald eagles that nest and hunt close to the farms.

Nancy and John love to walk the Willapa Hills trail any day it isn’t raining. Photo credit: Sarah Rutherford.

Sarah and I cross the road at Highway 602 and again at Bunker Creek Road making sure to stop and watch for moving traffic. The trail is marked with mile post markers to keep track of how far we are from the trail head. Up ahead, I see people walking toward us and I start wagging my tail. “Good afternoon,” Sarah greets them. They return her wave and Sarah stops to talk.

Nancy and John walk the Willapa Hills trail every other day or any day it’s not raining. John is a retried Lewis County fire fighter and he started walking the trail when it was still train tracks. They enjoy the trail for its beautiful views and its location. Many other people who use the trail regularly agree with them.

Mile markers line the trail, calculating how far we’ve traveled from the trail head. Photo credit: Sarah Rutherford.

Sometimes Sarah and I do a six mile round trip and sometimes we do four. Today, Sarah turns us around at mile two and we make the trip back to the trail head to complete our four miles. It starts to sprinkle with rain and as we pick up speed, I look forward to spring and warmer days on the trail. Maybe Sarah will cuddle with me and watch the new episode of Poldark when we get home

There are other popular trails around Lewis County and each has its own unique draw. Borst Park has a paved walking trail with a fenced dog park, pond and play area for kids. If you’re a more advanced hiker, Seminary Hill has a 2.5 mile steep, dirt path that climbs the hill overlooking downtown Centralia. There are many other trails including urban walks around the city. Lewis County has a trail for everyone if you have four legs or two. Just remember to keep our trails clean and safe for all.

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