It’s been a tad on the drizzly side these last few days. Ok, it’s been weeks, months… Frankly, I’ve lost count. This is the time of year in the Pacific Northwest when it’s hard to remember that the sunshine will, indeed, return. This is also the time of year when our community collectively starts to daydream about moving to warmer, sunnier climes. Of course, we quickly come to our senses, remembering how lucky we are to call this magical island home. But I get it if you’re sick and tired of all this wet and need a little break. Boy are you in luck! Head to the Grand Forest where Mother Nature’s umbrella will provide a much-needed respite from the rain.
Nestled on the west side of Bainbridge Island, the Grand Forest is 240 acres of serenity, filled to bursting with swaths of fern, babbling brooks, soaring evergreen giants, nurse logs, and a lot of squidgy moss and other stunning, native plants who thrive in their intended climate without any intervention from humans. The stately trees in this beautiful oasis soar overhead, so densely packed their evergreen boughs act as a natural roof keeping you dry on most damp days.
Meandering merrily through this wonderland are perfectly groomed trails welcoming hikers, runners, mountain bikers, mothers with strollers, pups on leash, and even horseback riders. The rule of etiquette is that bikers must yield to people but everyone must yield to the horses. Also, please don’t forget to clean up after darling Fido!
The trails are very quiet this time of year and through the stillness you will be able to eavesdrop on the creatures who call this forest home: a chorus of birds chirping away, the screech of a bald eagle (as spine-tingling in person as you might imagine), roosters crowing in the distance, and even cows mooing (this one always makes me giggle). We even have owls...
Funny, right? Apparently this is not a joke! I've heard stories from folks who have actually been dive-bombed by these darling looking creatures. The warning should also warn against wearing orange hats which seem to be particularly offensive to the owls. As a side note, if you wake up in the middle of the night to a woman screaming bloody murder, take it form me, you do not want to call 911. That's just the sound of a precious baby barrred owl. Seriously?!? I don't know how these animals have not become extinct.
For a more relaxing, soothing sound, there's nothing better in my mind than water: waves crashing, rain on the roof, a creek, ebb tide, you name it. During your time in the forest you are guaranteed to cross over charming bridges spanning streams and bogs, all built by local volunteers who dedicate their weekends to keeping this forest in tip-top shape.
Be sure to stop on the The Grand Forest Bridge and play "Pooh sticks," especially if you have a little friend in tow. You'll also want to take a moment to listen to the birds and stream as they go about their busy day.
You will be absolutely amazed by what nature has done with the decorating in this place! I love these wacky old trees with their crazy moss gowns bejeweled in ferns. Hello, Academy: Best Costume award!
During your wanderings you are sure to notice many fallen trees. Mostly, they are off in the distance but a few are right by the trail. Young and old alike are facinated by the impressive root structure of these fallen soldiers who have lost the fight against time.
The trails are bordered in many places by ancient fallen logs covered in moss. Known as "nurse logs", these old gals provide a hospitable and nutrient-rich habitat for the giants of the future and their mushroom and fern friends. The cycle of life is everywhere in the forest.
This pretty, curving path leads you through a bog full of the most interesting water lilies:
Bright yellow and enormous, it's difficult to gage the scale of these flowers in photos. They grow in groves, maybe up to 30 total in this one area.
Meet my friend, Bob. Don't worry, he's a very friendly forest creature and I promise he won't chase you. He's too busy worrying about keeping his toupé on just so...
This funny little house is a favorite moment on the Forest-to-Sky trail. That fern roof is so fabulous. I don't know if it is intentional but, if not, Mother Nature has outdone us once again.
The terrain in the forest is varied, including many miles of flat trails with some small hills as well as very steep options guaranteed to invigorate even marathon runners. It’s easy to pick a path to challenge yourself or feel free to take it easy and just wander. The trails are well marked and there are spots to picnic if you feel like bringing along the Brie. Just remember to “pack it in, pack it out” and have a wonderful time getting lost in the forest.
With a free parking lot located right on Miller Road, you won't be able to miss this marker telling you you've arrived at the forest. There is parking for about 10 cars in the lot and you may also park along the side of the road. A tad farther south is a secondary parking area. The trails are busiest on the weekends and in the summer.
The Grand Forest
9752 Miller Road
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110