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Published: Sunday, July 10, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Don't let aging knees keep you off all trails

So you've walked on paved easy paths like the Centennial Trail or the Interurban, but you long to hike a trail with some semblance of wildness, yet a modicum of ease for your -- let's call them vintage -- knees.
There are trails that cater to knees that creak and ache. One is as near as a pleasant drive four miles past Darrington on the Mountain Loop Highway.
The Old Sauk River Trail parallels the river for three miles and is as flat as warm beer. It's a very easy and pleasant walk, with plenty of views of the Sauk as the trail meanders under a mossy canopy of cedar and fir.
Flowers and other interesting vegetation abound. Depending on the season, trilliums, dwarf dogwoods, wood violets, twinflowers, and starflowers carpet the forest floor. Look for waterfowl in pools along the river's edge and beaver in quiet channels off the river. Steelhead may be spotted if you go later in the summer or fall. And it's a kid-friendly trail, if you want to take grandchildren.
Occasional washouts may seem to cut off the trail, but look for repairs that lead around the breach.
The trail is never too far from the highway -- both ends of it connect to the road -- but once you're into the heavy woods and following the raucous river, only the noisiest traffic will filter through.
Old Sauk River Trail
Where: From Darrington, take the Mountain Loop Highway about four miles southeast, just past the Clear Creek Campground. The parking area and trailhead are on the left, a short way into the woods.
Permits: Forest Service pass for parking.
Information: Darrington Ranger Station, 360-436-1155; www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/recreation/activities/trails
Other trails
These aren't as flat as the Old Sauk River Trail, but come close.
Iron Goat: The lower portion between the Scenic Trailhead (just off U.S. 2 at milepost 58) and Marten Creek is three miles of fairly flat and forested trail. No permit required at the Scenic Trailhead parking area.
Pacific Crest Trail: The name is intimidating, but wait until later in summer when the trail is completely snow free and take the surprisingly level segment north off U.S. 2 at Stevens Pass. It's about three miles round trip of easy hiking with views of the Cascades. A recreation pass is required at the parking area.
• Find more hikes in the HeraldNet hiking guide
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