Free park-ing: Washington State Parks free day is Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The other free days this year are March 19, State Parks’ 105th birthday; April 14, Spring day; April 22, Earth Day; June 2, National Trails Day; June 9, National Get Outdoors Day; June 10, Fishing Day; Aug. 25, the National Park Service’s 102nd birthday; Sept. 29, National Public Lands Day; Nov. 11, Veterans Day; and Nov. 23, Autumn day. More at www.discoverpass.wa.gov.
Bird watch: The Wildlife Refuge Bird Watching Tour is 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 20, 1805 First St., Snohomish. Guided exploration tour of the Riverview Wildlife Refuge. Dress for the weather. Bring camera and binoculars. Sponsored by Snohomish Rising’s Green Group and the Pilchuck Audubon Society. For more, call 360-348-7059 or visit www.pilchuckaudubon.org.
Plunge: Polar Bear Plunge to support Sound Salmon Solutions fundraising campaign, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 20, Lundeen Park, 10020 Lundeen Park Way, Lake Stevens. Take the plunge and then warm up with snacks and hot drinks. For $25, plunge and get a one-year membership to Sound Salmon Solutions. Call 425-252-6686 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.soundsalmonsolutions.org for more.
Winter snaps: Group trips for photography enthusiasts from expert to novice to shoot winter-inspired photos at Snoqualmie Pass. Commonwealth Creek offers many unique shots: ice falls, cool vapors and the swirling dark waters of mid-winter. Participants should bring a well-stocked backpack with their own film or digital cameras and a lunch. This trip usually lasts four to five hours. Scheduled outings are 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 14, 20 and 28; Feb. 3, 11, 17 and 25; March 3, 4, 17 and 18. Suggested donation of $25. Call 425-434-6111.
Kids in the snow: A 90-minute outing that jump-starts participants on their way to earn a Junior Snow Ranger badge at Snoqualmie Pass. Identify tracks, learn about exploring nature in winter, and climb into an igloo (snowpack permitting). Discover which animals live nearby that turn white in winter, sleep the winter away, burrow and live entirely under the snow and those that can freeze themselves nearly solid right through until the spring melt. Kid-sized snowshoes are available. Outings are 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays, Jan. 20 through March 24. Suggested donation of $15 for adults and $10 for youth 16 and under. Call 425-434-6111.
SNOWSHOE WITH A RANGER
Snoqualmie Pass, short hike: 1-mile loop that winds through old-growth forest. See normally hidden lichens, fungus, winter birds and mammals. Discover what critters made those mysterious tracks and what exactly all those tiny black insects flipping around on the snow are. Hikes are 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through March 25. Suggested donation of $15 for adults, $10 for youth 16 and under for short hike. Call 425-434-6111.
Snoqualmie Pass, extended hike: About 5 miles. Trek into the heart of Commonwealth Basin, a landscape rich with snowshoe routes and interesting winter life. Marten, ground squirrel, bobcat and wolverine all travel through the area, sometimes leaving evidence on the fresh snow. Hikes are 9 a.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 25. Suggested donation of $25 per person for the half-day hikes. Call 425-434-6111.
Stevens Pass Mountain Resort: Learn about the winter environment, plants, wildlife, local history and snow safety on this 90-120 minute guided nature discovery tour along the Pacific Crest Trail. Meet at the Forest Service Guard Station by Parking Lot A. An optional Stevens Pass history presentation will be given at 10:30 a.m. Sessions are 11 a.m. Saturdays through March 24, and 11 a.m. Sunday through March 25. Suggested donation is $15 for adults and $10 for youth 16 and under. Call 360-677-2414.
Darrington Ranger District: A hike for those who have never used snowshoes before or anyone interested in learning about the ecology and history of this low-elevation winter wonderland. It follows the route of the former Everett and Monte Cristo railway as it winds its way up the South Fork Stillaguamish River. There are stops along the way for discussions on who and what lives in the valley during the winter and how they manage to do it, from Golden-crowned Kinglets to beavers to humans. The turnaround point is the site of the former Big 4 Inn where participants will have lunch at the picnic shelter and possibly get a glimpse of the 4,000-foot vertical face of Big Four Mountain. Hikes start at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 27 and 28 and Feb. 3. Call 360-436-1155.
Mt. Baker Ranger District: Snowshoe near the Hannegan Pass Road, Heather Meadows or other location depending on snow levels and weather. The interpretive snowshoe walks last two to three hours. Reservations are required and snowshoes are provided. A $15 donation is suggested. Snowshoe and winter safety basics while gaining knowledge about winter ecology, recreation opportunities and the cultural history of the North Fork Nooksack drainage. Hikes are at 10 a.m. Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11 and March 4. A $15 donation is suggested. Call 360-599-9572.