People traveling Centennial Trail, end to end, for 1st time

ARLINGTON — It’s the first summer the 30-mile Centennial Trail has been open end-to-end.

People are celebrating by running, biking, skating, walking and riding their horses the entire length of the trail.

In July, the Rourke family of Everett made a three-day bicycle adventure of it. In early spring, Connie Hoge of Arlington logged what she believes is the trail’s first equestrian ride from Snohomish all the way to the Skagit County line.

The trail, considered Snohomish County’s largest park, follows the path of railroad tracks laid in the late 1800s through Arlington, Getchell, Lake Stevens, Machias and Snohomish. The first part officially opened in 1989, the state’s centennial year, but the trail had its beginnings 30 years ago among a group of people who saw its potential.

They were right, said county parks director Tom Teigen. An estimated 500,000 people now use the trail each year. Portions of the trail have been open for years, but uncompleted segments prevented easy travel from one end to the other until this summer.

Among the media attention the trail has received of late is a listing by ParentMap magazine as the one of the most kid-friendly bike trails in the region.

The Rourke family agrees, giving it higher marks than the more-traveled Burke-Gilman Trail in King County.

“The Centennial Trail is such an amazing amenity,” Brittney Rourke said. “It’s so well maintained and nearly flat.”

Rourke, 36, and her husband Tyler, 33, and their son Reece, eight months, set off July 26 from their home in the Glacier View neighborhood, snaked down the hill to the Lowell-Snohomish River Road. After some lunch in Snohomish, they got on the trail and headed north to Arlington.

Rourke packs baby supplies and clothing strapped above the rear wheel of her bicycle. Her husband rides a Danish cargo bike, with a place for Reece’s car seat up front and a trailer with their tent pulled behind.

“We have Reece facing forward on the bike,” Rourke said. “He loves it and just squeals with delight at any little incline.”

Once in Arlington, the family rode out Jordan Road to River Meadows County Park where they set up camp for two nights. Saturday morning, after a trip to the farmers market in downtown Arlington, the Rourkes headed north on the Centennial Trail, across the Stillaguamish River, through Bryant and up to the Nakashima Barn Trailhead near the county line.

On the way back, they sat at the Bryant general store while Reece napped in the shade.

“During that break, nobody else came by. It was so beautiful, and we had the trail all to ourselves,” Rourke said. “I started to wonder where everybody was. That kind of peace would never have happened on the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle.”

After another night at the campsite, the Rourke family rode south on the trail and home to Everett. They’ll do it again next summer.

“Biking is a priority for us,” Rourke said. “The Centennial Trail is a great place to do it.”

Connie Hoge, 62, the Arlington horsewoman who rode the trail end-to-end earlier this year, was among those who worked to get the trail established.

“We rode it long before it was a county park. It was just a rough horse trail back then,” Hoge said. “I joined the Snohomish-Arlington Trail Coalition to advocate for the equestrian community.”

In March, Hoge and her rare American Warmblood mare, Farah, rode from Snohomish to the Nakashima Barn in about four hours, not counting breaks. Hoge’s husband Butch tagged along in his truck, pulling the horse trailer, and meeting them at the trailheads to allow Farah to drink and eat.

The tricky part of the journey was through downtown Arlington, Hoge said. On 67th Avenue NE, the city is working to make a wider space for the Centennial Trail.

“This is horse country up in here in north county,” Hoge said. “People were great, taking our picture and greeting us in Legion Park downtown. The reason I think we were the first to ride the whole trail is that most horse folks have been too nervous to go through Arlington. But we made it through and then just cruised north.

Hoge calls Centennial Trail an asset worth every dime.

“It was great to see families with their children on the trail,” she said. “One thing my mare found out on that ride is that moms and baby carriages usually have a stash of carrots. She visited each one and got her reward.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Get on the trail

Snohomish County Parks Nakashima Heritage Barn, 32328 Highway 9, north of Arlington; off Maple Avenue in downtown Snohomish; or check the trailheads on this map at http://tinyurl.com/c-trailmap.

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