CAMANO ISLAND — Rain and a chilly breeze didn’t deter the walkers last Saturday.
Fifteen of them gathered near an access point to the Cross Island Trail, at the end of Ivy Way in a quiet cul-de-sac. They formed a loose circle, fastening rain jackets and righting hats as they listened to a short run-down of the morning hike. A sign at the trail entrance pointed toward Cama Beach State Park, 200 feet, and Camano Island State Park, about 2 miles.
It was the first winter walk this season for Friends of Camano Island Parks. The nonprofit hosts the guided hikes every first Saturday of the month from November through May to showcase trails and parks on the island.
The Friends group, established as a nonprofit in 1993, has been the driving force behind creating and maintaining most of the parks, trails and wildlife habitats on the island. The organization originally focused on creating what is now Cama Beach State Park but expanded its reach to any park or trail on the island.
“It was because Friends of Cama turned into Friends of Camano Island Parks that we have a lot of these beautiful places,” said Val Schroeder, Friends member and head of the nonprofit’s Camano Wildlife Habitat Project.
Carol Triplett, who helped start the Friends and served as chairwoman until last year, leads the winter walks. She stood in a yellow raincoat with a sign-in sheet before the most recent hike.
Triplett began the winter walks program in 1995.
“We started the walks as soon as we had something to walk,” she said. “We didn’t have too many parks then, but we’ve expanded.”
In the past two decades, they’ve worked with the state, county and local property owners to expand the network of trails on the island, including new access points to the two state parks. The Cross Island Trail is one of those.
It also is John Edison’s favorite hike. He’s been with Friends of Camano Island Parks for about 20 years and comes to as many winter walks as he can. He usually takes the last spot in line while Triplett leads. That way they can answer questions and keep track of the group.
“It’s just a good way to get people outdoors,” Edison said. “Some people are familiar with the parks and for some it’s their first introduction to the parks. You don’t have to have any experience, but you do have to have reasonably good footwear.”
Triplett hopes to see more connections around the island and between Camano and neighboring Stanwood. With the area’s abundant water, woods and wildlife, it’s a treasure for walkers of all skill levels. She sees a future where people have direct walking routes from their homes and businesses to the trails and the water.
Her experience with the Friends has taught her the power of tenacity and patience.
“It may not be in my generation, but it’s going to be,” she said. “It took us 20 years to get these parks.”
The winter walks have drawn huge crowds in the past. One guided hike on Camano Ridge had more than 100 people. “I thought we’d never get everyone up over the ridge,” Triplett said.
Other times, like last Saturday, it’s just a dozen folks in their sturdy boots and rain gear. That works just as well, she said.
“We have hardy people,” Triplett said. “More and more of them on the island.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.
Meet at 9:50 a.m.
*Elger Bay Preserve: Dec. 5, junction of Elger Bay and Dry Lake roads
*Camano Island State Park: Jan. 2, picnic shelter near the state park’s boat ramp
*Camano Ridge Forest Preserve: Feb. 6, Camano Center on East Camano Drive
*Cama Beach to Camano Island State Park: March 5, junction of Ivy and Dry Lake roads
*Four Springs Lake Preserve: April 2, Four Springs parking area on Lewis Lane
*Iverson Spit, Kristoferson Creek and English Boom: May 7, Iverson Spit Preserve on Iverson Road