Hike description: This flat trail (gravel, paved and boardwalk) takes you through wetlands formed where the Union River flows into Hood Canal - fresh water meeting salt.
Fish and other aquatic creatures abound as do other wildlife: birds, muskrat, beaver, red fox, river otter (who slide down the banks) and weasel.
The native garden at the Education Center adds flora to the nature mix for the day.
Don’t rush here.
Spend a little time wandering along the paths and boardwalks and checking out the viewing platforms to see what there is to see.
This small preserve, only 135 acres, has a lot to offer in the way of recreation and education. School groups regularly visit the Education Center and interpretive signs are along the trail.
If you have ever wondered what the term “wetlands” refers to, add this trip to your itinerary.
This treasure is owned by the North Mason School District and managed by a board under the aegis of the school district.
Directions: Take state Route 3 south to the town of Belfair.
Find the Mary E. Theler Community and Education Center in Belfair’s south end, across the street from the Belfair Elementary School. Park in the lot and find the trailhead behind the center.
Difficulty rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
Miles round-trip: 4
Best time of year: Year-round
Map: Download map at www.thelercenter.org/wetlands/index2.php
Also: Restrooms and water are available in the Community/Education Center Building.
Most of the trails are wheelchair-accessible.
Information: Theler Community Center and Wetland Trails website: www.thelercenter.org; “Winter Hikes of Western Washington,” Mountaineers Books.
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee.