Outdoor Addict: Down the rabbit hole

By Whitney Rhodes on April 25, 2013

I had grand ambitions this weekend. I had a stern talk with my ankle to bring it in line. I had an adventuring partner and a destination. Oh yes. We headed out to the Greenwater area for a short easy hike. Problem number one? Despite a promising weather forecast of sun, heading up Highway 410 we alternated between total downpours of rain/hail/snow and bright sunshine. Bipolar weather. Great. Problem number two? The great ankle fiasco. I got excited when we spotted the White River. It was running fast and high so we stopped the car to get out and admire it.  It took me 10 minutes to go 10 yards from the car to the river. Not exactly a pace that works for a hike, no matter how short. Well ... crap. We ended up doing some light exploring but ultimately admitted defeat.

On our way home we went hunting for a comforting sugary treat to drown our disappointment, when suddenly our adventure practically jumped up and bit us. The West Hylebos Wetlands.

Located in the middle of Federal Way suburban sprawl, the West Hylebos Wetlands would have never made my list. I mean really. It's in the middle of suburbia! Traffic! And even when in it you never really forget that you are in the middle of a city, but it was still a terrific little oasis.

We ventured across the parking lot and down a gravel path. It was flat and even. Very standard for a city park. Until the gravel path came to an end at the edge of some woods and a wooden boardwalk disappeared into the trees. A bunny hopped out in front of us and nibbled on some grass. I half expected it to sit up and talk to us. Instead he disappeared into the brush. I took it as a sign. I mean how often do you get to follow a rabbit down a rabbit hole?

The boardwalk was surrounded by dense underbrush and the ground was almost swampy, adding to the feeling of venturing into another world. Spring was just beginning to show with green tips on all of the bare branches and salmon berries in full bloom. One of the viewing stops was supposedly over a 200-foot deep water hole created by the decomposing bog. Slightly creepy especially when the frogs decided to take flying leaps to show their displeasure at our presence.

We only saw a few people. Bird watchers who were fixated on something high in a tree. The entire experience was surreal. I mean how often does one stumble upon a 100+ acre wetlands in the middle of the city? Especially one so quiet on a Sunday afternoon that looks like a set for the TV show Once Upon a Time.

The boardwalk took us through swamp, forest, to look at big trees and a lake, before returning us to the bright sunny meadow where we first saw the bunny. As we blinked from the bright sunshine we looked for our furry guide but he was nowhere to be found.

I drove by again before writing this column just to be sure I didn't dream it all up. But no dear reader, it's real. I encourage you to pay the wetlands a visit. What will your story be when you follow the rabbit down his hole?

West Hylebos Wetlands

411 S. 348th St.

Federal Way