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Originally published Thursday, March 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Walkabout

Bingaman Pond Natural Area

Location: Federal Way Length: About a half mile of trails. Level of difficulty: Level-to-moderate dirt/gravel trails; slightly mucky in...

Location: Federal Way

Length: About a half mile of trails.

Level of difficulty: Level-to-moderate dirt/gravel trails; slightly mucky in areas.

Setting: These sweet little bog wetlands in a secluded valley east of I-5 hold a small stream that flows into the Green River. A neighborhood borders the south side of this 17-acre natural area, and the fenced pastures of a horse farm overlook it on the north. There are two nice little sets of trails here with bridges that allow access into the area, thanks to EarthCorps workers and Friends of the Hylebos volunteers.

To reach the trails with views of the pond, descend the stairs, where you'll notice Indian plum bushes in bloom, with dangling tassels of small white flowers and bright green leaves flung skyward as if in surprise. The pond is edged by cattail marshes and the brown seed heads of spirea, and skunk cabbage leaves reach above the water. The trail branches — continue straight until you reach a lawn, or go left to cross the bridge and climb a short distance until the trail dead-ends at a fence. The western end of the wetlands was dammed for cranberry production in the 1940s; you can still see concrete remnants of the dam just off the bridge.

To reach the western trail loop, retrace your steps to the top of the stairs, turn right, and follow the gravel trail along the fenced-in swale. As you step onto another wooden bridge, look around the back of the stump on the right to see springboard notches, created long ago when this tree was logged. The trail soon splits into a loop (about a quarter-mile) that climbs the hill and then circles back down.

Facilities: None.

Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect.

Directions: From Interstate 5 southbound, take Exit 147 and turn left off the exit ramp on South 272nd Street. Cross under I-5, turn right on Military Road South, and then left on South 288th Street. Turn left on 37th Place South and drive down to the lower end of the neighborhood (becomes 37th Avenue South) and look for the King County sign. From I-5 northbound, take Exit 147, turn right off the exit ramp on South 272nd Street, and proceed as above.

By bus: Metro Route #183 runs along South 288th Street (206-553-3000 or http://transit.metrokc.gov).

For more information: 206-205-6282 or visit http://dnr.metrokc.gov/wlr/lands/natural/bingaman-pond.htm.

— Cathy McDonald, Special to The Seattle Times

Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She's currently a travel guidebook editor at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: nwwriter@hotmail.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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