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Originally published Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 12:05 AM

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Walkabout

See historic old-growth cedar on Whidbey Island hike

The Wilbert Trail in South Whidbey State Park is an easy walk through old-growth forest.

Special to The Seattle Times

Location: South Whidbey State Park, Wilbert Trail; Freeland, Whidbey Island.

Length: 1.5 miles round-trip (combine with Ridge Loop Trail for a 3-mile trip).

Level of difficulty: Wilbert Trail is level to gentle; Ridge Loop Trail is moderate to steep.

Setting: This 347-acre state park on the west side of Whidbey Island has 4,500 feet of saltwater shoreline on Admiralty Inlet, along with some old-growth conifers.

For a short and easy 1.5-mile walk through the park's Classic U Forest (one of the best stands of old-growth Douglas firs and Western red cedars left in Island County), take the Wilbert Trail across from the park entrance. Just before the trail ends at the main road, take a short spur to a cedar that's more than 500 years old: to return to the parking lot, retrace your steps, follow the wide-shouldered road back, or cross the street and go left to follow the campground road back.

For a longer, more strenuous hike, at the trailhead continue straight on the marked Ridge Loop trail, which climbs the hill and follows an old logging road to descend and link up with the Wilbert Trail (go to the right to make sure you don't miss the cedar).

Highlights: During the 1970s, concerned citizens (including Harry and Meryl Wilbert, the trail's namesakes) stood in the way of loggers to protect the huge cedar and other old-growth trees along the Wilbert Trail. Be green yourself — leave your car in Mukilteo, walk on the ferry, and take the free Whidbey Island bus from the Clinton ferry terminal to this park (a 40- to 50-minute ride; see details below).

Facilities: Restrooms, water and seasonal campground. Park brochures show trails.

Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect; no bikes on Wilbert Trail.

Directions: From the ferry terminal in Clinton, drive north on Highway 525. About a mile past Freeland, turn left (west) on Bush Point Road, and follow signs six miles to the park. Turn left into the entrance parking lot; the trailhead for the Wilbert and Ridge Loop trails is across the road. Continue into the park to the next parking lot on the left for restrooms and a trail to the beach.

Bus: Island Transit buses (Route 1) provide free service from the Clinton ferry dock to the park Monday through Friday starting at 8 a.m. (9 a.m. Saturdays); the last bus leaves the park weekdays at 6:47 p.m. (4:50 p.m. on Saturdays). No service Sundays or holidays. For the bus schedule: 800-240-6747 or www.islandtransit.org.

For more information: 360-331-4559 (park ranger) or www.parks.wa.gov.

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 © The Seattle Times Company

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