Hikes: Farm Life

Hikes: Farm Life

Watch the YouTube video of the hike first to get a better feel for the experience of the trail. Click here for the video.

Put it on a bigger screen than your phone, for sure; then turn up the volume, sit back and immerse yourself in this world for four minutes.

"Land is not merely soil, it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.” – Aldo Leopold

The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care we can have no life.” ― Wendell Berry

Cow poop.

That’s the first odor to reach my nose. Or is it freshly turned compost? No difference between them, really, not in my nose anyway.

Thus I began hiking the Beach View Farm Trail.

The trail accentuates all four words of its name, with a magnificent beach at the far end of the hike, a big sky and ocean view for the entire route, and farmland on both sides of the trail for much of the hike. Bookending it all are wetlands, forests, scattered homes, and native habitats for an incredible diversity of life, both wild and domestic.

I find this trail to be my meditative place, my grounding place, my reminder that my life, and yours, is totally dependent each day on the earth and sea being healthy enough to grow what we need, and totally dependent on certain people to gather what is grown so that we may live yet another day.

So it was on this day in early May that Kath dropped me off at the east end, near the church, to let me wander down the trail slowly, lost in thought and wonder.

Wonder. That quality that senses the magic, the miracle, in all that is around us and within us, every day. An eagle calling to its mate, a dandelion cypsela ready to launch, a hundred shades of spring green leaves bursting forth, and songbirds serenading their heartfelt melodies – what a gift to be known by your song, right? I watched a heron for several minutes as it moved all of two inches along a waterway, focused on its next meal. Big beefy cattle ruminated about life inside a fence, while a doe did the same walking freely through the meadow nearby.

Geese swam with their next generation, and red-winged blackbirds looked for a mate to create the next generation. The Timothy grass grew, a fertile fountain of energy fed by the life-giving sun and soil. Chickens dined on whatever insects they found in the field, and then fertilized the farm soil with their droppings.

Yes, there is poop – it happens. It’s a farm, it’s real, and it’s essential.

Did you know that in the year 1800, 94% of our nation lived in a rural setting? A trip to town was about buying staples, not groceries. In fact, the first grocery store would not open until 1916. Where was all the food? It was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.

By 1900, just 40% of our citizens were farmers. Today, that number is down to just… just 1%.

I met up with Kath where the trail enters Swantown Lake County Park, and we wandered the trails through the forested meadows and near the wetlands of the lake. Sprinkles began to fall. I looked back across the entire trail I had just hiked. Peace reigned. The circle of life rolled on.


Directions: From Highway 20 south of Oak Harbor, take Swantown Road 1.4 miles northwest to Wieldraayer Road. Turn into the Christian Reformed Church parking lot; use one of the 8 parking stalls on the lower end of the lot, devoted to trail users, which heads west from here along the road to the trail. Or, park at the West Beach County Park on West Beach Road and walk south 300 feet to a gravel road that leads to Swantown Lake County Park, which is the west end of the Beach View Farm Trail.

By Bus: Route 6 connects Coupeville with Oak Harbor by traveling along West Beach Road.

By Bike: the roads in this area are mostly low-volume, and hilly, and with narrow shoulders. West Beach Road is high-speed in places.

Mobility: the trail is mostly compact gravel through the farmland, fairly wide and gently sloped. The trails through the county park are narrow, generally soft and grassy, and also gently sloped.

Dogs: Pets are NOT allowed on the Beach View Farm Trail; they ARE allowed in Swantown Lake County Park if they are always on a leash. That is why Murphy is not in the movie until the very end.

Republished with permission. Read the original article.