By Tony Moceri
On a late winter day in March, Mother Nature teased an early spring offering: A beautiful day that reminds all of us from the Pacific Northwest why we live here. My good friend Casey Diggs and I had unfinished business with a trail we had hiked last summer. Known by locals as the Thousand Puddles trail, the area, which is a Whatcom Land Trust Conservation site located at the end of Saxon Road, is labeled as the Edfro Creek Trail. Both names are fitting.
The trail parallels the South Fork of the Nooksack River and, being flat, is a nice scenic walk offering access to a protected forest and views of eagles soaring over the river. On our summer hike with my daughter in tow, we made it to the end of the marked trail and turned back even though the trail continued. On the way out, we bumped into a couple on horseback who looked as though they were going much farther than we had. Chatting about where they were going, they told us that a little way past the end of the trail was Roy’s picnic table. And so I knew finding the table was an adventure for the future.
The couple on horseback had described the table’s location as just up a logging road, as though we would have stumbled upon it minutes from where we had ended our hike. So, on this winter day, Diggs and I planned for a little hike, some wet feet and a sunny picnic at a table in the woods.
We crossed multiple creeks bursting with water from recent rain and winter snowmelt. Some of these creeks were a simple hop, and others required some well-placed logs. As we made our way past the end what is marked as the Edfro Creek Trail, we expected to make a couple of turns and be at our lunch spot. We were wrong. We walked on an easy but wet path until we bumped into what was a raging Cavanaugh Creek. We could see that the trail continued on the other side of the creek, but there was no hopping or wading across this creek. The force was incredible, and we were sure we would be swept away if we entered the water. Determined to find Roy’s table, we walked up the creek in search of potential crossing points. What we found were some logs that were nearly touching and an old cable bridge that had been reduced to cables with the occasional rotting board attached to them.
Slightly nervous about being swept away by the creek, we opted for the log crossing. Balancing on the slick logs with our feet inches from the rushing water provided an adrenaline spike as we made our way to the other side. At this point, we had no idea where we were going. Diggs doubted whether we were still heading toward the elusive table, but after a scramble up a hill and a little bushwhacking, we were once again on a nice path along the river.
The trail eventually took a left turn uphill and became as much creek as it was dirt trail as water meandered its way down the hillside. Now gaining elevation quickly and with no table in sight, we questioned whether we had understood the couple on horseback correctly. Just as we were beginning to think we may need to find a log to have lunch on, we saw a lone wooden sign that said “Roy’s Picnic Table” with an arrow. Reinvigorated, we pushed up the hill spotting a few more signs as we went. Hiking around one more bend, the trees opened up, and there it was, the table and a view of the foothills as far as we could see.
Carved into the picnic table was “Whatcom BCH.” Having heard of the Whatcom Back Country Horsemen (WBCH), I knew when I got back; that I would need to do some digging into how the heck this table got here.
I found Rocky Leavitt, who, with the help of his mules, has been maintaining trails all over Whatcom County where vehicles can’t get to for years. A long-time member of WBCH, he has volunteered countless hours to uphold its mission of keeping trails open. As it would turn out, the table Diggs and I ate at was the second Roy’s picnic table, and Leavitt himself had brought it up there. He said he would be happy to chat with me about the table, but it would probably be better if I spoke with Roy himself.
Thrilled to learn the whole story, I sat down with Leavitt and Roy Van Diest to hear their tales. Now in his 80s, Van Diest has spent a lifetime adventuring around Whatcom County and beyond by horseback. It was on one of these adventures that Van Diest stumbled across this viewpoint and declared, “This is a nice place to have a picnic.”
Roy would return, riding his horse, Lucy, with materials to assemble a picnic table. Now a destination for the approximately 150 WBCH members and the random hiker, the table is a symbol of all those adventures on horseback Van Diest experienced and a reminder of all the volunteer hours WBCH members have put in to maintain trails used by all. This group does this low-impact maintenance not for pay, as it actually costs them to serve this role, but for the love of the outdoors.
As I finished my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Diggs polished off his delicious-looking chicken on a bed of greens, we rose from Roy’s table, snapped some pictures, and began our descent. We once again safely crossed Cavanaugh Creek and the thousand or so puddles en route to our vehicle. Besides the soggy feet, we felt great that we had completed such an exciting adventure and enjoyed a meal at Roy’s picnic table. We were also appreciative of all the pieces that came together to make our adventure possible. It took efforts by a random couple on horseback, The Whatcom Land Trust, Rocky Leavitt and the WBCH, to make this day possible for us. Most importantly, it took Van Diest and his decades of blazing trails by horseback to discover such a beautiful spot to have a picnic. x
Tony Moceri is a freelance writer who loves to get out and explore the world with his family. He shares his journey @adventurewithinreach and tonymoceri.com.