Distance Hiked: 1.9 Miles
When I was a teenager, there was a trail not too far from my home called Burnt Bridge Creek Trail. My mother took my brother and I down there for a bike ride one weekend, pretty much unannounced, and I secretly fell in love with it. I used to pester my friends about taking our bikes down there on nice days; days when my Dungeon Mastering gears were all out of whack and I had nothing prepped for our perpetual D&D session. More often than not, we opted for something closer to home, but I coaxed them into it a few times.
The Burnt Bridge Creek Trail is (or at least was in 2006, the last time I saw it) a lengthy stretch of pavement which follows the shoreline of a moderately urbanized creek through the city of Vancouver, Washington. When I say, “moderately urbanized,” what I mean is that it’s a generally untamed waterway lined with unmaintained trees and wild flowers, populated with ducks and rabbits and fish, and maybe hosting the occasional old tire.
Why am I talking about a trail in southern Washington on a blog about Hawaiian trails? Because I want you to understand that despite my preference for unpaved trails, I’ve got nothing against a nice walk on a well maintained paved pathway. Also, I want you to understand my expectations in regard to the West Loch Community Shoreline Park Trail.
I want you to be as disappointed as I was.
As you enter the West Loch neighborhood the second right-hand turn (Kapapapuhi St.) will take you down a road which terminates at the West Loch Community Shoreline Park. In relation to the trail, this puts you somewhere on the midway point; there’s no trail head at the parking lot, rather the paved path runs past it both left and right. We opted to go left first, since it looked like it headed into the park and toward the shoreline. We wanted to walk along the water so figured that’d be the best place to start planning a looping path around the perimeter of the park back to the car then we’d head off the other direction.
We knew going down there swimming probably wasn’t advised. The West Loch shoreline runs along what looks like a largely unused portion of Pearl Harbor. It has a semi-stagnant quality to it which makes swimming there less than ideal from a hygiene standpoint. The first thing we noticed was the smell as it tickled our olfactory organs with the warm scent of sun dried fish, sewage and just a hint of sweaty feet. A truly titillating bouquet of flavors. That’s right, flavors. The fish smell almost certainly came from the various docks where there were lots of people fishing, the sewage from the nearby neighborhood sewer system (there were sewage signs posted all over), and the feet… That might have just been me, I dunno. Point is, though I’m sure it’s not like that every day, under the right conditions, the water stinks.
The park is nice, though. It was a little dry when we were there, but that’s expected from basically anywhere on the leeward side (except golf courses, gotta keep the green green). There are a number of shoreline gazebos and aging fishing docks as well as flowering trees, shorebirds, and lots of open space and friendly people. I can see where the park itself could be a really nice place to go for a family BBQ or something and, despite the smell, was the highlight of that day.
Once we looped back to the car and made a quick bathroom break we opted to hit the right-hand path. Turning south, this leg of the trail cuts back behind a few houses in the neighborhood to follow the shoreline deeper into Ewa Beach. Not far from the parking lot the trail branches again; the pavement veering off to the right, and to the left the path turns to dirt.
By this time, I was itching to get off the pavement so we opted to take the dirt path. It’s a straight, wide path which I later discovered is yet another abandoned OR&L rail bed. The soil and sand hybrid only lasts for maybe a quarter of a mile before it’s rejoined by the pavement running parallel to it. It seemed silly to stay on the dirt when the pavement was right there, so we got back on the blacktop.
To say there’s a change in disposition between this stretch of trail and that which meandered through the park would be a vast understatement. Though the water smelled like toilet, the park at least still felt fun and welcoming. This stretch of trail felt derelict and foreboding. There’s a sense of being both too close and too far from the public eye. Though it literally bordered the polo & plaid world of the West Loch Golf Course, I felt perpetually on my guard against mischief and shenanigans. Where the fishing docks of the park looked serene and inviting, the fishing docks along this stretch of trail looked hopeless and forgotten.
Here’s a fun anecdote. Shortly after the dirt trail rejoins the pavement, there is a metal grated bridge crossing Honouliuli Stream. I remember thinking as we crossed it how run down and rusty it was. A little further down the path we passed a couple riding their bikes north toward the parking lot. While we were sneaking up on a Hawaiian Stilt (apparently endangered) trying to get a good picture, I noticed the couple had stopped on the bridge and were examining the tire on the woman’s bike. I thought nothing of it and they eventually moved on. When we finally headed back, having failed to get the picture, I noticed when we crossed the bridge that there was a hole in the metal grate, roughly the width of a bike tire, which wasn’t there the first time we crossed.
I feel like that, plus the amazing sock-in-tree photo featured at the top pretty much capture the essence this length of trail. Now, I’ve turned back to the car on various trails for a number of reasons; run out of daylight, not enough water, tired, impassible trail, whatever. But this is the first time I’ve ever given up on a trail because I felt bored and unsafe.
So, yeah, the park is fine. Go there if you want a nice relaxing day throwing a frisbee around or something. The south leg of the trail, though, that’s where dreams go to die. Just pretend it isn’t there.
To Read About Places Which Are Less Sad, Click Here.