By Jean Janes
Having lived in Tacoma for almost two years now, I decided it was time to really explore Point Defiance and the Five Mile Drive and Trails in particular. My family enjoys Owen Beach and the Zoo and Aquarium often, but we have done very little hiking in the Point Defiance Park itself. Having two small boys under the age of four may have a great deal to do with our lack of daring.
Not knowing the best place to park, walk, or stroll can make for a complicated outing if I realize halfway in that I should have brought our jogging stroller or a double instead. It can be hard to reason with a tired three-year-old when he doesn’t want to walk anymore but we’re still 10 minutes away from the car.
Armed with an umbrella stroller, a back-up double stroller, diapers and kids, I took the boys out one day as soon as the weather was clear for a reasonable stretch of time. This afternoon is lovely. I drive the Five Mile circuit first, to review the lay of the land and decide on a good place to park and maybe attempt a trail or two. This would be the perfect day for a convertible, motorcycle or bike. Motorists and bicyclists seem conscientious and courteous toward each other today on the road, maybe because we all realize how precious a warm day is at the tail end of winter; we all deserve to enjoy a sunny, dry road. There are even some joggers on the main drive as well.
After touring via car once around the Drive, I decide to park at the Pearl Street Entrance. There is a map posted as well as restrooms. I choose to use our umbrella stroller for my one-year-old and allow my three-year-old to walk as I figure that the best way to judge whether a path or trail is tiny-leg friendly is to actually test it with some tiny legs.
I am pleasantly surprised. After making our way down to the duck pond and then to the path leading through the Main Picnic Area, my son is doing fine and my little one in the stroller is having a blast. Near the picnic area, we find a playground fit for kids of any age, including baby swings. After some play and swinging, we continue toward the Rhododendron Garden Loop.
Crossing the main road to the Rhododendron Garden, there are definitely some muddy spots. Traveling along the Loop, the mud isn’t anything we can’t handle, but the stroller sticks now and then and there are some hills my three-year-old starts to find taxing, but he makes it! Nevertheless, the foliage is abundant and vibrant and flowers that are just beginning to bloom are exquisite. Even though we have to stop after a while and turn back, this is definitely a day well spent. We sit and enjoy the views and we stop to inspect various plant and animal life along the way. We may not have traversed the entire Garden loop, but we leave feeling like we have enjoyed a thorough journey.
I think that on our next trip to the Five Mile Drive and Trails, I’ll bring out the jogging stroller. The umbrella stroller was light and convenient, but the mud and gravel was tricky. A double stroller would have been useful had we been trying to go further, but it would have also been less maneuverable and quite a bit heavier.
Had I been touring Five Mile Drive and Trails on my own, jogging would be my preference. As a novice to intermediate runner, I find these smaller trails and rolling hills to be ideal. They combine some cross-country challenge with consistent respite and plenty of even and downhill trends. More importantly, there is a great deal of variety available. There is something for every level of trail blazer.
There is also something for every age. My two little ones had a great time. The playground, ducks, and flowers were all great entertainment. Older kids will certainly enjoy more of the trails and scenery, and the numerous picnic areas are perfect for the family as a whole.
It will take us far more than a few visits to explore the Five Mile Drive and Trails, and I look forward to spending a great deal of time doing so now that I feel confident that a stroller will be successful on more than just the blacktop. A natural expanse away from the main road where I can utilize a stroller but also allow my three-year-old son to roam a bit is invaluable as I try to instill a sense of appreciation for this rich environment in my little ones. For my family, I expect that Five Mile Drive and Trails will be an ideal destination for years to come, as we encourage appreciation and gratitude in our kids for the remarkable place we live.