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Great hike for toddlers and senior citizens

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Just south of Olympia, Washington, near the community of Black Lake, lies the McLane Creek Nature Trail. Though the overall area is small-- and a hike, even with detours to visit a number of cul de sacs, is only about one and a half miles round trip, you can easily while away two to three hours here.

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In addition to the creek, there's a small lake including beaver habitat where a variety of birds feed among the floating vegetation. The afternoon we visited, a couple of pintail ducks with their prepubescent offspring plied the waters, while a cedar waxwing passed overhead. Two viewing platforms extend into the lake, each with a bench, making a perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch.

The loop trail passes through wetlands, riparian habitat, and the remains of old growth forest where the giant stumps of ancient trees give birth to two or three new trees. At one point three uprooted giants form a kind of natural sculpture. In some places, twisted roots have a burnished finish as if some artist had just polished them. On other trees,the bark has patterned itself into abstract landscapes. Children will find opportunities for climbing, for crawling inside hollows, and for tight-rope walking on fallen trees across the shallow creek.

The waters are clear enough to watch fish and rough-skinned newts swimming. Just above the waters, large dragonflies swarm.

Because so much of the area is wetlands, most of the path proceeds on wooden platforms, making for easy walking even in the rainy season. And with only 50 feet elevation gain, our group ranging in age from three to seventy-three had no problems negotiating the trail. The trail is accessible and pet friendly, as long as your dog is on a leash.

To reach the McLane Creek Nature Trail, drive Interstate 5 to Highway 8 and take the BlackLake exit. Head west to Delphi Road, take a right and in two miles, watch for the sign to McLane Creek.

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