An idyllic retreat of duck ponds and expansive prairie, tucked inside a busy urban core.
Distance: 1.1 miles
Time: 20 minutes
Trailhead: Park at the corner of Abbey Way SE and Father Meinrad Gaul Dr SE in Lacey, Washington. The trailhead is about 200 feet back down Abbey Way.
This land, also known as the College Regional Storm Facility, is owned by St. Martin’s Abbey, a community of Benedictine Monks who have lived and worked here since 1895. They also administer the university next door. In the woods around the parking lot, you can see interesting brick and wood statuettes hosting the 12 stations of the cross, an artistic representation of Christ’s last hours.
If you’d like to explore a little more before your walk, go north of the parking lot and find the paved service road that leads into the forest. A short walk takes you to a very old graveyard that holds the bodies of monks and brothers that have been members of the Abbey. The stone and metalwork of this somber graveyard is mossy and medieval, transporting the viewer far back in time. I highly recommend this quick detour.
Down the hill to the trailhead you will find a much more light-hearted and secular experience. Three man-made ponds grace this patch of earth, built to retain storm water runoff in 2008. The water, and its rich perimeter of cattails, have attracted a wealth of sonorous wildlife including Mallard ducks, Red Winged Blackbirds and bullfrogs.
Around the ponds spreads a pretty prairie ringed by forest. Whether this is a true prairie or not, I’m not sure, it does get mowed as would a field, but either way it’s a great open look up at the sky. A foot path rings the prairie, and if you just stay on the perimeter as you loop around the prairie, you can turn the walk into a mile, enjoying the riffle of the Quaking Aspen in the breeze.
Depending on when you go, you may be joining other walkers from the nearby Lacey City Hall and Department of Ecology who have also discovered this green expanse, tucked away behind busy College Street and the even busier Interstate 5. Like the lifestyles of the monks nearby, this prairie offers solitude and calm amidst the rushing distractions of everyday life.