Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Northern State Mental Hospital (Yes I know it sounds like a strange place to hike) ~ February 2, 2013

My family and I met my Dad and Stepmom for a walk this past weekend. We went to the Northern State Recreation Area (formerly known as Northern State Mental Hospital) in Sedro Woolley. My parents have explored and walked most of the trails numerous times before, so they were excited to show us around.
I think this was one of the dairy barns that was used to help feed the
hospital population when it was operating.

Driving directions: Follow I-5 North or South to SR Highway 20 (in Mount Vernon.) Follow Highway 20 east to Sedro Woolley. You'll pass through most of Sedro Woolley. Keep your eyes open for a Dairy Queen on the right hand side of the road. Your turn will be two lights past this intersection. When you reach Helmick Rd, about 15 minutes after exiting I-5, turn left. The parking lot for the Northern State Recreation Area will be on the left.

If you are a fan of disc golf, you are in luck. There is an 18 hole disc golf course that follows several of the trails in the recreation area. We brought a couple of regular frisbees just to give it a try, but the game is actually played with a slightly different type of disc.

My boys trying out one of the targets

Another target. I thought this one looked like
an alien spacecraft. 

Okay, so back to the trails. There are several miles of trails, that meander around the park area. You can see all of the buildings that are still standing. There are signs that warn you against entering the structures, as some of them look pretty unstable. It was a lot of fun to see all of the old buildings, including a cannery, dairy, well pump house and more. They had a huge garden/farm that was used to feed the hospital residents. The hospital residents were able to do vocational training in farming, dairy farming, greenhouse operation, printing plant and others. This helped the hospital to operate self-sufficiently. You can read more about the history of the hospital here.

This appeared to be a barn or storage space possibly for outdoor equipment?

A view through the brush of one of the main buildings.

These were the pump houses for the well

The trails were wet and there were some that had shallow running water and mud on them. I wore my tennis shoes and wished that I had my hiking boots on so that my feet stayed dry. The trails are all mostly flat and made for a nice lowland, winter hike.

A little horseplay on the trail

The view of the mountains (or foothills) were spectacular on this clear, almost 50 degree day!

I love the cloud creeping up the hill in this shot.

If you are interested in hauntings and ghost stories, there are several stories associated with the hospital. I didn't read about them until after we had visited, but they just add another element of mystery to this lowland "hike."

I watched a hawk flying and diving for a while before we got in the car to go.

Happy trails!

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