|Distance:||1 mile loop|
|Hiking Time:||0.5-1 hr|
|Elevation Gain:||0 ft|
|High Point:||1,290 ft|
|Snow Free:||May - October|
|Trailhead Pass:||Northwest Forest Pass Required|
|GPS Waypoints:||Parking Lot at Cispus Learning Center:|
N 46° 26' 22", W 121° 50' 59"
Braille Trail Start: N 46° 26' 22", W 121° 50' 59"
When hiked: July 27, 2012
Located at the Cispus Environmental Learning Center south of Randle, the Braille Trail is designed to enhance the experience of hiking through a deep forest setting for the visually impaired.
The level loop trail is less than a mile in length and is equipped with a guide rope to follow around the well-maintained path which is free of toe stubbing features such as roots and jutting rocks often found on regular trails. The region was the scene of large forest fires in 1902 and 1918 as evidenced by the charred snags one finds along the way though the forest is recovering.
The Braille Trail is sponsored by the Lions Club and allows visitors to feel and experience the forest in a safe manner. Being extremely near-sighted I quickly appreciated the guide rope and by either closing my eyes or removing my glasses, gained an entirely different perspective on how to experience the forest. I found I was able to "see" the forest through my senses of touch, smell and hearing. The textures of tree bark and of ferns become more intimate than by just looking at them. The feel of a Douglas fir is quite different from an alder or vine maple. Sword ferns have a vastly different texture than bracken or oak ferns.
Sounds became magnified. Bird calls became clearer and the sound of traffic on the nearby road was filtered by the long sighs of a breeze in the forest canopy. Another treat was tracing and feeling with fingertips the new growth and moss along the length of an old nurse log, the new firs and ferns a sensory delight as was the light kiss of an evergreen bough brushing my brow as I continued along the path. When I opened my eyes again at first the world seemed almost too sharp and bright.
Whether vision-impaired or not, don't overlook this trail if you're in the region. It's an ideal opportunity to stop and smell the moss, the ferns and the good earth after a morning shower.
Parking is available at the Cispus Learning Center which is managed by the Washington School Principals Association. The center provides a learning environment for children from all around the state. The office has brochures and trail guides available for anyone who wants to enjoy and explore this area.
Getting there: From US 12 in Randle drive south on SR 131/FS 25 one mile. Turn left onto Forest Service Road No. 23/Cispus Road. Continue ten miles to Forest Service Road No. 28, turn right. In less than a mile turn right again onto Forest Road No. 76. The Cispus Learning Center entrance is on the left and is well signed. A Northwest Forest Pass is required (this is also the trailhead parking area for the Covel Creek Falls Trail).
Map: Green Trails No. 333, McCoy Peak. For additional information on the Braille Trail and other activities, classes and lodging contact the Cispus Learning Center at 360-497-2931. For additional information on other trails in the region call Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Cowlitz Ranger District Station at 360-497-1100).
- Karen Sykes, Visit Rainier Hiking Expert