Years later, Darvill purchased property at the base of Little Mountain to prevent development from encroaching. He built a house, far back from the road, close up to the park. Then he built trails to get up the mountain quick. He trained there when weather or schedules prevented him from climbing in the Cascades.
The home he shared with his wife Ginny is still there. (So is Ginny, I believe.) In 1996, the Darvill family put the property into a conservation easement
with the Skagit Land Trust
and enlarged it two decades later. The easement provides access to the public, where they can share the beauty the Darvills stewarded here at the edge of the park.
Noticing in the Woods
As I start down the Darvill Trail, a slow process of unwinding helps me move past the sound of lawn mowers, the road, neighborhood dogs. The sound of crunching gravel helps. The clapping aspen leaves help the most. Birdsong is the periodic reminder to listen to the voices outside my head, the ones speaking now, not those echoing from history.
This kind of walking gives me a chance to notice things. It is why I’m visiting Little Mountain Park. Sometimes I just need to notice, and my senses require practice best done outside.
So as I leave my thoughts behind a little, I notice:
- Blackberry blossoms with a pink hue at their center faint enough and dark enough that from a distance I cannot tell if the flowers are white or pink.
- Roots crossing the trail like speedbumps that require careful navigation to avoid twisting my ankles.
- Douglas fir trees. Vine maple trees. Dead trees full of life, chips gathered at their base from birds hacking away to obtain sustenance.
- An expanse of ferns that resembled nothing so much as a lawn of giant and ragged blades of grass.
- But the cedars stand out.
Growing up, I knew several large cedar trees growing in two parallel lines in my backyard, transplanted by my dad when he worked the land before it was his own, a decade before my birth. One day, either bored or adventurous, foolish or bold, I climbed one of them to the top. I felt accomplished, looking above the house and across the fields. Afterward, moments or years or both, I felt nothing but lucky to have returned to the ground on my feet.
More than personal memories, though, cedars provoke the historian in me, for I know their utility to the Coast Salish peoples who have used them here since time immemorial. Peeled and woven, cedar bark can be worn—in skirts or hats or capes—or made into baskets.
When I was a boy in my backyard, I stripped cedar out of idleness, never realizing its potential. Now, when I see those telltale vertical bark lines telling me a tree is a cedar, almost all I see is bark as a tool, a technology, a substance of culture.