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Washington’s Newest Wilderness Area, Wild Sky, Has Something for Everyone

August 3, 2008

By Linda V. Mapes, Seattle Times

Aug. 3–Come and get it: Washington’s newest wilderness area, Wild Sky, is as pretty as it gets — and has something to offer just about everybody.

Not only that, but Wild Sky offers solitude, deep quiet and spectacular scenery, with none of the hassles of crowds, permits and reservations.

Or even a fee.

Hard to believe it, but it’s true: Take your dog? Sure. And leashes are optional. Horses or other pack animals? You bet, on some trails. Hunt? Fish? Have at it.

Group adventures? The rule is 12 beating hearts — that includes your animals. Camping? Fires? Go for it. Anywhere you want. Stay as long as two weeks at a stretch — then come back for more.

Most impressive is the range of opportunity. No matter how old your dog, or how young your kids, there is a trail for you at Wild Sky. For that matter, if you want a steep challenge — and that’s the right adjective — you can find that in the Wild Sky, too.

After nine years of wrangling, Congress this spring minted Washington state’s first new federally protected wilderness area in a generation. With 106,577 acres within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, north of the U.S. Highway 2 towns of Index and Skykomish, Wild Sky includes lowland rivers and forests to provide four seasons of recreation, all within an hour and a half of Seattle.

Trails also connect to the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area, as well as the Pacific Crest Trail for longer adventures.

Some trails are hard to access because of road closures, requiring a hike to the trailhead. And some others are for serious backcountry bushwhackers only. After all, this is a wilderness area, where people are intended to be only visitors. Wild Sky is not a park. There are no visitor centers, and no comfy facilities.

But there are family-friendly hikes in Wild Sky that virtually anyone can do, perfect for first-time hikers, and those out-of-town guests.

So strap on the boots — or heck, even just sneakers for some of these trails.

Come enjoy.

About Wild Sky Wilderness area

WHAT: 106,577 acres of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in the Cascade mountains. Unlike most other wilderness areas in Washington, Wild Sky includes low-elevation forests.

WHERE: North of Index and Skykomish, along Highway 2. Flanks, but does not include, the Beckler River and North Fork of the Skykomish River. Adjoins the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness on the east and northeast.

HISTORY: First new federally protected wilderness area in Washington since 1984. Signed into law May 8 of this year after it spent nine years being pushed through Congress in an effort led by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

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