Bainbridge Island has many miles of fun and challenging trails – most maintained by our wonderful Metro Parks & Recreation District.
An interesting little hike we discovered during the Pandemic is the Oddfellows Trail located – not surprisingly – on Oddfellows Road on the south end of the island, about a mile or so south east of Lynwood Center.
It has a number of historic tie-ins, not only to the Odd Fellows charitable movement of the late 17th century, but also the Japanese community that lived near and around the Port Blakely Mill in the 1880s.
As you meander up Oddfellows Road NE from Lynwood– in your car, on foot or by bike – heading in the direction of the trailhead, look to your left as you ascend the hill and you’ll spot a large yellow house. This substantial-looking structure was built in 1912 and is the Island’s former Odd Fellows Hall. It now appears to be a private residence.
Although as much as we tried, we were unable to gather any worthwhile information about the organization’s involvement on the island, how many members it had, and/or what its mission was. If you, or someone you know, can provide some background or history, please let us know and we’ll share it with our readers. Meanwhile, for information on the origins of the Odd Fellows movement in general, visit: https://odd-fellows.org/history/
All right, so back to the hike. Finding the trailhead is no slam-dunk. Drive, walk, or bike past W. Blakely Avenue and venture about an eighth of a mile past the last house on the right. There, a forest begins, and on the side of the road you’ll see a green signpost with yellow lettering that says “Oddfellows Trail”.
The trailhead has space for maybe two cars at best, so plan accordingly. You can also do this hike in reserve from Blakely Harbor Park, where there is more parking available. But let’s start at the trailhead on Oddfellows.
We’ve combed this trail a number of times after first “discovering” it in or around the spring of 2021 –about a year into the Covid-19 scare. Not long into our first foray on the Oddfellow, we spied a Pileated Woodpecker hard at work choppy away on the side of a tall Red Cedar Tree. He or she looked pretty content and didn’t notice us staring up at them a few feet below.
Although situated just off the road, the initial stretch of the trail is loaded with tall cedars, a few older Douglas Firs, and plenty of Alders, Maples and other forest varieties. Because of the density of the trail, it can be muddy or moist even during the summer months, so be sure to wear sensible shoes.
After about three-fourths of a mile, the Oddfellow wends to the right on a 90-degree angle turn and connects with the Tani Creek Trail. This path runs along Tani Creek Road and past the entrance to some nice homes hidden in the woods and goes by Kono Lane on up to Yama Ridge Lane, across the street.
Walk down Yama Ridge Lane, which is a gravel road, and you’ll see a sign that says “West Harbor Farms.” Even though the sign says “private,” neighbors have assured us that it’s okay to walk or bike this short stretch that eventually connects to the west side of the Blakley Harbor Trail.
As you traverse this section, you’ll again see a diverse forest, with lots of ferns poking up from the ground. The last time we were on this stretch, we noticed a huge maple tree branch hanging over the trail wrapped in ferns and moss. It was a magnificent site, but it may not be there any more.
This trail ends at a small parking lot on Country Club Road. Cross the road and you’ll see another trail that runs along the road and wraps around the outside of Blakely Harbor adjacent to Blakely Road.
Follow this trail, and intermediate signage, and you’ll eventually come to a relatively new walking and biking bridge that crosses a narrow piece of the Harbor. On the way, you’ll see a large concrete structure – possibly a remnant of the Port Blakely Mill – that is now covered with some interesting graffiti applied by local artists.
Just before the bridge is an information kiosk chock full of information on Yama, a mostly Japanese community that existed on or near this very site from the 1880s to 1922. It had about 300 residents and included a hotel, a general store, a photo studio, and a community center that acted as a temple, as well as a school for kids, according to archeologists that have examined the site.
There aren’t any structures left from the village, but a team of students from Olympic College and their archeology professor found about 4,000 artifacts there over a two-year dig that took place some five or six year ago.
According to a media report at the time, their findings included objects as large as a cement water cistern and brick water heater to small items, such as pieces of porcelain kitchen supplies.
To find out more about the 2016 architectural dig and the Japanese community who once lived there visit: https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/japanese-village-unearthed-100-years-later-on-bainbridge-island/281-307049662
More about Bainbridge Island’s parks and trails: https://theislandwanderer.com/outdoors-here-we-come/
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