Down the rabbit hole at Greenbank Farm

In the years since the Greenbank Farm was purchased by Island County in 1997, the 522 acres of fields and forest have played host to hundreds of activities.

But quietly, almost every day since the county plunked down $2.8 million for the farm, county residents have been using the farm as a place to walk and hike. Starting on paths cut through high grass and maintained to this day by Greenbank resident Hank Vyrostek, those looking to get fit on their feet have done so on more than three miles of both grassland and forest trails. Though not nearly as heavily used by walkers and hikers as trail parks such as The Kettles in Coupeville and Deception Pass State Park north of Oak Harbor, the Greenbank Farm has a good deal of exploring and scenery to offer the day hiker or fitness walker.

Getting there: To get to the Greenbank Farm, get on Highway 20 on the north end of Whidbey Island and head south, or get on Highway 525 in the south and head north. The farm is located on the east side of the highway between Wonn Road and Elwood Drive. Just look for the rolling fields and pasture land filled with alpacas. Parking is available by the big red barns. Trails can also be accessed at the Lake Hancock overlook.

The hike: The trails at the Greenbank Farm don’t offer much of a challenge in terms of terrain, but easily keep the casual walker or hiker engaged with the natural world. On the farm field paths, which cut across nearly every portion of the farm, the cut grass trails are easy to walk and wind through a wonderland of wildflowers and grasses. Some of the trails run alongside the alpaca pens at the farm: On some days, the more adventurous of these wool animals will even come to the fence for a greeting.

During the spring, it is best to keep moving briskly, as nearby lakes and ponds do breed their fair share of mosquitoes.

To get to the forest loop trail, hikers and walkers should get to the extreme northern edge of the fields and walk the borderline path to the trail head. The forest trail — which was a logging road in past years — runs with nearly no elevation gain through young, third-growth forest. Since it is not heavily used, hikers should come with appropriate clothing for pushing thorny berry vines and nettle plants out of they way. Also, be ready to stop, as some of the berry vines have created an Alice in Wonderland environment on portions of the trail, growing over the top in such a way that one can’t help but fell like Alice walking into the White Rabbit’s hole.

The trail surface is dirt and tree needles, so under dry conditions it’s easy to walk in almost any footwear. During the wet of the spring, however, a pair of hiking boots is a good idea, if only to make it through the occasional quagmire.

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