Friday, September 10, 2010

Chuckanuts Fragrance Lake 09-09-10

Took a quick mid-day hike to Fragrance Lake today. It's been probably 20 years or so since my last hike up there.

The trail to Fragrance Lake begins along Chuckanut Drive, just across from Larrabee State Park. It also intersects with the Interurban Trail from Bellingham, but that would be a much longer trip.

This trail is easy to follow and well marked with solid tread, no mud, and nice boardwalk sections around parts of the lake (an Eagle Scout Project).

Many people visit this trail as it is one of the most popular in the Chuckanut area. Signage at the TH promises 0.9 miles to a viewpoint and 1.9 miles to the lake. In order to reach the lake you'll need to gain just over 1,000 feet of elevation... so it's far from a walk along a river. Most of the route is uphill.

Rising above Chuckanut Drive you'll pass through open forest populated with Cedar trees, Maple trees and Alders above with oceans of sword ferns on the forest floor.

As you ascend, the forest transitions to more evergreens and the sword ferns begin to be replaced with Salal and Oregon Grape. Currently, everything is green, but there are hints that fall is on its way already.

My recommendation is to save the viewpoint spur trail until the descent, unless you are in need of a break. After only .2 miles the spur dead ends with a fantastic view of the San Juan Islands (weather willing). This is one of the reasons this hike is worthwhile - so don't miss it!

The main trail eventually reaches the lake and splits to provide a full loop near the shoreline. My route followed a counterclockwise direction which seemed to be just fine.

Upon arrival at the lake the water was calm, but shortly thereafter the skies opened up and the rain started to fall, changing the scenery quite a bit.

Doing the counterclockwise direction stays close to the lake for the first half of the loop (nice and flat after all that elevation gain) before it climbs a little higher above the lake and underneath some very impressive rock cliffs that are about 200 feet high.

Camping is not allowed at the lake, but there are a lot of spots near the cliffs that would be somewhat protected from rain and weather. Plenty of evidence that others have made small campfires against the walls and it's surely a cozy spot after dark.

Upon completing the loop around the lake I noticed a definite boot path that seemed to head toward the top of the ridge/rock cliffs that I just passed underneath. Following that path led me along the top of the ridge, past the first highpoint and down a little ways to where I turned around. My turn around occurred because there hadn't been any views of the lake, but a late review of the map indicates there is a second bump on that ridge. It's probable that the lake views may be had from that location. Bump number 2 will be at the top of my Objective list next time I'm in the neighborhood.

Round trip, including diversions was about 5.25 miles and about 1,400 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Trail head is at about 100 feet or so and lake is at about 1,300 feet or so.

Don't leave your valuable in your car at the trail head. Theft is common. Consider parking at Larrabee State Park and walking the extra .2 miles to the trail head instead.

Happy Trails!

PS: In case you are wondering about the trip report for my recent trip to Church Mountain... it's in progress. I'm just distracted by life and it's resulting in delayed photo editing and wordsmithing. It's coming soon.

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