Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cumberland Creek 10-17-2010

A few weeks ago, Vince Richardson's Hike of the Week (published in the Skagit Valley Herald) introduced me to the Cumberland Creek trail.

This hike is relatively short, but also low elevation and close to home, making it a good choice for when you have limited time, sketchy weather or want to take the kids to play by the Skagit River.

Sunday afternoon provided clear skies, but also only a short window for me to escape out the South Skagit Highway to make a first visit to this trail.

Located on Skagit Land Trust property, the Cumberland Creek trail is located at about the 12.5 mile mark on the South Skagit Highway (which intersects Highway 9 where it crosses the Skagit River between Sedro-Woolley and Clear Lake.

It's about a 20 minute drive from Sedro-Wooley or about 35 minutes from Mount Vernon.

I've only been up the Skagit Highway a couple times so it was nice to find out there is a quality view of Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters range from this route.

The trail head is easy to find: just turn left at the marker indicating 34183 South Skagit Highway and look for the gate. Park where there is room, without blocking the neighbors driveway.

At the gate you'll find a Skagit Land Trust sign, and hopefully you'll also find an interpretive trail map. This map is actually very interesting and informative. Grab one if you can.

This is an interpretive trail with five specific stations to visit. The pamphlet has a rough map on the back and tells a lot of interesting facts about each of the five markers. My route direction involved staying to the left until reaching the river, then took the middle route on the way back and then the trail on the right out to the river again.

Here is an image of my route (it's more precise than the pamphlet map).

The route follows an old road from the gate to station #1.

Notice that the markers are simply that: markers. You'll wish you had a pamphlet to read all about what you didn't know.

Staying to the left after Marker #1 will bring you to the oxbow lake and also a tree-mounted shelter for homeless ducks at Station #4.

Continuing on will bring you to marker #5, at the river. There is a nice riverfront beach here. It's not very sandy, but it has a nice shoreline and the river (well, before the current round of rain) was calm, quiet, clear and shallow. A nice place to relax, have a picnic, or cool your feet in the shallow water.

Well, it was nice and relaxing, until I stumbled across this salmon carcass. this is the not-gruesome version.

Sufficiently disgusted relaxed, I backtracked to the trail to go find station #3.

Along the way I noticed this HUGE leaf. Not sure what tree it was from... not a maple, thought it might be an alder (but alders don't usually produce such large leaves). Maybe it's a Cottonwood? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Eventually passed Marker #2 where the pamphlet points out the numerous tree varieties in the area. Found a chatty squirrel while taking pics of trees with moss and ferns.

Eventually I reached checkpoint #3 down near the river on the right portion of trail in the above map. Here I found a more rocky beach with less shoreline and animal tracks in the sand.

All in all it was a nice hike. Just under 3.5 miles of trail and elevation gain must be less than 20 feet.

Here is a short video from the river and also of the squirrel who wasn't too happy about my visit:

Thanks, Vince, for writing up this trail, otherwise I probably never would have known it existed.

For those of you looking for a little bit 'more', try locating some of the waterfalls in the area via

Monday, October 11, 2010

Anderson & Watson Lakes 10-9-10

Finally made a first visit to the popular Anderson and Watson Lakes trail.

This trail is located east of Baker Lake, off Hwy 20/Baker Lake Road and crosses into the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness.

Lots of fall color and a ton of blueberries this time of year. *yum*

Due to the limited visibility on account of the weather we opted to bypass the Anderson Butte side trip but will get it the next time I'm in the neighborhood. This side trip ascends to where the Anderson Butte Fire Lookout used to sit.

Rain was in the forecast, so we packed accordingly and managed to all stay substantially dry and very comfortable during most of the hike.

The hike started with alternating light rain or no rain on and off for the first 3/4 of the hike and then the precipitation increased significantly for hike out from East Watson Lake to the trail head. By the time we reached the vehicles, my raincoat was just starting to soak through in places.

We followed the trail through forest, meadows and more forest down to Anderson Lake:

Meadow in the Anderson Lake basin:

We then ascended the short but steep section through trees and a rocky trail back to the trail junction in the upper meadow, enjoying fall colors all the way:

Following the sign toward Watson Lake the trail ascends to a saddle between Anderson Butte and, well, some other high point... probably a shoulder of Mt. Watson. On the way up to the saddle you can look back down on the meadow through the trees and see part of the boardwalk:

A short distance beyond the saddle, the trail crosses into the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness and an immediate view over Watson Lake and East Watson Lake (in the distance):

When the weather is better there are probably top notch views from here.

The trail quickly descends directly to Watson Lake:

Following the trail around the lake in a clockwise direction takes you to a crossing of the Lake Watson outflow, over a little crest and then down to East Watson Lake. We stopped for a not-quite dry lunch under a cedar tree in the clearing to the left in the below picture.

Due to all the rain, there were a number of spectacular waterfalls raging down Mt. Watson. A couple are faintly visible in the picture below.

During our short lunch break the rain decided to start turning up the intensity a bit, so we packed up and began the hike out. Here you can see the amount of water present on the trail. In the background is the saddle that we'll hike up and over on the way out.

Mountain Ash, changing color with it's striking red berries.

From the saddle, another picture of Watson and East Watson. Our route crossed over the outflow just visible in the middle-left of the picture:

For being such a popular trail, we were surprised to encountered less than a hand full of people on the trail. A couple with two dogs passed us on their way out and we saw a couple of people on the opposite side of Anderson Lake. Other than that, we had the entire place to ourselves.

Lots of chit-chat, lots of fall colors, lots of blueberries, lots of rain, lots of wildlife droppings on the trail and a lot of fun.

The 10 mile long forest service road was in good condition, although there was a section where a creek appears to be flowing over the road, but it was easily navigated in my Camry. It probably needs to be put on the maintenance list by someone, somewhere.

As others had promised, this is a really neat hike.

I'd highly recommend to to anyone who isn't looking for solitude. It's a great kid hike and dogs are allowed.

Round trip was a short 3.5 miles or so and about 1,200 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Opting to do the side trip to Anderson Butte probably adds a mile or two and an extra 500 feet of elevation gain.

Here is a video compilation which includes most of these pictures, plus some actual video footage of the worst variety. Set to a nice rock-n-roll tune. With french lyrics just to spice it up a little.

Happy Trails!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Itinerary for Saturday 10/9/10

Planning on a wet dayhike with Rachel, Steve, their dog and their friend Terri out to Watson and Anderson Lakes, located east of Baker Lake off Hwy 20.

Expecting to be back in time for dinner in Anacortes that night (and in cell phone contact by sunset).

As far as Sunday goes... well, it all depends on how dry my gear is after the Saturday excursion.

Happy Trails!


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fall Colors: Oct 9 and 10th

Expecting to enjoy a fall-colors hike next Saturday, or Sunday, or hopefully both.

Who, What, Where and When all still TBD, but drop me a note if you'd like to try and join in the fun. Open to itinerary suggestions, too!