Finally, a combination of blue skies and a day off of work allowed for a half day hike with a friend.
Afternoon commitments kept us from enjoying fresh snow in the mountains, so we settled for an outing in the Chuckanuts to photograph some local views.
My friend is a long time resident of the pacific northwest and has previously been to Oyster Dome and Fragrance Lake, but when I learned that he had never hiked up the Pine/Cedar Lake trail there was no question about where we needed to go.
The trail to Pine/Cedar Lake is notoriously steep. Not impossibly steep, but unquestionably it is 'training steep'.
Our route was about 6.5 miles round trip and between 2,100 (topo software) to 2,500 (gps) feet of elevation gain. While that may not sound like serious elevation for that distance (at least, not to all the local North Cascade hikers), virtually all the elevation is gained in the first two miles of trail: about 850 feet of elevation gain for each of the first two miles. Yep, it's a thigh burner.
We hit the trail about 9:00am and steadily made our way up the trail to the junction with the Raptor Ridge trail. At the junction we decided to ascend directly to the viewpoints via the unmarked shortcut route (go left at the junction and then left again on the unsigned trail just 50 feet or so away). Taking this shortcut helped us to crank out all the serious elevation gain at the beginning to get it over with.
At the high point of the trail there are three viewpoints.
The first viewpoint looks over southern Bellingham: the Happy Valley neighborhood, Sehome High School, Sehome Hill and points northward. WWU and downtown are hidden by Sehome Hill and evergreens block the westward view toward Fairhaven and eastward views to whatever is to the east. It's a view... but not one that earned a photo spot in this trip report.
The second viewpoint allows you to peek over Lookout Mountain to enjoy a view of Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters peaks (provided the clouds are cooperative). Today we were lucky to have views of both.
Mount Baker: 30 miles away as the crow flies, at 10x zoom.
Twin Sisters Range: 21 miles away as the crow flies, at ~10x zoom.
A short distance away is the westward view looking over the San Juan Islands. I think this is Lummi Island on the right, with Orcas Island behind it (Mt Constitution is 17 miles away) and to the left might be Cypress and Guemes Islands.
After soaking up the sunshine, snapping a few photos and resting the quads, we continued along the trail, descending to Cedar Lake.
Eventually we completed the Loop back to the main trail and opted to visit Raptor Ridge instead of Pine Lake.
I had been to Raptor Ridge once before and couldn't recall what the ridge view encompassed. Well, it turns out to be just a Chuckanut territorial view. No water (salt or fresh) or mountains. Honestly, it was pretty much an anti-climatic viewpoint, at an exposed rock outcropping with a sizable drop off.
WAIT! Don't put this on your "Don't Bother" list. There is a good reason to hike your burning quads out here.
There are a couple of unique features within the final 500 yards of the Raptor Ridge trail.
This last part of the trail takes you along the base of some beautiful moss carpeted boulder-ish cliffs. These are really amazing cliffs/boulders. They are all moss carpeted, with numerous holes worn away in their massive sides from (presumably) years upon years of water wearing away at the rocks surface. What I can't figure out is how those holes were worn away in those particular locations.
Geologists: next time you are in the Chuckanuts and are looking for a hiking buddy, please let me know!
My point here is simply that the view isn't "all that", but the final part of this trail is absolutely worth the time and effort to see it. The problem is that all this good stuff is so close to the end of the trail that most people probably pass it right by, getting all giddy for the view and completely miss this wonderful setting.
Here is a cute little mushroom growing in some moss on the side of a tree next to the trail.
The other interesting thing I noted at the end of this trail were the markings on the Raptor Ridge rock. They look like fossils of bird feet... or maybe they are just the results of dissatisfied hikers vandalizing the natural rock to make other people think they are bird feet fossils.
I'm pretty sure it would be a good idea to have a geologist stationed out here to answer these questions.
Enough rambling... go visit Raptor Ridge and let me know what you think.