Thursday, May 19, 2011

Baker Lake's Maple Grove 05-14-11

Baker Lake, located south of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan offers a pleasant trail along its east side - perfect for a one or two night backpack shuttle hike.

Last Saturday, with almost blue skies, the Maple Grove campground along the Baker Lake trail was selected as our destination of choice due to its lack of snow, likelihood of solitude and limited elevation gain.

Not holding our breath for dry weather, Rachel, Steve and canine Rudy arrived in time for a 9:30am departure.

The trail head is located at the south end of the lake, just a mile or so beyond the Baker dam. It's easy to find, but parking is limited to about 15 cars or so. When we arrived we were surprised to find 10 vehicles already in place.

Similar to my visit from five years ago (trip #13), the Baker Lake trail has an abundance of green. The filtered sunlight cast us in a bright springtime shade of lime.

The trail descends slowly down toward the lake, crossing numerous small stream on sturdy trail bridges. Ferns along the first half mile of the trail were still flatter than a flitter after being pressed under a winter load of snow. No doubt they'll spring up quickly but the snow must have been lingering here until just a short while ago.

The trail remains a hundred or two hundred feet above the lake until you reach Anderson Creek. At Anderson Creek you'll find a cockeyed but sturdy log bridge in place that will enable you to keep your feet dry as you cross. It even has a wire handrail - but most people will have to stoop down a bit to use it.

Also at Anderson Creek you can (currently) view where the bank has slid away, allowing massive cedar trees to drop down to the creek level.

With a little hands and feet action, it is possible to make your way down to the lake at the creek crossing. Instead of doing that, we opted to continue along the trail another 1/10th of a mile to a side trail which leads to the first campground. The trail was clear until just before the campsites where a huge tree has fallen parallel to and basically on top of the trail. A footpath is beginning to be made around it and shortly thereafter you'll find an easy access point to the lake shore.

We stopped here for pictures, a snack and for those of us with four-paw-drive, a swim.

Our intended destination is the point of land on the right side.

Rudy, with Mt. Baker in the background:

The trail remained green. Flowers also decided to make a periodic appearance.

Rudy was still going strong.

We eventually returned to the main trail and continued northward to the second camping area which is the Maple Grove Campground.

Time for lunch - but not where we could smell the skunk.

You can see that the trail rises higher above the lake than what is indicated on the topo map.

Took some videos while at the Maple Grove campground. they aren't ready yet, but I'll post them in the near future. In the meantime, here is a panorama from the south (left) to the north (right). You might get a better view if you click on the picture (but no promises).

Finally we began the long trek back. Basically, it was the same as on the way in, except a little more uphill, the dog was a little bit less energetic, a little more skittish and pretty entertaining.

Crossing Anderson Creek the second time:

Returned to the car without incident.

Round trip was about 8.75 miles and a cumulative elevation gain (due to the ups and downs) of more than 1,200 feet (it felt like less).

Stopped at the Skagit River Brewery in downtown Mt. Vernon for a fantastic tasting beer and some awesome grub that really hit the spot! Highly recommended by all three of us, FWIW.

This is a great trail for hikers of all ages and abilities.

Happy Trails!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Itinerary for 05-14-2011

We will be starting the day off with a hike along the luscious shores of Baker lake and maybe a few local points of interest such as the Shadow of the Sentinels trail and local campground options.

You can read about my original visiti to Baker Lake on nwhikers... trip #13, from more than five years ago!

Hiking with Rachel, Steve and Rudy.

Happy Trails!


Monday, May 9, 2011

Whistle Lake to Sugarloaf Mtn (ACFL) 04-22-11

People freqently mention the Anacortes Community Forest Land (ACFL) trails when locals talk about hiking. It's a favorite of hikers, bikers and walkers - for all seasons and in all weather conditions.

My first visit to the ACFL's finally came about a couple months ago when I ventured out for a long trail run on the Heart Lake trails. Heart lake is one of three main ACFL areas.

My second visit to the ACFL's occurred on April 22, 2011 when I made my first visit to Whistle Lake and hiked around to a number of viewpoints, culminating with a highpoint referred to as Sugarloaf Mountain.

Whistle Lake, just outside of Anacortes, is a rather typical northwest-cascade-foothills-chuckanut type of lake. A bit scenic, in a 'it's nice to be here, sure beats sitting in a cubicle' kind of way, but... meh, it's just a natural lake. There seems to be a kind of island in the middle, and parts of the lake have some sizable cliffs down to the water, adding a bit to the scenic beauty.

Using a downloaded/printed pdf map of the ACFL Trails, I managed to wind myself around one side of the lake, up to little round flat mountain, visited a couple "View" points which didn't actually have any views and then made my way to the top of Sugarloaf.

Little round flat mountain:

The Madronna trees are peeling.

Sugarloaf Mtn is a high point near everyone's favorite Mt. Erie.

San Juan views from Sugarloaf:

Mt. Erie is a favorite because it is 'the' local high point, but it also has the benefit of having a paved road to the top, viewpoints with actual views AND a load of rock climbing opportunities.

Here is Mt. Erie, with the antenna's on top:

The trails were well marked - and provided you had the right map - it was pretty easy to determine your exact location and confidently decide which direction you could/should go. The downloadable/pdf maps have a lot more detail than the one map I found on the trail:

Here is the gps track of my route. Starting point was the yellow dot a ways north of Whistle Lake (might want to click on it to get the zoom-in version). Again, the downloadable ACFL PDF maps have a lot more detail.

From Big Rock Excursions

Maps of the area can be purchased at the Lake Erie store (as others reported) but you can download pdf versions for free from the Pacific Northwest Trail Association website. Go do it now so you have them before you jump in the car.

Saw some Indian Paintbrush blooming in some sunny areas, but found a lot more skunk cabbage, relatively speaking.

All in all, a nice local outing that provided a little variety and some worthwhile elevation gains.

Some trails allow mountain bikes, fwiw, although I only saw two the entire time after I left the parking lot.

Round trip was 7.1 miles and a cummulative elevation gain of 1,167 feet. Taking out all the route deviations that I took along the way to Sugarloaf, the shortest distance from Whistle Lake to Sugarloaf is probably about 2.6 miles. Of course, you could park near Mt. Erie and it would be substantially shorter. Again, go get those maps!

The third ACFL area is Cranberry Lake. Probably I'll make a swing by there sometime in the next twelve months or so just for the purpose of completing the ACFL trio.

Next hike is coming right up... less than a week away!

Happy Trails!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Sauk River Mines 04-20-11

Darrington, WA

After a couple days of lowland hikes involving snow, it was time to find a lowland hike that WOULDN'T involve snow.

Uninspired as to a destination, memories of a recent trip report from Gil surfaced in my mind. A river, a logging town, the promise of washed out roads, easy access mines and in-your-face mountain views became the perfect ingredients for s sunny Wednesday afternoon of carefree exploring.

The North Fork of the Sauk River used to have a road that followed alongside it. Until Mother Nature stepped in, a few times, to reclaim what was once hers.

There are three main roads leading to Darrington and the Sauk River. These are the routes used by the 'average bear'.

Believing myself to be smarter than the average bear on this particular day, I decided to take the shortcut to Darrington from Mt. Vernon. such a shortcut would turn a 90 degree route into a straight 'hypotenuse' route. This shortcut leads directly from Lake Cavanaugh to Oso along the Lake Cavanaugh Road, from Hwy 9 to Hwy 530.

Well, that's what the map led me to believe.

A little online research would have been a good idea before I departed. Actually, it would have been a GREAT idea.

I was excited to go visit Lake Cavanaugh on my way to Darrington. All my years here have never provided me an opportunity to visit. Well, it wasn't too exciting in all honesty. A nice little out of the way community with a road that goes all the way around the lake. I drove it. Much of the lake loop is a narrow, 1 lane road with huge cliffs above and a huge drop to the lake below. Water seeping everywhere - just waiting for the right moment for a landslide event - IMO.

At the furthest end of the lake, I do recall an even more narrow road that appeared to go up into the logged hills. Not a friendly destination for a solo hiker in an aging Camry. This MUST have been the shortcut - but it wasn't marked and it didn't matter because I wouldn't have driven it anyway.

Decided that my shortcut either didn't exist or that the shortcut did exist and was either this logging type road and deemed it likely to be gated. So, I had to backtrack all the way to Hwy 9. A 45 minute detour. DOH!

Finally, after passing through Arlington and eventually reaching Oso, what do I find? The Lake Cavanaugh Road! Maybe it is a legitimate shortcut! Maybe it isn't. Now that I was short on time I decided to leave that mystery for Mary Kat and Ashley to solve. Or I'll do it next time I'm in the neighborhood.

Shortly after Oso, the scenery gets quite impressive.

Shortly thereafter you'll find yourself in Darrington. Head to the north on the Mountain Loop Highway a very short distance then turn East to cross the river. Park at the quarry and start hiking.

It's all views and mines and river.

I think the blue blobs in this next picture must be drops of water that are falling off the ceiling and plopping into the pool of water at the bottom. Either that or ghosts, like from Ghostbusters.

Looking up from the entrance to the third mine shows a nice moss carpet hidden by ferns dangling toward you.

Less than 3.5 miles of hiking (round trip) if you go to where the road disappears. At that point, if you want to continue you'll need to climb down to the rivers edge and do your own exploring from there.

All three mines I photographed were right alongside the road. Somewhat hard to see in the spring growth, but all were flagged. You won't miss them if you pay attention, but I do not recommend going inside the mines.

A perfect destination for an easy day hike, if you don't mind the drive.

Locals promised me that from this point, driving back to Mt. Vernon takes about the same amount of time if you head up to Hwy 20/Rockport or return via Arlington. I chose the Rockport route to complete the loop, but I'm sure curious about that shortcut.

One more trip report to go... coming soon: Whistle Lake and Sugarloaf Mtn in the ACFL.

Happy Trails!