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!


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