Trail running can be an exciting change of pace for runners who generally pound out most of their miles on blacktop, pavement or concrete while burning up miles around town.
Unfortunately, many runners make the mistake of trying to go trail running while wearing their regular running shoes - shoes that were designed for running on hard, solid surfaces. Not trails.
Chances are that most runners who do not have experience with trail running believe that their regular running shoes will do just fine; and they promise themselves that they'll just be more careful with their footing and possibly run a little slower.
That theory can get you through a lot of miles injury free. But it's not the theory that is keeping you safe... it is simply luck.
As luck would have it, earlier in 2012 I found myself on a trail run along the Squires Lake trail while wearing my regular running shoes. My 'regular' trail runners used to be my regular running shoes until they wore out. My new 'regular' running shoes are designed for roads, not trails.
It only took a quarter mile and a moderate hill for physics to convince me that trail running really should not be done in shoes designed for running on the street. The added traction provided by 'trail running' shoes really do make a significant difference in traction with virtually every step.
My trail running story almost ended without incident. Almost.
It was literally the very last intentional step of my trail run that unexpectedly lost traction and resulted in a turned ankle. A very painful turned ankle. One that brought tears to my eyes and was painful enough that it took a full 20 minutes before I was able to conclude that it would be possible to drive home on my own. Thank goodness - I'd never live down a rescue call to Squires Lake Parking Lot.
With that history fresh in my mind, I had an opportunity to meet some friends for a post-work hike around the lake. No running (although I did end up wearing the same running shoes that I wore in the above noted incident).
My cohorts ended up not being able to join me so I spent some leisurely time just plodding around the lake, taking a few pictures here and there and taking care not to end up with any more injuries.
Here is the map of the lake and trails at the trail head.
I went in a clockwise direction around the lake, drawn in a green color.
The routes in red are paths that I've taken before (both hiking and running) and are worth following.
Here are some of the rules:
The route in a dashed yellow line is part of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT, a 1,200 mile trail from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean, learn more at pnt.org). This route leads along a wooded ridge crest with a steep cliff on the west side. It's a great trail for hiking, but the wrong step could be your last (running or hiking). Following the ridge will put you onto some logging roads and eventually lead you into the town of Alger, to the Alger-Cain Lake Road or up to the top of Alger Alp.
Alger Alp is the small hump in the center of this picture. It is a pretty prominent high point when viewed from other locations, including I-5.
Here is the first view of the lake, and a photo of a plaque near a bench which offers a nice place to sit and contemplate the scenery.
The beaver pond is kind of neat, but I have my doubts that the beavers are still there. The dam at the end of the trail is pretty small and doesn't seem to have changed much at all over the years that I've been visiting the site.
Along the road/path on the north side of the beaver pond there is a huge boulder (larger than a bus) with an interesting hole eroded in the side. Plus, there is room underneath the boulder to escape the wind and rain or possibly start a fire. Unexpectedly interesting. Possibly also on private property.
Squires Lake is located near the Skagit/Whatcom County Line along old Hwy 99, between Alger and the South Lake Samish I-5 exit.
There is a small parking area, enough for possibly 10 vehicles or so and a honey-bucket.
The trail is worth checking out if you have a little free time, but it's much too short for an entire day itinerary, unless you are a PNT thru-hiker of course.