Round two of my Chuckanut exploration; this time in the northern section which included an overnighter at Pine Lake. This whole Chuckanut area is quite the area to explore in shoulder season and includes a myriad of trails; all just south of Bellingham. First off I'll give you directions on how to get to this northern area where this trip report focuses:
-Interstate 5 south to exit #250 (old fairhaven)head west on the parkway.
- Turn left (south) onto 30th St and take that to it's end where you'll turn left onto
-Old Samish Way. Skatchoodle along that for a couple kms and you will see this on your right:
Plenty of parking at the trailhead and no passes are needed..hurray!
I would highly recommend a topo map of the area called "Chuckanut Recreation Area" by Square One Maps, which is available at REI. Has all the trails and distances.
So now with that out of the way, henceforth shall I begin my trip report.
This was to be my first real foray into ultralight (UL) backpacking in anticipation of bigger trips to come, so I wanted a pretty light base pack weight (base pack weight meaning pack and gear, but not including variables like food, beer, water or fuel). I managed to get it down to 6kg without taking any cooking gear, so that's light enough to lug around for day exploration too.
With my pack carefully packed and taking along my lucky Alex Lifeson concert guitar pick, I set off for the Chuckanut after work on Friday and got to the trailhead by 5:30 after a quick stop at my favorite Hagen Store for food and necessary beer. It's a tough store in one sense since the REI is right there as well. I had to kick in my mantra as I left the store "I don't need to go to REI, I don't need to go to REI", which fortunately this time was successful.
The skies were clear and the air fairly warm. Chance of showers forecast for Saturday but I was not worried as I had my powerful umbrella along that seems to ward off rain showers.
Trailhead at the parking lot is fairly obvious:
Elevation gain to Pine/ Cedar Lakes is around 1300 feet and most of that is gained in the first mile. This trail starts off at a good grade right from the get-go. Beginning as what seems to be an old logging road, it eventually tapers off into more of a nice wide path and some nice forest along the way:
Cedar Lake is first and is a .2 mile detour. I opted to go straight to Pine lake instead which was another .6 miles and a bit rougher trail. Seems most people stop at Cedar and don't continue to Pine. Both Pine and Cedar Lakes have two separate campsite areas.
When you get to Pine Lake, you come to some boardwalks like this:
If you go left, you follow boardwalks to a sort of an island where there is a campsite and better lake views. That one was taken, so I backtracked and went right to this site:
The lakeshore in this area:
Okay not the prettiest, but Pine will do for the night.
Total distance to Pine I believe was 2.1 miles which I did in just under an hour. Now uh oh I had a bit of a crisis on my hands. I had beer, which was Sierra Nevada's Torpedo IPA; a great go-to beer, but in my UL zest I forgot to pack a beer glass. Doggone it I'll have to drink my beer straight out of the can like a barbarian.
And now for something completely different, Skunk Cabbage:
Had a good sleep that night until sometime in the morning when what I would call a ruckus of girls came upon my humble campsite chattering away like squirrels who found the motherlode of nuts. Fortunately they trepsed off, perhaps to the other campsite. Ah well time to get up anyway.
Now not having anything to cook makes the whole breakfast/ packing up thing alot quicker which was nice considering I had slept in til 09:30 and I had places to go!
I was outta there before 10:30 and went to the other campsite which has a nice peninsula with great lake views and a nice place to get some decent water from the lake:
Okay now it was time to head back to Cedar Lake and see how it compared to Pine. Well turns out Cedar is quite a bit nicer with a more defined shoreline:
From Cedar I sauntered up the hill to a viewpoint, which then went down the other side to rejoin with the hemlock trail.
Old logging cables are frequent along the trail:
Nice forest up top
Now the first viewpoint that is supposed to look north to Bellingham is pretty much overgrown. There is however a second viewpoint looking northeast that has some potential were it a clearer day:
Now I had planned to head over to Lost Lake, which is a few miles to the south and this is where I should have relied on my map more than on signage. The thing is that the signposts, and they are at pretty much all of the junctions, told me with arrows this way to the Lost Lake trail. Like this one:
Problem is though is that these signs were taking me to the beginning of the Lost Lake Trail. I didn't figure this out until I saw a sign for Chuckanut Falls and checked out on my map where Chuckanut falls was. Holy Toledo I was practically at Interstate 5!
Nice falls though:
Well that whole little episode really shook my biscuits, but I was hoping to get a good 15 miles of hiking in anyway. Okay nooooow onto Lost Lake.
I should add that I encountered quite a fair number of dayhikers; many with dogs off-leash. I have no problems whatsoever with this and didn't see any feces along the trail which was great. I'm just mentioning this since it looks to be a pretty dog-friendly area should anyone want to take their poochy out for a good hike and not have to worry about leashing. The trail down to Lost lake is fairly level and heavily forested like all of the other trails. The forest varies between alder and some nice older stands of hemlock
Now just before Lost Lake, there's an option to go left or right around the lake. Going right gives you lake views like this:
Going left gets you right down to the lake:
Okay, it's 3pm and I wanted to be back at the car by 5:30. Time to mosey on back. This time I backtrack north up the Lost Lake trail until 1.8 miles later I get to the Raptor Ridge Trail which takes me over to Hemlock and then the Pine/ Cedar Lakes trail. Didn't really see much of a ridge, or Raptors for that matter, but the trail was nice. There even was a Charlie Brown Christmas tree:
Okay ladies, time to take down the ornaments eh?
Anyway I got back to my car exactly at 5:30 and promptly headed over to McKay's taphouse in Bellingham where unfortunately not a seat was to be has as there was a Sierra Nevada tap takeover. Drat that would have been good. Just went home instead. However the day ended up being somewhere around 15 miles over 7 hours of hiking. Here's a map with a greyed over route:
No I didn't go off-trail just north of Lost Lake, just hit a weird bump with my mouse as I was drawing the line.
Great forested walks out there to be had and a whole lot of trails for exploration in an easy to get to area