A Visit to Noisy Creek

Trail through old-growth forest

April hikes in the North Cascades have to be at lower elevations unless you want to break out your snowshoes or skis. On a rainy Sunday it made sense for my friend Brian and me to choose the East Bank Baker Lake Trail and head to Noisy Creek. Neither of us had hiked this section of trail before.

At only 800 feet elevation, spring was in full swing along the trail. We inhaled deeply as we entered the woods, sucking in the sweet scent of moist humus and conifers. Much of the forest is old growth, the usual mix of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western redcedar, the understory a tangle of mossy logs and thickets of vine maples, salmonberries, and huckleberries. Without a trail it would be tough bushwhacking. Continue reading

Vendovi Island Forest

Posted on by
Harsh Paintbrush and Oregon Sunshine
Harsh Paintbrush and Oregon Sunshine at Paintbrush Point on Vendovi Island.

Last Saturday I joined a boatload (literally) of Washington Native Plant Society friends for a field trip to Vendovi Island. It’s one of the smaller of the San Juan Islands, located a few miles south of the southern tip of Lummi Island and northeast of Guemes Island. Up until 2010 it was privately held. Then the San Juan Preservation Trust purchased it and has opened it to the public from May through September.

We’d hoped to enjoy spectacular meadows of wildflowers on a couple of west-facing balds, but with our very warm and early spring the flowers were well past their prime. There was still a little camas blooming, and quite a bit of harsh paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, and death camas. Continue reading

Into the Woods

Sunday morning Natalie said, “let’s go for a walk in the woods” and I suggested we hike the loop trail at the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve near Lake Whatcom. It’s an easy 3-mile loop through nice old- and second-growth forest, perfect for a quick getaway on a morning when light rain threatened.

Beaver pond wetland

Beaver pond wetland

Just a tenth of a mile up the trail there’s a viewpoint to a large beaver-built wetland. This is the view from the trail, with the wetland framed by western redcedars, Douglas-firs, and red huckleberries. The wetland plants are still brown, not yet having started their spring growth in the cold water.

Continue reading

Lost Lake: Found in the Chuckanuts

How can you lose a lake? In the Chuckanut Mountains south of Bellingham you just bury the thing in a deep valley beneath a high sandstone cliff and ring it with lush Douglas-fir, hemlock, and cedar forest with a dense groundcover layer of salal, sword ferns, and low Oregon-grape. Add a muddy trail and you’ve got a perfect place to lose yourself for an afternoon.

That’s just what I did this afternoon under a sodden gray sky and chilly temperatures. Well, I didn’t actually get lost, but I did pay a visit to Lost Lake. Here’s the DNR map of the Chuckanut trail system I carried in my pack. You definitely want a map for the maze of trails up there, but it’s definitely worth it. Continue reading

Oysters and Hemlocks: Rekindling Old Friendships

January 1st, New Year’s Day, I donned shorts and boots and headed for Oyster Dome. That’s the prominent rock outcropping rising a couple thousand feet above Chuckanut Drive at the south end of the Chuckanuts or the north end of Blanchard Mountain. It’s a popular hike, despite being steep and muddy. I went for exercise and to rekindle old friendships with the inhabitants of the winter forest.

San Juan Islands view from Oyster Dome

The view from the top out over the San Juan Islands is spectacular. I made this photo handheld with my little Canon G12 pocket camera, planning to stitch the frames together later in Photoshop. Continue reading