Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hike 7 of 47 - Pilchuck Tree Farm

Hike 7 of 47 - Pilchuck Tree Farm in Stanwood, Washington

January 14, 2012 - I'm just getting around to finishing up this blog entry!
Pilchuk Glass School during a sunny, winter day (not the day of this hike!)

Northwest Washington was hit with a mammoth (for us) snowstorm mid-January that left our area with 6-18" of snow. So, we decided to go for a snowy hike/run in preparation for the Orcas Island 25 that was fast approaching. Kerrie, Ashley and I bundled up (a little) and headed to Stanwood for some brisk, snowy miles. We were accompanied by Jack, my German Shepherd and Oliver who is Ashley's Jack Russell Terrier. And if I may say so, Oliver looked quite dashing in his plaid coat.

Located near Pilchuck Glass Studio, Pilchuck Tree Farm is exactly what its' name implies: a tree farm. There are forested areas and clear-cut areas, logging roads and trails. The trails are used by hikers, joggers, mountain bikers and equestrians.  Oh, and loggers too, but fortunately I've never run into anyone working in my visits. On this very snowy day we saw what looked like hunters, but I don't know if they actually were hunting or just dressed the part. At Pilchuck, you are in and out of the trees. The trails tend to be on the muddy side, especially in the spring. 

There is a labyrinth of trails here and it's easy for me to get turned around and subsequently lost. This is where my GPS comes in extremely handy. I love this little gadget, not only for the normal GPS features like pace, speed, distance and calories burned, but at places like this I really like, and use, the "Out & Back" feature, that you can follow your exact route back to the starting point. Another feature is the "map" that allows me to see on a field exactly where I am and where I want to be. If the terrain permits and I'm short on time, I can amble in the right direction by watching the directional arrow on the GPS unit until I'm back at my car. Now, if there are mountains and bodies of water, you can skirt around them while still seeing your destination. There are miles and miles of trails here, that's I've only just begun to explore. Ashley knows her way around here fairly well, but on this day she would probably be doing a lot of running with some occasional hiking. Having the GPS would be important for Kerrie and I who were mostly hiking with a little jogging thrown in for fun. Fun? Did I just say jogging and fun in the same sentence?

Jack loves a snowy hike.
After donning our hats and gloves, Ashley, Kerrie, Jack, Oliver and I hit the snowy trails. The depth of the snow varied from 2" to 8", although some spots sure seemed like more than that! The snow makes hiking and jogging a super-duper cardio workout. Ashley was marking the trail with ribbons for our friends who wanted to run that loop. That meant she jogged a bit then stopped to tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree....oh wait....I got lost in an old 70's tune for a moment. She also put in some extra miles jogging ahead and then back to Kerrie and I.

Almost to the top, on the south side is a big clear cut. From here one can see Lake McMurray. While the views are beautiful, standing among the stumps isn't. I believe Whitehorse Mountain is visible from this vantage point on a more clear day. 
Looking southeast, approx. elevation 1,100'
Up at the top of the hill in the Pilchuck Tree Farm, which my GPS recorded as 1,402' elevation,  is a monument and a couple of benches. It provides fantastic views to the north in which you can see Conway, Mount Vernon, Anacortes and the San Juan Islands. It's also a great spot to take a break, have a snack or lay down in the beautiful meadow on a sunny day.
Monument at the top, looking north.
Time was running short and I had to get to work. We headed back down the trail, taking a slightly different route back to our cars. We arrived at our respective vehicles with cold hands and wet feet. This was a beautiful, invigorating hike that is close to home. I hope that we get some snow next winter so that I can find more snowy hikes. This is a place that I will definitely return to again to put in more miles.
Ashley & Kerrie

Me and Ashley

7 miles
3 hours
1,170 calories
830' elevation gain

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hike 11 of 47 - Heart Lake in Anacortes, Washington

April 30, 2012
Heart Lake
Jack and I at the north end of Heart Lake

Today we crossed our fingers for decent weather and headed out to Heart Lake in Anacortes. There are some wonderful hikes in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL) and we were on the hunt for an easy one as today was going to be the first day that my one year old grandson Oliver rode in a backpack. Up until now, he'd been carried in the frontpack. 
Something very interesting on the forest floor

The ACFL includes roughly 35 miles of multi-use trails. While you will see mostly hikers, horses and mountain bikes are allowed on some of the trails. For part of the year and only on some of the trails, motorcycles may be seen (or heard). Although, in the 3-4 years that I've been hiking here, I've only encountered motorcycles twice. Dogs are allowed on-leash. The trails are especially well marked and ACFL puts out a set of 3 great maps for the lakes the ACFL surround; Whistle Lake, Cranberry Lake and Heart Lake, which used to be Heart Lake State Park, but now belongs to ACFL. Maps are available at several locations around town.

Ms Mammary Monkey relaxing on a VERY large leaf
We parked at the Heart Lake parking lot (where there are two restrooms and lots of fishermen putting their little boats into the water) and loaded up the kiddo in his backpack. 

My daughter, Oliver and I set on on our hike, while my son-in-law took off on his mountain bike. The weather was cloudy initially, it brightened up as our hike went on. We left the parking lot headed north on Trail 210 which goes around approximately 2/3's of the war around the lake in in a counter-clockwise direction. We passed several intersecting trails, but continued on 210 until its end passing several thick-barked, beautiful old Douglas Fir trees which had obviously been involved in a forest fire sometime long ago. 

At that point we had to make a decision; continue south about 1.5 miles to a viewpoint or loop back around to the parking lot taking a different route back. Since we weren't really sure how the view would be on this cloudy day or how much time we had before we met up with my mountain biking son-in-law, we opted to head back around the lake, taking a different route. From there we headed east on Trail 212 and north on Trail 250, picking up Trail 210 clockwise and then 242 back to the parking lot.  

As I mentioned, the trails are well marked with views are of the lake and forest. Lots of time for picture taking and we took a lot of pictures! 

If you get to the southern viewpoint, you can see south toward Deception Pass with beautiful water views. The trails to the south of the lake are designated for hikers only. There was a fair bit of mud on the trails, not terrible, just mildly annoying. It rained hard the night prior so mud was to be expected. 

It was just a little muddy on this day

We didn't pass any hikers, but did pass a man and his dog, who looked like they were headed to their favorite fishing spot. 

A quick glance at the Heart Lake map tells me that there are approximately 10 miles of trails surrounding this lake. There is ample parking which is on the east side of the lake, off Heart Lake Road, which is actually H Street in Anacortes. All of the trails around Heart Lake are great for kids of all ages as the elevation gain is minimal and there are restrooms in the parking lot. Hillary, Oliver and I walked 4 miles in two hours and had a total elevation gain of about 550'. If you haven't made it out to these trails, put it on your list for a day hike. You can make it as long or short as you like. You can walk across the street from Heart Lake and hike up to the top of Mount Erie the very same day. From up there at just under 1,300' the view is amazing! 

Ariolimax columbianus  or Banana Slug
All in all, it was a successful day for Oliver's first hike in his backpack! He is fortunate to grow up in such a beautiful area of the country. I think we have a junior hiker in the making!

Hiking is hard work!

Distance:  4.1 miles
Time:  2 hours
Calories burned:  750