Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hike of the Week : Larrabee Loop

This week's training hikes allowed us to test out getting up and hiking after camping ... twice.

I used AllTrails Pro and my Square One Map of the Chuckanut Recreation Area to plot out a looping route from the campground. We scurried across Chuckanut Drive and started climbing.

We crossed the Interurban Trail, and then continued on towards Fragrance lake.

I love the way these trees have grown over this fallen one:

We came to a little junction, and OF COURSE took the spur to the viewpoint.

ALWAYS go to the viewpoint.

From here we could see Orcas Island, and (I think?) other parts of the San Juans. Must learn my geography someday.

Then we headed back to the junction, and continued on through the forest toward Fragrance Lake. One of my favorite parts of our northwest forests is how mossy and lush they are -- this moss-covered, downed tree looked like a mossy kraken to me.

For the most part, we would have the trail entirely to ourselves today. We reached another trail junction, and this time headed toward the South Lost Lake Trail. (Full disclosure: I'm not sure why we didn't go an extra mile or so and loop around Fragrance Lake. Seriously, we got close and then just turned away before we got there. Perhaps we were spooked by the super nice couple and their dogs?)

While on the South Lost Lake Trail we met three trail runners, and could start to hear a few other people, but didn't see them. Again, just lots of green.

We then turned onto the Rock Trail -- a new trail built to showcase the area's interesting rock formations. I had heard it was steep -- so steep they had actually installed wooden stairs to protect against erosion -- so it seemed like a good addition to the loop. I should point out that this also meant we did not actually see Lost Lake. No lakes were visited on this hike.

We came to this set of stairs and I thought, oh, okay, not super steep, then.

Much of the trail still looked like this:

We did check out the rock formations -- interesting, but as Wil pointed out, he used to live in the Peak District so he has seen some pretty amazing rock formations...

One of my favorite sights in the forest is a mossy rock with ferns starting to grow out of it ... this was on the side of a huge boulder:

And then we saw these... oh, they meant it when they said stairs. 

Something about the trees and the ladder-like stairs makes me think of Escher when I see this picture:

At the top of the Rock Trail we popped out at the Cyrus Gates Overlook -- the highest point in Larrabee State Park.

We didn't linger -- there was a group enjoying their lunch at the overlook, so we moved on and joined the Ridge Trail -- which, unsurprisingly, runs along the top of the ridge.

The trail started off nice and wide, but soon narrowed and was, in places, a little hard to follow. We saw two trail runners during this stretch, as well as one solo hiker. A few seconds after we passed her, she called out, "Did either of you possibly drop some spectacles?" I paused, felt my pockets, and realized that I had dropped mine. I scurried back the few yards and thanked her profusely. We just kept marveling at how, seeing only a handful of people while hiking over 12 miles... and I drop my glasses right as we pass one of the few hikers? #grateful

You can't tell, but this is a really, really steep downhill. I swear.

But this was still pleasant. It was an interesting experience to not be in any hurry to be done with our hike -- after all, if we finished, we would just hang out in camp. So we enjoyed the time we spent in the woods.

After 2.3 miles we met the Lower Ridge Trail, which would connect us with Cleator Road.

This trail was nice and gentle -- something of a relief after being up on the ridge. And there were some great views:

We soon made it to Cleator Road and headed down the side of the mountain. We then joined the Interurban Trail, which we assumed would be flat and gentle. Nope. But it was far more pleasant that walking along the narrow, winding highway.

We eventually made it back to the trailhead, made it across Chuckanut Drive (much busier in the afternoon than in the early morning!), and back to our campsite. A fun, tiring, varied hike. We had views, we had elevation, and we had lots of time on our boots. 

Larrabee Loop

12.2 miles
2608 feet elevation gain

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