Gabriel has had it in his mind for a few weeks now that he wanted to climb Mt. Erie near Anacortes. We’ve driven up it several times, and we can see it from many of the places we like to go on a whim. Because he kept mentioning it (and saying that he’d like to climb Mt. Rainier after that) I thought we should give it a try. It seemed within both the kids’ capabilities. I don’t usually push them to do long uphill hikes due to the amount of whining they produce, but I thought perhaps they are getting more mature.
Friday was our day to hike, but at the last minute Daddy needed the car for a Dr. appointment in the morning, and we had some family issues come up. So we didn’t leave the house until 1:30, a late start even by my lax standards. We saw a coyote, several hawks, and two bald eagles on the drive up. Gabriel was worried about our hike and second-guessing our ability to get it done before dark, and wondering if maybe we should just go to a lake and play somewhere. I mulled this over as we made the drive up to Anacortes, and we came up with a compromise: we’d start hiking the trail, and have a well-defined turn-around time. If we made it to the top, great, but if not, we’d have enough time to get back to the car with plenty of time to go to the beach and play and watch the sunset. This was acceptable to the kids, and we started up the trail from the parking lot.
But as we climbed up the steep trail, Gabriel started having third and fourth thoughts.
So I proposed plan C: we’d climb Sugarloaf Mountain, and save Erie for another day. We had made it almost to the top of Sugarloaf before, and wanted to see the summit. This plan met with approval, and gave the kids a little boost of renewed energy. It’s a tricky thing, I’m finding, with my children – knowing when to push them, to challenge them, and when to back off and let them lead with their own initiative. Push too hard and they push back stubbornly, but get too easy on them and they give up without reaching their full potential.
The shortest trail up Sugarloaf is pretty steep in parts, with few flat areas to catch your breath. We had to stop for a snack and water, and had to stop to put moleskin on Annika’s heels. It seemed like it took an eternity to get up to the viewpoint where we stopped a few months ago, but once we reached it, we knew we were close to the top.
I think this was the prettiest section of the trail, with mossy green trees, salal and ferns, and sunny openings looking out west over the Sound. In a few minutes you reach a section of balds and cliffs and the trail takes a few twists and turns as it winds its way up to the summit.
Annika had a hard time here, as she gets vertigo and freaks out a bit when there is any exposure. It feels pretty safe to me, as long as you stay on the trail, but if you have kids who run off and get wild on the trail, this is where you’ll need to keep a close eye or hand on them.
Before we knew it (and after consulting the map a few times) we were at the top!
The kids were thrilled and proud that they had climbed a mountain. We had plenty of time to sit and have a snack and soak in the views.
The sun was almost warm, but the breeze was cool. We watched a bald eagle soar between us and Mt. Erie. Our original goal was close to the south of us, inspiring the kids that they could do it next time.
We enjoyed the view as we rested.
The hike down took half the time as it did up. There was much skipping and humming and leaping down the trail (and some creaking knees). The kids were really happy and looking forward to going to the beach. Our total hike time was 2 hours, 45 minutes; distance, 2.5 miles RT, 893 feet elevation gain according to the WTA website entry.
This wasn’t my favorite trail in terms of interest along the path, but it’s beautiful at the top, and worth the effort. Not much is blooming right now. The forest is mostly dark and thick for most of the time, except for the first half mile, where there is swamp, and the last section where the views open up. My kids are inspired to do more mountain summits, though, so I think this will be an interesting hiking season.
We finished the day at West Beach at Deception Pass State Park. There weren’t very many people, which was just how we liked it. I half-heartedly told the kids not to get wet at the beach.
The waves were gently washing up on the shore, making that fabulous whooshing sound on the cobbles. We saw loons, western grebes, black oystercatchers, cormorants, and two seals. The kids saw another bald eagle while I was in the restroom. The kids chased the waves and threw rocks.
The sunset was glorious. Gabriel said, “I really love it here. It’s so wonderful. Thanks for bringing us!” Melt my heart. You’re welcome, child.