Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Baker Lake Trail, Southern Terminus, Trip Report

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Baker Lake Trail

Last week Gabriel had state standardized testing to endure.  By the end of the week we were all feeling frazzled and ready for a hike.  Luckily our friend Jessie was able to join us.  The weather looked iffy, but we hoped it would turn out to be not too wet.  As we were packing the car to leave the house in the morning, Gabriel said that his boots were really uncomfortable.  A quick look showed me his toes were pushing against the ends of the toe box.  It’s crazy how one week the shoes can be fine, and the next they can be too small.  Thankfully, our Fred Meyer down the street has some decent kids’ hiking boots, and we were in and out in under 30 minutes, on our way to meet Jessie at the trailhead.

I had left Jessie a Facebook message before we left telling her we’d be delayed and she called as we were heading up the freeway.  She was already on the road herself, and had driven through some heavy rain.   Sure enough, a few minutes later, we hit torrential rains, dumping buckets north of Everett up through Mt. Vernon.  We began to doubt if this hike would go, but continued on in the hope it would clear.  We made our customary stop at the Ranger Station in Sedro-Woolley (the nicest bathrooms and friendliest rangers.)  They confirmed the weather looked grey, but the rain had lightened, so we thought we’d still try the hike.

Once we turned up the Baker Lake Road, the scenery helped me relax.  Myriad shades of green greeted us along the road.  Yellow-green, brown tones of mosses, reddish-green new growth, whitish green flowers and buds.  Spring is definitely in full swing in the lowlands. We made good time up to the road that goes over the dam.  What a sight that is!  The kids oohed and aahed as we slowly made our way over the narrow top of the dam.  I tried not to think about the drop-offs on either side.  We met Jessie at the parking lot on the far side of the dam, and together we walked across to the middle to peer over the edge and gander at the interesting machinery.  The clouds were low, so we didn’t have any great views.

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Baker Lake Dam
Baker Lake hiking kids
Walking over the dam

The trailhead is just a few minutes beyond this point.  There is an outhouse (TP was abundant today) at the parking area.  We were the only ones there, until some vans and pickups came up filled with teenagers and teachers on a school overnight backpacking trip.  Well, so much for solitude and quiet!  They actually weren’t that bad as far as teenagers go (I’m nervously wondering how my kids will be when they reach that age; Gabe is not too far away!), and they passed us soon on the trail so we were on our own for most of the trip anyway.

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Goofballs at Trailhead

The Baker Lake trail is so amazing!  Green moss covers every surface, draping down like hair; firs, hemlocks and cedars tower overhead.  The tread is gentle and soft, winding through the forest.

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Pretty Little Stream

Many little streams and creeks chatter under wooden bridges, reminding us of a fairy woodland.

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Annika on Bridge

The little yellow violets were the most abundant blooms, but we also saw bleeding hearts, trilliums, and a few salmonberry and red-flowering currants.

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Bleeding Hearts
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Trillium
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Slugs, the most abundant wildlife we saw

The lake isn’t in view at first, but soon you begin to see the glint of water through the trees.  We stopped after about a mile in a lovely glade of huge trees, noting the charred cedar snags among the firs and hemlocks.  We read on the sheet back at the trailhead that a fire swept through this area in 1843 after Mt. Baker erupted. We thought that was a pretty cool factoid to contemplate.

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Some Giant Cedars Survived the Fire

After a snack we continued on toward our goal, Anderson Point campground.  Soon the trail descends into the valley of a large creek, where we encountered a log bridge over to the other side.  There is a wire handrail to hold on one side, and the log is plenty wide, but it still made this mama nervous for herself and her kiddos.

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Gabriel on Scary Log Bridge

Gabriel went first and made it gingerly across, then Jessie helped Annika.  I think she actually did better having someone else besides mom holding her hand; she was pretty brave this time.  (I’ve learned in the past few months that the eye problems she has affect her vertigo and how she deals with unsteady footing.  I was really impressed that she was able to tackle this obstacle, with the water rushing dizzily underneath and the slanty log making uneven tread.)

The area just past the bridge looked so inviting; the sun was coming out and it was sheltered from the wind.  We moved up the trail, though, since we could see Anderson Point just ahead, and we wanted to see the campground for future use.

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Looking Over to Anderson Point
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Carpet of Moss and Violets

Soon we were at the junction.  The campsites at Anderson Point looked nice out on the west end, with fire rings and plenty of flat spaces for tents.

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Anderson Point Campsites

There are even box toilets for your convenience.  It doesn’t appear to have great water access; apparently you can reach the lake at the farthest end. The teen group was setting up here.  We were going to stay here and eat, but the wind was blowing fiercely, and mist was blowing up the lake.  We decided to walk back to the little sheltered area near the stream with the log crossing.  This turned out to be a great place to hang out.

 

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Baker Lake Hangout Spot
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Twisted Rusty Metal
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Spring Beauty
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The Fabulous Jessie

Annika spotted a little lizard in the rocks, and Gabriel caught it as it tried to scurry into hiding.

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Northern Alligator Lizard

He held it like we have seen on TV (we love Jeff Corwin) and we looked at the details.

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Looking Up Lizard

Gabe had brought his reptile and amphibian guide book, but we weren’t able to identify it at the time from the pictures in the book.  When we got home, we found out it’s a northern alligator lizard.  It peed on him a couple of times, but otherwise calmed down after he got a good hold on it.  Apparently these guys can lose their tails when threatened; I was happy he didn’t do that in our case.  Gabe was really gentle and calm.  After we got a good look and lots of pics, we let the little guy go.

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Happy Herpetologist

I had a surprise for the kids, as I had brought along my brand new MSR Pocket Rocket I had just bought.

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Cocoa Heater

I heated up some water for hot cocoa, and we basked in the sunlight like little reptiles ourselves.

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Annika Drinking Cocoa

It felt so good to be next to the water, the sound of the creek rushing nearby, the breeze on our faces, the clouds lifting on the other side of the lake.  We even began to see some blue sky.  We almost had a view of Mt. Baker, but the clouds never lifted high enough to show the top.

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Clouds Lifting Over Baker Lake

At this point, Annika complained that her toes hurt really badly.  Apparently her boots were too small, too!  I couldn’t do much about it at that point, so she just had to endure it all the way back.  I guess both kids have had a growth spurt lately, and I was frankly surprised they had been in their boots for so long.

Soon enough it was time to head back.   We made it back over the bridge without incident, and made good time back to the car.  The kids are walking pretty fast these days; when the trail is level or downhill, they can outpace me.  We felt triumphant at the end; 4 miles is still pretty far for these kids.  We said goodbye to Jessie and repacked the car to head home.  Jessie is so great to hike with us!  Anyone who willingly hikes with other people’s kids is pretty amazing in my book.  We look forward to sharing more adventures with her this summer.

There were a few mudholes on the trail, but nothing too bad.  There were 2 or 3 blowdowns we had to step over, but everyone managed OK.  No bugs bugged us.

I poked around the Kulshan campground on the way out; we saw a rainbow at the lake.

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Anderson Point from Boat Dock
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Rainbow!

Then when we were driving back out to the Baker Lake Road, we had the thrill of seeing a baby bear in the road.

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Bear Cub in Road
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Bear Cub

We stopped and marveled at it, the kids and I both were so excited.  We stopped at the Smokey Point rest area, where Gabe found a bird nest on the ground by a tree.

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Bird Nest

After examining it, we put it back by the base of the tree, and found a broken robin’s egg and two dead baby robins.

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Broken Robin Egg in Nest

The kids were so sad; we don’t know if the nest blew out of the tree, or if a predator attacked it.  Hopefully the mom and dad will be able to raise another brood or two yet this year.

This trip was really fun.  It’s a great early season hike, when there is still snow on the higher trails.   The Baker Lake Trail runs 14 miles up to the northern end of the lake; you could park at that point and hike south.  We hope to try that end of it soon.  There are several camps along the trail if you want to stay overnight, but it looks like they are pretty popular, so don’t expect solitude on weekends.

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