I’m still researching hikes up in the Bellingham area, so we took the afternoon and hiked around Squires Lake just south of that city. We had sunshine most of the drive up there (except for a convergence zone of dark showers north of Everett), but once we got close to the Chuckanuts, we could see some gloomy rain clouds collected around the hills. I told the kids we could go to a museum instead if it was pouring at the trailhead, but luckily it was just partly cloudy and looked like the rain had moved east. We geared up with smaller packs than usual, because this would be a shorter and more causal hike. I’ve enjoyed not having to have all the 10+ Essentials plus a whole day’s worth of food to pack for these closer-to-town short kid hikes.
This trail starts by hiking up the ridge for the first 0.3 miles. There are a few steeper parts, and a few more gentle slopes, but hopefully you can entice your kids up this section, because the grade eases significantly once you hit the lake basin. There were some big boulders that looked like they had tumbled down the hill years ago, and were covered with thick, green moss.
Once we got up to the lake, we had a choice to go left or right around the loop. If you go left, you’ll be walking next to the lake on a mostly flat trail for the length of the lake. Then you’ll climb up away from the lake for the second half to return to the trail back down to the parking lot. If you go right first, you’ll head up more hill and get the climbing out of the way first, but you will be above the lakeshore. So take your pick, depending on what your children want to do.
We went left, and crossed the small bridge over the outlet stream. It had begun to rain by this point, but we were too far into the hike to turn around and hit a museum. I was kind of puzzled by my children; both of them resisted putting on their rain coats and then gave me the stink-eye when I told them to put their hoods up so their hair wouldn’t get soaked. Haven’t they hiked with me long enough to know better? Well, at least they both listened to me in the end, and we hoped the rain would taper off, since it was all sunny to the west of us.
The Oregon Grape is blooming, salmonberries are sending out their first blossoms, and many other plants are leafing out. Bleeding Hearts are just feathering out, with a few blooms to be seen. The whole forest was covered in moss, draped from tree branches or encrusting any flat surface.
Once we were at the lake, the sound of traffic on the freeway faded, and song sparrows and Pacific wrens sent echoing songs through the forest. We saw buffleheads and mallards at the lake. Skunk cabbages are just poking up and filling some areas with their particularly pungent scent.
We stopped for a bit where the inlet stream tumbles down to the lake. It was an idyllic setting, and I could not keep my daughter out of the water.
In this area we heard a varied thrush sing. By this time the rain had stopped, and it warmed up slightly. We found some cool fungi and lichens, and enjoyed the big old burly big-leaf maples.
We took the short spur trail over to the Beaver Pond; this will net you a bit more elevation gain and loss, but makes an interesting diversion if your children have the energy. There were wood ducks, buffleheads, mallards and mergansers at this second lake. We continued on from there back to the loop trail and followed it around, completing the circle. There were some really big stumps in this section of the trail, relics of the past logging history of this area.
The walk back down to the parking lot was short and quick.
This was a nice hike for an afternoon. We only passed one other party, though we saw one other person across the lake, and a group of 3 horses were getting ready to ascend the trail as we came down (the brief horse sighting was Annika’s favorite part of the trip…). The distance is a little over 2 miles if you include the extra part over to Beaver Pond. I believe it is 200 feet elevation gain. There were some muddy sections along the trail, but they weren’t too bad. There is room for about 8 or 9 cars at the trailhead parking area, and you won’t need a permit to park. There is a porta-potty near the trailhead. Or you can use the rest area just a few miles to the south if you are traveling up the freeway from Seattle. I’ll be getting this into my Hiking Guide in the next few days, with directions and links.