Even before REI made #OptOutside an event, we have tried for several years to get out into nature on the day after Thanksgiving. This year, Annika was fighting a cold, and I was pretty worn out myself, so we slept in and rested up. In the afternoon, I took Gabe up to Anacortes for a quick hike at Little Cranberry Lake. This is a sweet spot to stretch your legs, and is part of the wonderful Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL). (There is also a Cranberry Lake at Deception Pass State Park, so don’t confuse the two.)
We started at the main parking lot off of Georgia St. We took off in a clockwise direction, heading over the dam that blocks the outlet stream, beginning the loop around the lake. The water was calm on this grey day, and one young man was fishing, while another guy was stand-up paddle boarding. Otherwise, it was pretty quiet.
We were surprised when we came to a junction, only to find out that the section of the trails had been closed due to a forest fire last summer.
How had I not heard of this fire? I searched in my pack for my paper maps of the ACFL, but was dismayed to realize I had left them conveniently in the car. Thankfully, I was able to get some cell service so that I could look up the map online, and we determined that there was a route we could take that would bypass the fire damage. It added a bit of distance and elevation gain, and took us away from the lake shore, but we both decided that we would rather make a loop than go back to the trailhead and wander the maze of trails in the other direction.
Off we went toward the perimeter of the park. It felt good to be out in the forest, even knowing there were homes just outside the park. It was quiet and subdued, with few birds or other critters.
Plants felt dormant, waiting out winter’s short days. But there wasn’t too much mud, and the trail is interesting enough. We were able to find the correct trails to get us around the trail closure, to the far end of the lake, where we picked up the main trail again.
I really like the sections of trail that are close to the lake. The south end brushes right up against some rock formations, and there are some areas where a mis-step will result in wet feet.
I find these sections somewhat magical, but parents will want to keep a close eye on young children here.
We continued around the west side of the lake, noticing a few water birds out on the calm surface of the lake. The sun broke through a couple of times, transforming the muted colors of foliage into brighter versions of themselves.
We could clearly see the fire damage along the east shore of the lake.
There is a bald on this section of the trail, so watch that young children don’t slip when it’s wet.
Soon enough, we were back at the car, and ready to head back into town for a warm cup of coffee. This was plenty of distance and exertion for me, as I realized later I was coming down with yet another cold. But I’m really glad we were able to get outside and take advantage of the break in the weather. We are so fortunate to have some fabulous hiking areas so close to home.
Trip Stats: 2.4 miles, 208 feet elevation gain. No permits needed for parking; maps highly recommended.
I emailed John Lunsford with the Anacortes Parks and Recreation, and he said that the trail through the meadow might be able to be reopened in the spring of 2017. I’m not familiar with this portion of the trail. But he said the trail along the shoreline has more complicated issues, including danger from falling rocks and trees, and erosion due to the steep slopes in that section. Park managers will re-evaluate the trail conditions in the spring of 2017, after they see what kind of damage happens during the winter. They do not have an estimated opening date for this section. For your safety, please stay off this part of the trail.