Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Fragrance Lake Hike TR – June, 2017

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Fragrance Lake

I’m trying to fill in the gaps of kid-friendly trails we haven’t hiked on, and wanted to do something with an easy drive a couple of weeks ago. We slept in late on this beautiful morning, and it turned out Annika’s shoes were too small – once again, I had forgotten to get her new hiking shoes. We stopped by Fred Meyer, our go-to hiking shoe place for last-minute purchases, but the shoes we’ve been using for years didn’t fit properly any more. When Annika moved up to adult sizes, the shoes fit differently. Well, REI was opening in a few minutes nearby, so we decided to head over there before our hike. Thankfully, we were able to get her a super pair of trail runners on clearance. She loves them! They are Solomons, and have lots of great features, like excellent tread, supportive insoles, and waterproof liners. They aren’t heavy or clunky. I am a firm believer in getting shoes that fit well for my kids (and myself, too!), but it’s discouraging to have both fast-growing kids in expensive adult shoes now. I’m grateful for clearance racks and sales even more now than I was before I had kids.

Anyway, Gabe was a good sport, being patient while we took care of shoes. We had a pleasant drive up the freeway to Chuckanut Drive, and stopped at one of the overlooks before we got to Larrabee SP.

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Padilla Bay at Low Tide from Chuckanut Drive

The tide was way out, leaving mud flats as far as the eye could see. We noticed the oyster farms uncovered out in the bay. We ate our lunches before we got to the trailhead, since we were arriving at the most annoying time to start a hike. We used the bathrooms in the main part of Larrabee before scoring a parking space back out on Chuckanut Drive at the trailhead. We geared up quickly and headed up the steep access trail.

Two or three switchbacks await you right from the trailhead, but then you’ll land on the Interurban Trail (a multi-use trail that runs from Fairhaven Park to Larrabee State Park).

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The Trail Entrance from the Interurban Trail

Cross over the Interurban to find the hiking trail heading east into the trees. The Fragrance Lake Trail is mostly wide and well-graded, leading through a thick forest of mature conifers with an undergrowth of mostly sword ferns.

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Typical Understory
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Coralroot

Some of the trail is flat, but there are also many sections that head steeply uphill. After about a mile, there is a spur trail off to the left that goes out to a viewpoint. We decided to save that for the trip back down, and continued onward.

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Trees Hugging Rocks

The trail keeps climbing, gaining almost 1000 feet from the car. You’ll eventually level out and walk eastward into the lake basin. We enjoyed this section of the trail, with more variety of plants, and baby red-breasted sapsuckers calling noisily from the nest high up in a cavity in a tree.

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Sapsucker Evidence
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Three Types of Ferns

Soon the lake comes in view. We found a nice spot to sit and enjoy the scenery, and Annika took her shoes off and did some wading while we ate our snacks. We declined to add the 3/4-mile loop to our hike, since we had some events to get back for in the evening, and it was already mid-afternoon. But I’m guessing kids will enjoy wandering around the loop, based on others’ descriptions.

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Burl

Soon enough it was time to head down. At the midpoint, we took the easy spur trail (0.2 mile) out to the lookout. You’ll get a beautiful view of the Salish Sea in this small clearing.

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View From Viewpoint

Then it was back down to the cars.

We really enjoyed this hike. It was the perfect destination for a quick trip, while still providing lots of greenery. You won’t find solitude here, but it’s worth putting on your hikes-to-do list.

If You Go:

This hike is located in Larrabee State Park on Chuckanut Drive. You can reach it from either north or south (Bellingham or Burlington). Drive on Chuckanut Drive (SR 11), and the trailhead is right on Chuckanut, directly across from the main entrance to Larrabee. (If you’re coming from the south, pass by the Lost Lake Trailhead parking area.) You’ll need your State Park Discover Pass to park (available at the entrance to the park if you don’t have one.) The Chuckanut trailhead has room for maybe 10 cars, but if that is full, you can park down in the park by the restrooms. If you need facilities, drive down into the park, where you’ll find flush toilets and running water. After your hike, consider walking down to the beach and enjoying the small pocket coves and rocky tidepools. Hike Stats: 4.5 miles RT, almost 1000 feet elevation gain.

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