On this hiking day, we got a later start than usual. We departed Cascadia’s largest city in the mid-afternoon – instead of mid-morning – driving northeast toward Mount Baker National Forest. This was our first hike within this federally protected wilderness on the western slopes of the Cascade Range, hiking three and a half miles from the trailhead and back. We decided to take it easy given our very late start and the steadily rainfall during most of our trek. The total distance of the Baker Lake Trail — the forested path we took during this hiking trip — is 20 miles. Someday or over a series of days, Larry, the dogs and I will hike the nicely packed trail in its entirety.
Larry, the dogs and I had hiked a trail — the Interurban Trail — about 60 miles to the east of the Baker Lake Trail a few weeks ago. Even though both trails are located in Whatcom County, the scenery and climate of the two paths could not be any different. The InterUrban Trail hugs Bellingham Bay, offering very clearly skies exposing views of distant mountains to photographers and onlookers’ delight. The Baker Lake Trail is shaded, damp, and has the feel of an orthopedically ergonomic sidewalk under your feet – providing a different yet equally picture worthy scene of towering trees and clearly running waterways.
The Baker Lake Trailhead is tucked away at the end of an unpaved road. The two miles of so we drove along the dirt road prompted me to change the drive mode of our XC60 from “Comfort” to “Off Road.” Admittedly, we neither drove along 15% rocky inclines nor traversed United Arab Emirates styled sand dunes. We did find ourselves navigating around massive potholes turned moon craters by other motorists and intense rain – needing to intently focus on maintaining traction over the unpredictable whims of a muddy surface. This feat was no challenge for the World Car of the Year. I very much felt in control of our SUV and had no thoughts of getting stuck or otherwise spinning out.
Once parked; we changed into our rudimentary hiking gear, readied the dogs, and headed out. A first on this hiking trip too was our signing the trail registry, which was sheltered from the rain in a well constructed wooden contraption resembling a safety deposit box. Attached to a sturdy post, the holder kept dry loose sheets of the hiking registry and a couple of worn down No. 2 pencils. Once I registered Larry and me, we and the dogs continued onward.
Tangential Note: I say rudimentary hiking gear not as a self-deprecating aside yet as a notice to Larry and myself we need to invest in rain gear that will keep us dry and warm during the winter season – given raining is a guaranteed frequent occurrence within any environment west of the Cascade Range.
Ranked Easy on the AllTrails app, Baker Lake Trail offers great views of the forest, Baker Lake, and the mountains that rise from the Puget Sound Energy reservoir into low hanging clouds. We must have crossed a dozen or more wooden bridges all constructed differently than the others yet equally excelling in elevating the trail over ditches and miniature waterways. We encountered more hikers than I thought, given the steady rainfall and made-up correlation I created of distance from Seattle’s City Center being inversely proportional to the number of fellow hikers we will encounter on any given trek. It is selfish when you think about it – we want the beauty and tranquility of our forested hikes all to ourselves. Understandable yet silly.
There were two major highlights from our Baker Lake Trail adventure. The first – Anderson Creek. Given the day’s rain – I suppose – the creek had more of a raging river vibe than a tranquil trickle as one would imagine about a creek. Even though the waterway has creek in its name, it is classified as a stream. When seeking factors distinguishing the two – creek vs. stream – a quick Google search offered, “you can step over a brook, jump over a creek, wade across a stream, and swim across a river.” Connecting the trail to the other side of Anderson Creek was a very stylish bridge that bounced with each step Zeke took as he crossed in front of Larry, Coco, and me. The bridge looks as if it were carved from a tree that was sawed in half, thoroughly treated with wood protecting water repellant, and made authentic by having study rails posted on each side of it. Not once did I feel afraid to cross the gushing creek below – and from the looks of it neither did my family – on this marvel of carving, drilling, and moisture treatment. Of course, the bridge served as our hiking-family-photo-spot — burning through 30 minutes of our hiking time as I position my Nikon, repositioned my Nikon, mounted my iPhone, and remounted my iPhone to capture a series of pictures to my satisfaction.
We hiked another half mile or so beyond the Anderson Creek Bridge before turning back toward our SUV parked at the trailhead.
Dried off, waterlogged clothes changed, and dogs rehydrated, we headed back to Seattle. There is only one way to access and depart the Bakers Lake Trailhead, along the muddy road I mentioned earlier. As you get closer to Upper Baker Dam — the dirt road transitions to a paved street. What you gain in a smooth ride you lose considerably in wiggle room; the road narrows to a width slightly beyond that of a typical car with the side mirrors extended.
Owned by Puget Sound Energy — standing at 312 feet high and stretching 1,200 feet wide — Upper Baker Dam generates 105 megawatts of hydroelectricity. This is enough electricity to power 63,525 average-sized homes – 2,687 square feet or so. The construction of Upper Baker Dam was finished in 1959; now holding back Baker Lake which stretching nine miles upstream from the concrete gravity dam.
Unlike our drive out to the trailhead, I decided to stop midway across to take pictures of beautiful Bakers Lake to the right and an awe-inspiring waterfall to the left. This was the second highlight of our hiking trip. I zoomed my Nikon just the right amount to focus the picture beyond the entrapments of the chain-linked fence straddling both sides of the dam’s top. Usually I take multiple pictures from various vantage points to capture an object of interest – atop Upper Baker Dam I captured only a few good-enough ones before having to move as another car of departing hikers approached my pop-up photo studio. There was absolutely no option to wave them pass, given the narrow width of the passage. Driving across the top of dam — let along the Upper Baker Dam — was a first for us. Larry and I both have visited Hoover Dam, only walking across the top of it.