Anacortes Community Forest

High winds east of the Cascades. Rain to the west. Where to go? Time to check out another area I knew about had not not yet hiked.  joined Kim, Gwen, and Greg for this trip. I picked up Kim and we met Gwen and Greg in South Everett. From there it was an easy drive up to Highway 20 and then west towards Anacortes. We navigated our way to the west side of the forest and the start of the road up Mt. Erie. The small parking lot here was half empty. This was a last minute choice and we had not done much research. Among us only Gwen had ever been here. Gwen does own the map of the trails and I downloaded and printed maps too. It was about 9:15 am when we started out on the trail across the road heading towards Heart Lake. The route immediately split. The two trails join back together a little farther along. We took the right trail on the way out and the other on the way back.

The first thing we noticed was all the blooming starflowers. These small wildflowers were all along the trail. Many had a nice pinkish hue. We were not in any hurry and stopped for many photos. We also saw a number of fungi and mushrooms. What we did not see at first was Heart Lake. The trail went around most of the lake but on our way out we did not see it. After about 1.5 miles we came to another junction. The consensus was to take this trail back instead of continuing around the lake. This trail was between our route out and the lake. Soon a short side trail went right to the shore. We saw a number of small boats out on the lake. More folks were on the opposite shore. On that side the lake is right on the Heart Lake Road.

Soon enough we met the trail we hiked out on. A few minutes later we were at the junction with the trail that circled around and met the main trail right back at the start. Starting up that trail we heard a knocking and stopped to see a big pileated woodpecker at work. I was not able to get a non blurry shot of him. This route had more up then down than the trail we started the day on. In short order we made it back to the start. This little warm up forest hike covered about 3 miles with 300' of elevation gain.

Back at the car we were at the start of the hike up Sugarloaf Mountain. It is close to Mt. Erie. Gwen was sore from the previous day's trail maintenance work and Kim had a sore knee. They decided to skip the short steep trail up Sugarloaf. Greg and I headed up. The trail gains about 600' in one mile to the top. Most of that gain is in the second half. The trail is smooth and pretty easy hiking. There are a maze of trails all over the Anacortes Community Forest. There are many double digit mileage routes one could take. We met a number of signed trail junctions. Me stayed on Trail 215. The trails have numbers to distinguish them. Near the top we stopped at a viewpoint looking out west to the San Juan Islands. We also began to see a whole lot of wildflowers in bloom.

First was a fawn lily. It looks much like an avalanche lily but there is seldom snow on Sugarloaf. A white lily with the flower bent over towards the ground. I have heard of them but this was the first time I had seen one. Next were a series of flowers I would expect to see at or east of the Cascade Crest. Larkspur, service berry, camas, buttercups, a chocolate lily, and more. A most unusual treat. This area is in the Olympic Mountains rain shadow and it does have some unusual flora. At the top we met Dani, Tom, and Jasper the dog. I seem to run into them on a regular basis on the trail. Nice to catch up again. Although it was cloudy, we had some good views to the south. We soon were heading down.

The hike down went fast. With our stay on top we took about 1:10 total to hike up and down. Now we put our heads together to choose one last destination. I had read about some old growth trees at Cranberry Lake so we headed north to see for ourselves. Cranberry Lake is at the far northern section of the forest. We headed into Anacortes to Highway 20 then east and south to the north parking lot. We chose to do a clockwise loop around the lake. The trail does make a loop very near the shore all the way around. There were a few gees out on the lake. We did find some good sized trees along the way.

There was also a good variety of wildflowers in bloom. Honeysuckle showed up in a number of spots. We saw stone crop and Indian paintbrush. There were a number of patches of calypso orchids. Spring beauty and buttercups were in bloom too. Add in alligator plantain, camas, and more and we had a good colorful show. Our trip around was very slow as we found much to photograph. There were some very green and healthy patches of skunk cabbage post blooming as well. Near the end of the loop is a bald hillside with a big madrona tree and a lot of purple and pink flowers. This was a good spot for a longer rest. We saw some model hydroplanes out on the water from here. We finally gathered the energy to hike back to the car. This little jaunt was abut 2+ miles with 200' of elevation gain.

For the day I hiked 7.5 miles with 1100' of gain. Not a strenuous day but a fun introduction to the Anacortes Community Forest. With the low altitude this will be a good addition to my list of snow free winter hikes. Sometimes it is just nice to see dirt on a mid winter hike. Even with these three hikes I still have dozens of miles of trails to still see and hike in the forest. On the way home we stopped in Conway for dinner. New places to hike are a treat and a relaxing hike with friends is always to a good way to start a weekend.

Entering The Forest
Mossy Forest
Kim On Trail
Heart Lake
Fawn Lily
Chocolate Lily
Another Wildflower
Sugarloaf Summit View
Heading Down
Desert Parsley?
Fawn Lily Again
Rock Wall
Indian Paintbrush
Cranberry Lake
Tiny Wildflowers
Salal Berries
Unknown Flower
Calypso Orchid
Finger & Flowers
Rattlesnake Plantain
End Of Lake
Spring Beauty
Way Out On A Log
Maidenhair Ferns
Another Buttercup
More Camas
Sea Blush
Field Of Wildflowers
Lunch Time
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2016