Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lake Twenty-Two, July 30, 2013

LAKE TWENTY-TWO (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest) Some trails just never get old; Lake Twenty-Two is one of them. Many an experienced hiker chose Lake 22 as their first hike; the hike is popular and has gotten a lot of press over the years in hiking guidebooks, through word of mouth and the media. There’s an old saying that if a hikers’ first hike is unpleasant they may never hike again. Since it’s almost impossible to turn this trail into an unpleasant experience it’s a good trail for novice hikers (or any hiker for that matter). It’s also a good trail to revisit as it can be hiked (or snowshoed) most of the year and the ambience of the trail changes with each season; we like to experience them all. We’ve asked ourselves - what is it that draws us back to this trail? It’s not solitude for that’s hard to come by on this busy trail unless it’s a cold, rainy day in November. Is it the poignant song of the hidden varied thrush or the shine of skunk cabbage in the spring? Is it the colorful collar of wildflowers around the lake or the snowy cliffs and house-sized boulders at the far end of the lake? Or is it a chance for guys to spot pretty girls in bikinis at lakes’ edge on a hot day as happened to one of our friends? (We will tease him forever; once he spotted the mountain nymphs we found it very hard to get his attention again). Or is it a solitary niche by the lake where the berries hang low and the views are beyond this hikers’ description? Whatever your motivation get an early start if you seek solitude or would enjoy sampling the salmonberries that border certain stretches of the trail. Now about those waterfalls; how many are there? That depends on your definition of a waterfall; several can be seen (or heard) along the trail but avoid the temptation to leave the main trail for better views. Though you can see spurs where others have done so the terrain can be steep and slippery. Don’t risk an injury. Before you hit the trail take time to read the large, brown sign designating the area as a Research Natural Area (RNA) at the start of the trail. The Lake Twenty-Two Research Area was established in 1947, the purpose to study the effects of a forest in its natural state compared to similar settings in which forests have been logged. The trail is in good condition from start to finish with old-growth trees towering over the trail. Look for Pacific Silver Fir, Western Red Cedar, Douglas firs and hemlocks. At higher elevations you’ll also find Alaska cedars with their definitive shaggy bark. Between the giants the ground-cover is a thick carpet of moss, ferns and shrubs with ripening berries. All your senses will come into play along this trail with bird-calls, the gurgle of rivulets, the happy prattle of a child on the next switchback, the scolding jay you cannot spot in the trees no matter how hard you look. Ferns border the trail; oak ferns, deer ferns, lady ferns, licorice ferns, sword ferns and bracken. Bead lily and Canadian dogwood are abundant in summer (in spring look for trilliums and stream violets). In summer Devil’s Club is tall and topped with a spathe of red berries. Huckleberries and blueberries are beginning to ripen and on our recent hike most of the biting bugs were gone other than small, weird clouds of gnats hovering around monkey-flowers at the lake. Take bug juice anyway – some hikers are more attractive to bugs than others. We also recommend wearing sturdy boots as stretches of the trail are rocky and “rooty”. Note how Western Red Cedars clutch the earth with their knotty roots that resemble the arthritic fingers and knuckles of a giant – the roots sometimes form a latticework near the base of the tree or spread across the trail. Feel the creak of old puncheon under your feet where water runs down the trail during the rainy seasons. In about ¾ mile you’ll cross Twenty-Two Creek on a footbridge with views upstream and down, a great spot to cool off on a hot day. In about 1.5 miles the trail breaks out of the forest and switchbacks across a talus field lined with ferns and hellebore though open enough for views of Three Fingers and Liberty peaks. Relish those pockets of shade at the ends of the sunny switchbacks if in need of a rest. After negotiating the talus slope the trail returns to the forest and gets a little steeper before it reaches the lake. Lake Twenty-Two sits in a steep cirque, bounded by cliffs. You’d never know that Heather Lake was just a ridge away. The cliffs at the far end of the lake are in shadow for much of the day; hence, even in July the gullies still held snow; earlier in the year you may see (or hear) avalanches. Avoid the far end of the lake when there is significant snow. Once you reach the lake you can hike around the lake (1.2 miles) in either direction with no significant gain or hazards during summer. Spurs lead to potential picnic spots; on our recent hike, we were passed by a cheerful group of local teenage boys on a “football bonding” hike who were shouting with joy (or shock) as they jumped into the icy water of the lake, none of them stayed in for long. The far end of the lake is an intriguing mix of meadow, wildflowers and towering boulders daubed with lichen. Here we found mounds of marsh marigolds, sedges, heathers and monkey-flowers; if the bugs are not biting linger awhile and enjoy the beauty everywhere you look. As we continued around the lake we marveled at how it changed colors as the sunlight and clouds shifted direction, lengthening the shadows on the steep snowfields above the lake and silhouetting the fringes of evergreens topping the knolls between the lake and the cliffs. While not considered a wildflower hike we saw several including monkey-flowers, columbine, lupine, marsh marigolds, hellebore, Canadian dogwood, bead lily, mountain ash and more. There are so many reasons to love this trail that we’ve lost count. Enjoy! Getting there: From Granite Falls drive east on the Mountain Loop Highway – in about 11 miles you’ll see the Verlot Public Service Center (left); stop in for trail conditions and/or to purchase a pass or map if needed. Stop by anyway to view their displays; including one displaying a slice from an old-growth tree, each ring representing a year of growth. From there it’s another two miles to the designated Lake Twenty-two trailhead (right) and facility. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. Don’t leave valuables behind as this trailhead has experienced car break-ins. Additional Information: Maps: Green Trails No. 109 Granite Falls, Green Trails No 110 Silverton. Questions? Call Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Verlot Public Service Center at 360-691-7791 or visit their website: . To view photos of Lake 22 click on the link below, scroll down to second set. . Karen Sykes