August 22-23, 2015
Baker Lake Region, smokey air from wildfires
Watson Lakes: 5 miles round trip, 1100 feet elevation gain
Baker Lake East-shore trail south trailhead to Anderson Point: 3.8 miles round trip, 150 feet elevation loss/gain
We left on an adventure Saturday morning with our friends Ryan & Kristin, seeking some hiking and overnight camping. After a recent injury, they wanted to limit carrying a heavy pack so we opted to go to Baker Lake where we could choose from a wide assortment of hikes and be out of the way of the growing fires and road closures. We left Seattle about 7am and headed north to Highway 20 to Baker Lake. We visited the campsites in order from the beginning of the highway and moving north in hopes of finding an open spot for Saturday night. We drove thru Horseshoe Cove and Boulder Creek before finding an open spot at Panorama Point around 10am. All the campgrounds looked like great places, smaller than many of the ones we’ve seen in the national parks, making them seem more inviting and fun. This was our first time car camping (as we call it). It gave us some great luxuries, but comes at the cost of a lot of stuff and gear and a different experience than our normal backcountry camping (backpacking).
We headed back down Baker Lake road south toward the Kulshan campground to go to the Watson Lakes trailhead. Crossing the Upper Baker Dam was a great view of the dam and water. With the fires growing in the state, the area was smokey, like a blur of a film when you looked outside and it smelled like campfire. We followed a dirt road up over 3000 feet to the trailhead arriving around noon. The road is easy for all vehicles and we were surprised to find so many cars at the top, but it is a popular family friendly day hike and backpacking trip.
The hike follows many boardwalks built over swamp/wetlands and meanders through the woods. It was a beautiful hike with rolling up and down. The trail does have rocks/roots and steeper sections, so we were impressed by the number of children hiking! We were also excited to hike here so we could visit the very small Noise Diobsud Wilderness! We think it would be fun to visit all the wilderness areas in Washington! Watson Lakes were beautiful and bigger than we expected. We followed the trail to the second, larger lake where we found a rock to rest and eat lunch, arriving about 1:45 at the far lake. Nearly everyone swam in the cooler water and relaxed in the sunshine. On our way back, the nap-time-woes were setting in so we headed back to the car rather than venturing to Anderson Lakes.
The evening included swimming in Baker Lake, our friends making us an amazing chicken and vegetable wild rice stew, ice cold adult beverages, an approved legal campfire with roasted starbursts, and great conversations. We loved the ease of car camping, being warm around a campfire, and enjoying the company of our friends, good food, and drink. We slept well and woke up and returned the cooking favor by making hot coffee and a great breakfast spread. We cleaned up and packed up our tents to head out on a morning hike about 9am before going back to Seattle.
We took the same road back past the Kulshan campground, across the Upper Baker Dam, but stopped at the Anderson Creek sno-park trailhead to walk along the lake trail. The trail was farther from the lake than we expected in the beginning, mostly in the cool green woods on a smooth rolling trail. We traveled down to the campsites at Anderson Point as this was our turnaround spot. The campsites are magnificent! There are bear boxes provided for each site, tent pads, and water front tent spots elevated above the lake! On a clear day, when the smoke isn’t so heavy, we are guessing Mt. Baker is in clear view, but the visibility was too poor to see it. Ryan made his 3rd swim for the trip in Baker Lake, and we watched canoes and boats go by. Ryan and Kristin are avid canoers and we decided this would be a great place to canoe and learn the skills on a calm lake next summer. Hopefully we’ll be back! The lakeshore trail would make a great family-friendly backpack, or an early/late season trip given the low elevation. With two cars it would be a great one way route! We were back to Seattle in the early afternoon.