Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Siltcoos Lake

I had hiked to Siltcoos Lake many years ago and at the time, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the hike. It was not very mileage worthy, lasting only 4'ish miles or so of meager distance, and was basically just a short walk through viewless forest until the lake was reached. At the lake, the views thereof were partial and I just wondered what the point was. So why go again, if that's how I felt? Well, I was looking for a relatively easy backpack trip to take grandchildren on and it seemed like a short hike and a lake to frolic in could be a winning combination as seen through children's eyes, so off I went on a scouting foray to Siltcoos Lake.

It's definitely trillium time!
It didn't take long for me to completely revise my former opinion about this trail. Yes, the hike is short and yes, the forest is viewless, but what a gorgeous forest it was! Maybe you just have to hike it at the right time of year, which in my opinion and based on this latest hike rendition, just might be late April. Or maybe you just have to hike it in the right frame of mind, which is also a strong possibility of why I enjoyed this one so. The forest was lush and green, the mottled forest light was simply sublime, and armies of elegant trillium were blooming in regal tri-petaled stateliness on the forest floor. What's not to like about this hike? 

Short but gorgeously sweet
The first part of the hike was a pretty good uphill pull that only lasted a mile or so until it reached a trail junction with the unimaginatively but directionally named North Route and South Route. For no particular reason at all, I went left on the North Route, which turned out to be a gentle meander through sumptuously shaded woods as the footpath gradually descended down to the lake.

Huckleberry bushes work on making berries
I had slathered on sunscreen like I normally do but really, it wasn't needed on this hike. I was hiking in deep shade most of the time while sunbeams illuminated the odd spot of trail here and there. The forest was eminently colored green what with dense patches of fern and salal flanking the trail. Where there was no fern or salal, there were soft cushiony layers of emerald-green moss carpeting the forest floor. I daresay you could almost hear the forest gnomes (excluding this blogger) laugh with glee as they capered and frolicked among the trees. 

Eager youngsters gather around Grandpa

The forest had been logged in the past and most of the trees were thin and spindly in testament to their relative youth. However, interspersed between the matchstick trees were some old-growth giants, clearly illustrating the difference between young and old trees. Stumps from the forest of yore supported a small population of seedlings being nourished by decaying nurse logs and stumps. And speaking of old-growth specimens, I continued onward with my hike.

There's no place like home!

After a couple of miles of pleasant forest hiking, the trail arrived at several backpacking camps sited next to the lake. The camping grounds were rather luxurious digs when compared to my usual austere and unfurnished backpacking tenting spots, for each site sported a fire ring and picnic table. And always, there were trees surrounding each camp, making my hammock-camping heart beat just a tick faster with anticipatory happiness.

Siltcoos Lake on a fine spring day
Siltcoos Lake is actually a pretty substantial body of water but you can't see the lake in its entirety from the camps' view. Much of the would-be lake view is blocked by a large forested island just across the water that makes the lake seem smaller than it actually is. A network of braiding paths led from the camps to several beaches along the lake and I just know my younger peeps would be spending most of their time there. I spent a little time there myself, soaking up the warm spring sun and listening to birds twitter in the dense brush ringing the lake. 

Still life with boardwalk and skunk cabbage
After a nice little lakeside loll, it was back to the trail, but on the South Route this time. The gentle descent to the lake on the incoming leg translated to a brisk uphill climb on the return leg, as the well-maintained path went up and over a forested ridge. It was more of the same as what I saw on the North Route, with ferns, salal, trees, moss, mushrooms, decaying logs, and hordes of elegant trillium flowers flanking the trail throughout.

Small beetles ate holes in thimbleberry leaves
So, this wasn't the most challenging hike I've ever done, coming in at 4.5 miles or so, but it was nonetheless worthy due to the sublime forest beauty encountered on this hike. It'd be an easy and relaxing (unless the grandchildren come) weekend backpack trip too, so I won't get too snooty about the Siltcoos Lake Trail like I did so many years ago.

A fern frond basks in a sunbeam
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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