The Surreal Landscape of Baker Lake

Rain trickled down from the canopy of the old growth forest. The moss-covered trees sopped up drops of water like a cotton shirt. My hiking partner and I breathed in the fresh air. Walking along the South Baker Lake trail I couldn’t help but think of the 5-Mile Island trail in the Hoh Rainforest. Old growth trees, rich plant life everywhere, and a sense of awe.

The Baker Lake South Trail
Where the Green Fern Grows

The quiet and solitude of the trail on a Saturday was surprising. The mostly flat trail meanders along the eastern side of Baker Lake for 14 miles which was created in the 1959 from the damming of the Baker River. How far you want to go is up to you. We set our limit at 4 miles or the Maple Grove campground site. At first the trail hid the man-made lake through a thick groves of trees and fog, but as you make progress are treated to views of the surreal stump-laden landscape.

Crossing the Anderson Creek footbridge
Yup, that's a big Western Red Cedar.

About a mile and a half into the trail we crossed a footbridge at Anderson Creek. You can explore the beach further here or keep on going to Maple Grove. The whole forest seemed weighed down by the rain. Water dripped off tree branches and ran down their trunks into small creeks below. The trail leading down to the beach at Maple Grove was a patchwork of multi-colored and slippery fall leaves that obscured the dirt bottom. Just a few yards from the beach, the camping area accommodates six tents along with very convenient food storage lockers, fire pits, and an interesting conveyor belt-style flush system in the bathroom.

The water level of the lake was low, revealing the randomly scattered and soaked tree stumps. A vast blanket of gray obscured the indomitable Mount Baker like a wall. Below it sat an unbound and sweeping forest of faded evergreens. The lake was still and clear, reflecting the gray day above and the unending shoreline of trees.

Our feet sunk in with a squish and hiss of air with every step in the thick mud as we walked along the shoreline. The intermittent drizzly rain and fog really typified this pacific northwest hike for us. Scattered holes in the mud, rocks that have long since been swept out with the retreating water level, looked like a well-used pin cushion. Scattered, weather cracked stumps, coated with a thick layer of mud dotted the shoreline. Roots, like tendrils, crawled out from the disintegrating stumps, hanging on to the soft clay-like earth along the shore.

We hit our turn around time and started to hike out. Any time I paused, if for only a second, the silence of the forest impressed on me a sense of obligation. I need that silence some times, to remind me, calm me, and push me back to my life, so I can return again to appreciate it even more.

-Jefferson Morriss

Photos Copyright 2019: Jefferson Morriss & Anthony Strickler

Gear Used: Nikon D750

Flowfold Uhuru 25L Backpack

Camelback Hydration Pack

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