Hiking the Summit to Twin Lakes
One of the major benefits of living at Moran State Park is the abundance of hiking trails–almost 40 miles of trails in the 5252-acre state park. Some of the trails are only open to hikers, while others allow horses and still others permit mountain bikes in the wintertime. Because we’re based at the tower on top of Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands, all trails lead downhill.
And it’s a heck of a downhill. The shortest trail–that to Twin Lakes–is probably also the steepest. It descends 1289 feet to a pair of lakes a mile and a half away. The brochure describes it as “easy to difficult,” with the easy part being around the lakes themselves. It’s a challenging hike on the way back up.
The trails are well maintained, though deadfalls over the summer mean one has to step over a few of them. Come September, the local mountain biking group will return to clear the paths for winter biking, and then rangers will clear them again in the spring.
Most of the trees–lodgepole pine, Western red cedar, Western hemlock, and Douglas fir–are what I would call “old growth,” though compared to some of California’s sequoias they are probably just mere saplings. Many of them stand more than 100 feet tall, but there is little of the underbrush found in Eastern forests.
Elliott and I saw and heard a raven (though for a brief time I was convinced it was a bald eagle). An interesting fact from the Summit Learning Center: a circling group of flying vultures is called a kettle, because it resembles the bubbles in a kettle of boiling water. Otherwise, our only wildlife viewing was a curious chipmunk.
The trail down to Twin Lakes is variable. Some of the path is filled with loose rock and fairly narrow, while other sections are wider and easy for trail running (at least for this novice). There are only a couple of times where Mt. Baker can be seen. Still, the feeling of being “one with the wilderness” is everpresent.
The hike around the lake is through rocky trails, and hikers venture onto a part of the local YMCA’s Camp Orlika, which shares a border with the lakes. Kids were swimming in the lake, which we were later told was full of leeches. We took our first selfie here.
And then we started back up. I had to stop at nearly every switchback to catch my breath. As Elliott said, this is like going to the top of the Empire State Building on a handicapped ramp. We finished the hike in 2-1/4 hours (including going around the lake, stopping for photos, and so forth), and felt renewed, refreshed, and out of breath.