I’m baaaack! Are you ready for a squishy, adventurous hike? Today I take you along a trail desperately in need of a sugar daddy, the Twin Lakes loop.
We will start out from the boat launch at Mountain Lake and travel clockwise around that lake until we reach the northern end. The hike begins with a nice, easy, fairly level trail which will give us plenty of warm-up before making the short climb up to Twin Lakes. A long, moderate downward incline is our “heads-up” that just past the wood bridge we will see a sign “Twin Lakes .8” directing us left up the hill.
This shady, sometimes gloomy part of the park is a mushroom collector’s paradise. During the season a wide variety of fungi festoon the edge of the trail, the logs and the trees. Check out the variety as the trail follows a small stream lined with tall cedar trees until, about half way up the hill, the cedars give way to alders and the mushrooms give way to the tall marsh grasses hiding the pools and ponds hosting the source of that skunk-like odor, the marginally edible skunk-cabbage. Exiting this microenvironment the trail will have a slightly steeper incline as we pass through a forest of fir, cedar and hemlock before reaching “the twins” and the intersection of several trails.
At this intersection we have several options. We could turn left to climb up to the top of Mount Constitution, an aerobic climb of about 1289 feet. Or we could turn right following the sign to Mount Pickett for a 740 foot climb. Or we can travel a figure-eight around the lakes. Or we could simply go jump in a lake.
Today we’ll do the figure-eight. A coin toss sends us counter-clockwise around the big twin so we head to the right as if we were going to Mount Pickett. We cross the small, scary wood bridge and continue a short distance until we reach the turn-off to Mount Pickett.
This decision point is where things start to get a little tricky. Directly in front of us is a small gully which needs to be traversed before heading leftish. The original trail around the big twin is visible on the left as is the lake. If you try to follow this trail you’ll quickly find yourself facing a hole in the trail the size of a small foreign car. Instead of following that trail, look carefully, you’ll see a small, barely visible trace climbing up the knoll almost directly ahead. This path will take you around the first of several obstacles on this trail.
The path becomes a little hard to follow just before it meets up with the main trail. Once back onto the main trail you travel only a few dozen yards before coming to a fallen tree so massive Paul Bunyan would have found it a challenge. Someone managed to cut-out a small section so that skinny or small people can slid through. The rest of you might have to turn sideways, suck in the gut and push a little. A shout out THANK YOU to those volunteers who clear our trails!
At this point the trail becomes more difficult to follow. It climbs a steep set of “stairs” and travels along the mossy face of the rocky outcrop before hitting the first of several water obstacles. Run-off streams pose a small challenge unless, like me, you hike the trail after a serious rain. Crossing successful! New boots waterproof! Onward!
Around the back side of the big twin you may notice tall white stakes marking the boundary of the park. Here the trail exits the park and briefly goes through a day camp for Camp Orkila. It’s my guess that the patter of small feet are the reason why this portion of the trail becomes much more well defined although that big cedar across the trail does pose a bit of challenge. Hopefully and with care we can climb over the many poking branches without injury to our tender parts.
Having completed our journey around the big twin we find ourselves back at the cross trail to the top of the mountain. It is tempting to skip the little twin and head back down but a stubborn desire to do an eight and not a zero sends us back over the scary bridge toward the Mount Pickett trail.
After traveling the up and down of the gully again we’ll veer right to follow the trail clockwise around the little twin. There is gorgeous spot with a peaceful view of the lake and moss covered boulders at the beginning of the loop around the little twin. A nice big log invites you for a short sit-down. The small beach is a dog magnet. It’s sooooo pretty! … But the little twin is the evil twin! Just so you know.
About a third of the way around little twin you hit the first of several bridges which appear to be older than light. Uneven, slippery and with gapping holes they invite a twisted ankle or short step into chilly water. And then you hit the squishy part of the trail. Okay, it might not be squishy after a long, dry summer.
Twin Lakes reside in a saddle between Mount Constitution and Mount Pickett. As a result the entire area is a bit of a marsh. I made this hike after a period of heavy rain and quickly wished I brought my scuba gear. About half of the .4 miles around the little twin was under water. Okay, I may be exaggerating. The water appeared to be less than knee-deep and there were, for the most part, ways around if you don’t mind a little off-roading and a deer skeleton or two.
And so, after breaking the law by traveling off the trail and after practicing our balance routine walking along a log or three, we once again arrive at the intersection where the lake trails meet the Mount Pickett trail. A left for our third trip over that scary wooden bridge, going the opposite direction this time, takes us to our left turn down the hill to Mountain Lake.
Check your time when you reach the cross trail at Mountain Lake. If you have about 45 minutes turn left at the bottom to hike the east side of the lake. You’ll have a teeny, tiny 250 foot elevation gain up a series of switchbacks before you reach the “message board”. Check the most recent post or make a new one if you feel creative then continue on until you reach the dam. Make a right turn at the dam to cross the new wood bridge and you on your way to the Mountain Lake shelter.
Now that we are back safe and sound would someone please adopt this poor relation, the Twin Lakes loop, and give it some luv!? What do you think? Shall we send a message to the Friends of Moran http://friendsofmoran.com asking them to create an Adopt-a-Trail program?
Hello World! The Friends of Moran asked if I’d be interested in posting on their blog as a guest writer. My first thoughts were, “WOW! Me?”. Those thoughts were promptly followed by, “Holy unwritten blogs, Batman! What am I going to write about?”
Hiking of course! Whether you are a hardy hiker or a Sunday stroller, Moran State Park has a hike for you. All hikes feature a lush, green forest with moss covered logs or rocks inviting you for a sit-down amid quiet serenity. Many offer phenomenal sweeping views of the islands or roaring waterfalls or reflective lakes. Loads to write about, yes?
For my first post I’d like to take you around Mountain Lake in Moran State Park. This popular hike is an easy 3.9 miles which may take anywhere from one to three hours depending upon your speed or the number of photos you stop to take.
The Mountain Lake loop is what I like to call a “no-brainer” hike in that the trail is wide, well-marked and doesn’t have too many places which test your athleticism. There is decent parking at either trailhead. And, most importantly, there are “potties” near both trailheads!
You have a choice about the intensity of this hike when you start. If you start at the north trailhead toward Twin Lakes the route presents a few switchbacks with a fairly steep incline. If you start at the south trailhead toward the dam the route achieves the elevation gain along a long gentle incline.
Today I’m a wimp so let’s head south or counter-clockwise around the lake. Before we start let us take a moment to drink in the view from the parking lot. This view varies not only from day to day but hour to hour. Some mornings the fog shrouds the opposite shore giving you an eerie feeling as sounds are muted and the air feels heavy. Sometimes the sun shines on rippling water sending out flashes of silver. And some days the lake is so clear you can see the trout undulating in the shadows. What this means is, if you don’t like the view now, come back later as it is guaranteed to change.
The trail starts with a “little bit up”, levels out and then gives you a “a lot up” for a good warm-up to get you started on your hike. About the time you “warm-up” you’ll reach the dam. I like the photo ops from the dam area. It is usually a good place to catch the mirror effect from the lake and, depending on the season, there may be a waterfall photo op where the water exits the dam.
When you round the bend to the east side of the lake you’ll pass a small cove with a number of fallen trees. Herons perch on these logs giving you another great photo op. Herons on the island are a little shy so you’ll need to be quiet and careful not to disturb them before you are ready to snap the photo.
After a long climb up a gentle incline, you reach the highest elevation gain of this hike. A huge moss-covered fallen tree crosses the trail above you. No worries, it’s been there for ages so it’s doubtful that it will chose to fall on you when you are under it. Even so, I don’t dawdle at this point. Just past this tree you’ll find an antique message board in the form of a log with twigs spelling out a message. How creative can your “post” be using a few twigs? Give it a whirl before heading down the switchbacks!
At the north-end you might find that heron you missed back at the dam. When you pass the trees sticking out of the lake you have most likely passed your heron photo op. So sorry. Come back tomorrow. But do keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers, bald eagles and osprey. They love to fish for trout in the lake.
Rounding the lake back to the westside the trail twists through fir, hemlock and cedar.
A tree came down in the winter storm of 2013 taking out a small portion of the trail. Energetic youths from the mainland cleared the tree and rebuilt the trail but it is still a bit rough for a short distance so I suggest you tread carefully. After that it is a fairly easy stroll to the north trailhead and boat launch.
There is almost always a photo op at boat launch. Some misty mornings you can shoot the island as it rises through the mist. Other times the lake is so calm and the reflection of the opposite shore so clear it is difficult to find where the land ends and the lake begins.
Finally, the “cool down” walk along the road back to the parking lot near the stone shelter. You are almost finished when you pass the huge, scarred, old grandmother cedar tree at the edge of the road. Oh, go ahead, give her a hug! Build a fire in the shelter and have a nice lunch. But come back tomorrow for a hike in the opposite direction. It’s completely different hike with a whole new view!
Join us for the annual state park clean up! 9 am April 11th! Lunch provided by Karen & Ken Speck and Pat Muffat. Bring your work gloves and check in at the Day Use Shelter!
Watch for our postings-we hope to starat blogging about while hiking in Moran!
Next weekend is the second Saturday in April-each year every year! The Annual Park Clean Up!
We realize its a busy weekend on Orcas but we hope you can spare some time to come help us clean up Moran State park!
Its a big ask, but its a big park and we’ve had some big winds!
April 12th 9 am to 4 pm. Join us anytime or all day. Stop at the Day Use Shelter, sign in, grab a cup of coffee and a task. Lunch will be served at noon. Bring your gloves and love for Moran State Park.
We apologize for the inconvenience, but the battery in our weather station, despite being replaced in November, is not working properly. Therefore our solar power panel is supplying only enough energy to collect data during sun lit hours.
We hope to resolve the issue as soon as WSDOT has a planned visit to the tower.
On a positive note the new emergency phones have been installed! So we have reliable phone service at the day use area, Mountain Lake and at the Summit.
Thanks for your interest and support.
Hello Again! We’ve had some awesome changes in the last few months-
First we have some amazing new board members that love MSP and are committed to the Friends of Moran board. This means you can start following something other than silence. You can expect to read about some great hikes from Sandi including some up to date trailing sightings and recommendations! We’ll also try to keep you up to speed on the mountain bike trails.
We do apologize for the silence, but when its all volunteer and there are so many wonderful events planned supporting the park, sometimes our new ideas fall the the side-but not forgotten!!
Here’s to happy hiking while in Moran!