The beginning of the trail looked normal
Our most recent hike took us to Heather Lake located on the Mountain Loop highway near Granite Falls, Washington. The lake is a beautiful mountain tarn, very scenic with views of Mt. Pilchuck. The hike is listed as a good one for families with children. We did encounter a family group, two dads, one mom and one grandfather with a total of eight children and a couple of dogs getting ready to start up the trail at the same time we were. The children looked to range in age from a baby in a carrier on a dad's back to about 8 years of age. One of the dogs was young but the other, very small dog, we were told was 14 years old and needed to be carried part of the way (by the same dad who was toting the baby).
These two pictures are just to show how the kids could scramble over just about anything while the poor little old dog with short legs, seen below, was trudging valiantly along but needed some help. For privacy reasons I purposefully tried to avoid taking direct facial shots but didn't entirely succeed. All the kids had walkie-talkies which I thought very smart since the they took off running up the trail but were always in contact with the adults who were not going as fast. Good kids and good dogs. We enjoyed visiting with them for a few minutes. The entire group beat us to the lake by a considerable amount of time.
The trail is popular and on weekends would be very crowded. We went on a Tuesday when the local schools were closed and saw perhaps 20 people and a few dogs. Once upon a time the trail was in good shape but due to lack of sufficient funding the Parks Department hasn’t been able to maintain it nor have there been enough volunteers to help keep it in good shape. As a result while the round-trip distance, 5 miles, and the total vertical gain of approximately 1300 feet, were doable the condition of the trail is the worst I have encountered so far. Erosion has taken the surface down to large rocks, other sections are filled with roots, in a couple of steep places bare rock is the only way and since there is water running along the rock it is slippery, the wooden stairs and walkways are rotting and people have made detours around several places as safer alternatives.
This root tangle IS the trail!
This wet rock slab is also the trail
Up, over and around
Part of the area had been logged years ago but there is a defining line where the large stumps disappear and huge old trees several hundred years old are predominant. There are sections where it is possible to see the damage done by storms and avalanches. Also there are places requiring a climb over downed trees or tree limbs.
This old stump was acting as a nurse log, the roots of a second tree entangled in the rotting stump's center
Magnificent huge old trees
The trail circling the lake, however, is much newer, in better shape, sports a long wooden walkway in good condition, and since it is along the lake shore offers very pretty views. We even spied a distant waterfall that must have dropped over 600 feet down a mountainside crevice. In a more normal snowfall year there would have been several more falls and the lake level would have been higher.
View of the lake from our picnic spot
The trail around the lake
We saw several wildflowers with promise of more in the weeks ahead. The ones we saw included the first Bunchberries or Canadian Dogwood of this year, Foam flower, Marsh Marigold, Solomon Seal both the starry and false varieties, Youth-on-Age, Salmon berry, Thimble berry, lots of Lily of the Valley, Bleeding heart, yellow and blue violets growing close together, Skunk Cabbage, Trillium, Elder berry and Sitka Valerian. There were butterflies too, large white ones and several small blues.
Lily of the Valley
Yellow Stream Violet
Bunch berry or Canadian Dogwood
Sitka Valerian, blooming above, in bud below
False Solomon's Seal
Gathering of small blue butterflies
Nice boardwalk around the end of the lake
Beautiful view of the lake from near the boardwalk