Beaver Lake — Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015
The Forest Service has upgraded trail heads along the Mountain Loop Highway out of Darrington the last few years. First was to bring the Old Sauk trail head closer to the highway and build a 2nd trail head to accommodate a new accessible trail. Building the trail heads closer to the highway make them safer, and thwarts would-be ne'er-do-wells. Now is a nice, new trail head for Beaver Lake - it's visible from the highway, and the short steep slope at the start of the trail has been removed. This new trail head has an outhouse, and a history bulletin board is in the works (it's an old rail road bed - look for pilings along the river at the beginning of the trail). The Beaver Lake trail has always been notorious for muddy conditions. But a lot of work has been put into the trail in recent years, and with few exceptions, the trail is so much better now. You can only do so much for a flat trail in clayey soils. There is one section where the trail had slumped into the river (a 2003 vintage washout - a very good year for washouts). The reroute dips down near the river, and the slope has recently slumped again. The tread is still there, but it's a bit closer to the river than it was before, and the edge is abrupt and soft. Watch kids along this section. The alders, mosses & lichen, the reddish salmon-berry stalks and the lovely turquoise of the river made for a colorful walk.The beavers have been busy and the ponds extend farther than they have in past years. The ghostly silvery-barked alders seemingly glowing in the dense fog hovering above the ponds made for a very pretty view. You can see several beaver dams from the bridge that spans the largest ponds. Do yourself a favor and step off the trail time and again to view other beaver dams along the way. Immediately after crossing the bridge, there's a grove of huge western red cedars. Certainly continue past the bridge for this! About 5 minutes beyond, the trail ends abruptly where the river had washed away the slope (1990 vintage - another very good year for washouts). On a clear day, Mt. Pugh is visible from here; today it was not, but the fog swirling around the trees created a different kind of pretty scenery. I was happy to count 7 other parties enjoying this trail. We saw 2 eagles, and some people reported seeing 3 beavers in the ponds. Don't pass this one by. Usually snow-free throughout winter, it's a beautiful place. And it's short enough that you can swing by the Mountain Loop Coffee place on Darrington Avenue in Darrington. It's open on Sundays now, too. They sell coffee (big surprise), used books, local honey, t-shirts, Green Trails Maps, local art, and the White Horse Music Guild has dropped off some guitars, a banjo and a mandolin for customer's use. I have been there several times and was lucky enough to sit & listen to locals play and sing. It's a talented community. During one visit, I didn't want to leave, because more and more people arrived and picked up instruments or brought their own - and I ended up buying $80 in books while listening to them play, so you either gotta have some self-control or a lot of disposable income; but try to support the community! Today, along with a coffee drink, I bought some local fireweed honey, one book and one small painting from a local artist. No photos. You'll just have to go and see for yourself.