Ain't nuthin like ridin' a fine horse in a new country - Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Baker Lake Trail #610!

Farah, Connie, Fancy & Charlotte
It's hard to describe how excited we were to do this ride!  I don't think either of us got any sleep the night before!  Me - because I'd been there & ridden the first third of the trail two-years ago with Patty.  It had been very hot, humid, buggy, technical - with slippery bridges around every turn.  We'd finally had to turn-back to get to the trailer before it was too late in the day.

This time, Butch agreed to come with us.  We left one trailer at the south end, then Butch drove the other up to the top, where he spent the day fishing, hiking, taking photos & enjoying a day-off!
9:55 a.m. We're On Our Way!
We met at 9 a.m. at the sign-post for the trail!  I'd packed everything but the kitchen sink, knowing that if we got too far north - then found something blocking the trail, like the downed trees that the Ranger Station had told us were over the trail just past Silver Springs - that we'd be spending a night out there.  Once you're that committed - you can't make it back before it's too dark to navigate that narrow trail, somewhat treacherous in many places.
First views of Mt. Baker
Just a few feet in, the allure of the trail takes your breath away with stunning views of the old-growth forest that is all around you - that is until you see the first of the views that you enjoy all day of Mt. Baker!
On the lake at Maple Grove -11:13 a.m.
It wasn't any time at all until we reach the campground at Maple Grove.  The day was stunning & the peak of the mountain still had a cap of clouds.
We're climbing~
Before long, we were climbing, most of the trail is at about the same elevation above the lake, but in places you climb up & around rock outcrops, where the trail was blasted out of the rock.
11:55 - Trail -  drop off hidden by greenery~
It's been a very dry year, but there were little trickles of water perking through the rock in many places, ferns growing lush everywhere!
Really Big Trees too!
This is a forest that has gone untouched by logging.  In 1843 the volcano erupted, causing a fire that must have been something to see.  There are still remnant snags blackened by the flames.
By 12:30, the day was warming up~
We rode through a section of the magnificent old growth & on into an area that was very green & lush.
Following Charlotte & Fancy
The diversity of the trail isn't really too amazing when you think of the huge mountain that it is carved from.
Once around the point, Baker greets us yet again!
By now we were both getting hungry & had planned to make the Silver Springs Campground for lunch - thinking that would be about 2/3rds of the way.
Charlotte & Fancy admire another view~
We could see up to the northern end of the lake by now!  Pretty exciting!
12:40 - Looking north~
Finally, we reach our next goal, the Silver Springs Campground!  We enjoyed the sound of the river & the mares enjoyed their lunch too!  Farah was so surprised when she found that part of that extra weight she was carrying included grain!
1:40 - Ready for lunch!
We didn't tarry for too long, as we were both wondering about those downed trees & whether they would bring our ride to a temporary halt?   We'd headed up the trail not realizing that it was "the" trail, then turned back to find the campground.  Once we left the campground, we went back to the last sign-post & realized that yes, the trail we'd gone up a ways - was indeed the correct way to continue on.
2:04 - Trail~
Walking on down the trail, we were passing the freshly cut tree trunks before we realized that the forest service personnel had made it out to get them cut-out for us!  What a relief that was!   Next, Noisy Creek!
2:17 p.m. Crossing the bridge at Noisy Creek!
It was noisy!  No surprise there :-)  By now the mares were so used to crossing bridges that they hardly broke stride!  Besides, it was so cool & pleasant near those rushing rivers!
Mt. Baker falls into our rear-view mirrors!
Again, since this trip was to see the sights as well as do the trail, we headed down to the water at the Noisy Creek Campground for the mares to get a final drink before what looked to be the dryer end of the trail, where we'd veer away from the lake.
Enjoying the lake water~

2:40 & we turn to leave the lake behind~
Now the day was clouding up, the humidity had gone up & we lost the nice breeze that we'd enjoyed most of the day coming off the lake.
3:-00 p.m. The big trees kept us company~
From here on, we started climbing a switch-back, we had more rock on the trail & felt a drop of two of rain.  At what would be our final creek crossing, I stopped to take a video.  Huge boulders, lots of water & both of us thought that a dip in that creek would feel darn good!  But we needed to continue on.
It was 3:42 p.m. when I took this video...  I'd told Butch that the very earliest he could possibly expect us would be after 3 p.m. & the latest...  before dark!  We still had a lot of trail ahead, so after a short break - the trail headed up - then down - some sharp little switch-backs.
4:26, Butch's first glimpse of us through the trees!
We knew we were getting close!  We could hear the Baker River!  That meant that the Suspension Bridge would be somewhere up ahead!
Farah sees "Dad"!
Farah was incredibly surprised to see Butch!~  I think by now she thinks he's the "Magic Man" who can appear no matter how far we ride & comes equipped with the trailer & food!   Little did she know that we had one final bridge to cross!
Butch took this photo of the bridge at noon!
 A Suspension Bridge at that!  One of the most beautiful for it's size anywhere, over the Baker River.  The video foreshortens the length - so I've added the photo above :-)  You can see that it does have enough length of span to sway in the breeze!
Charlotte was talking about how the last horse can feel more of the sway than the horse going first, but with the wind - we started feeling the sway just before we reached the middle!  Farah - who's gone through Mark Bolender's Extreme Mountain trail class, had to learn to not only cross, but turn 360 degrees on a small suspension bridge that Really Moved!  So, when we felt the sway - she kept her cool & never missed a beat!   It was SO Much FUN!  You can hear us laughing!  Was it with relief?  :-)

Butch ran on ahead of us, Farah wanted to trot to keep up, but instead we checked out the small horse camp with tent pads to give him time to do a short video at our final destination!  The northern end of the trail!
What an incredible day!  There's just no way that photos or video do it justice.  My GPS showed over 16-miles total at the finish.   We walked the mares down to the rivers edge for a final drink before loading up to head back & pick up the other trailer.
At Baker River
If you put this ride on your bucket list, be sure to call first to check on the condition of the trail.  Be prepared to spend a night if you don't make it all the way through - as once you're in over half-way - you probably won't have time to turn-back & make it before it's too dark to travel safely.  Plan the day for the weather.  Too early in the year & the bridges are slippery, too late & they're the same.  Soak yourself & your horse down with bug spray.  This year there were very few, but in 2011 - we were constantly attacked!  Be sure you have a horse that will Do bridges, as you'll do a lot of them!  Then - just ENJOY an amazing ride!
Trail #610 Baker Lake
Butch & I stopped for dinner in Sedro-Woolley on our way home & enjoyed a really good Greek meal!  The perfect end to a perfect day!


  1. Oooh nice trail! That looks like a really fun ride- were you riding along a lot of drop offs?

  2. That's so awesome that you guys got to do the whole trail!!

    Your pictures are fantastic, seeing what's beyond where Shawn and I have ridden, a little heads up of what's ahead:) The suspension bridge makes my knees wobbly just looking at it.

  3. What a beautiful ride. Daring & fun at the same time. So glad you made it all the way through. Weather looked fantastic. Thanks for the videos!
    Love, mom

  4. Beautiful pictures and what an awesome trail!!! Those bridges are something else. Thanks for telling me about it.
    Chris (Machias Nursery)

  5. Loved these photos and your description of the ride!


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