Rick Dubrow’s “On The Level” Column in the Cascadia Weekly; Published 6-18-08
The beautifully rugged Cascades to our east were, and remain, my passionate connection to this place. Simply put, the mountains drew me here; sub-alpine wilderness travel above tree line is my personal nirvana.
During my 33 years here I paid little attention to the lowland hiking closer to home. I preferred to be high and outside; why hike in the lowland forests?
Charlie Maliszewski answered this question for me. While I’ve been playing up high, he’s been hiking around the Chuckanuts and knows them intimately. After relentless prodding to join him in the hills nearby, I recently caved in and joined in.
After about a half dozen such local day hikes I’m here to tell you about these gems just outside our doors. Gems that are highlighted in the book entitled “Hiking Whatcom County” by local author and mountaineer Ken Wilcox; gems that are highlighted in our Whatcom County parks website at www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks/trails/trails.jsp. Gems like Raptor Ridge, Chuckanut Ridge, the Interurban Trail, Hemlock Trial, Huckleberry Point………..
That said, I must admit that low country hiking does not dampen my desire to get above tree line. I’m still driven to go there, but that’s a piece of the puzzle: I must drive significant distances to answer this call to the wild. Trailheads to the subalpine high country are typically 1.5 to 2.5 hours away and this amount of car travel does not a Mister Natural make.
So consider these guilt-less opportunities much closer to home.
Just yesterday we headed out to Squires Lake trail after a mere 10 minute car ride from Fairhaven. The trailhead is located on Highway 99 between I-5 and South Lake Samish and Alger exits. Although the lake was a mere half mile from the trailhead we pressed on to a summit called Alger Alp, a highpoint that gave us sweeping views of Lake Samish, Cain Lake and Lake Whatcom. Spectacular views of Mt. Baker are also a piece of the action on days crisper and cleaner than we experienced, but the panoramic experience of our local bodies of water were worthy of the effort expended to reach the top of Alger Alp.
Thanks to Charlie I’m now hooked on these low country adventures. What a local win-win effort: less driving, if at all; a spectrum of cardio-vascular choices; great views; connecting with Mother Nature; connecting with good friends for an amount of time supporting more than a quick sound bite; getting to know our local terrain on foot. For example, it’s one thing to know Lake Samish when viewed from a car window on I-5; it’s yet another to feel one’s local watersheds; to grok their proximity to one another when viewed from above.
My appreciation of this place further fuels my appreciation of the local activists, non-profits and elected officials working to preserve these gems we see outside our own doors. Not only do these forested hills represent the cleansing lungs for our planet, but the Chuckanuts represent the only place where the Cascade range meets the ocean. They deserve protection.
They deserve your presence as well; high and outside.