The last day of winter found me hiking the Lakes Trail #211 alongside Coldwater Lake and Coldwater Creek, encountering a trail increasingly full of sloppy, soft cascadian concrete by the end. It was almost tough enough to hold me up, but then, not quite. Similarly, my shins were almost tough enough to withstand the ice crystals, but then, not quite.
I began my hike at the Coldwater Lake parking lot at roughly 11:00 AM, following the shoreline "Birth of a Lake" trail to the boat launch, then continuing along the Lakes Trail on the north side of the lake as far as the trail junction at the lake's upper end. A number of families-with-kids were out, but most seemed to turn back at the lake access area about halfway up the lake. It was a great day to be out, as the sky was blue, the sun gaining strength, and the breeze mild. I wore shorts and rolled my sleeves up, which I probably would have done regardless of the weather, being the last day of winter. Take that, Winter! I scoff at your chill breezes, and laugh at your gloom!
Continuing further, one encounters a wet crossing beneath a waterfall. The waterfall was nice, and I only wet one foot in hopping across. I could see how someone might worry about being swept into the lake with a misstep, but it wasn't really that dangerous, it just looked it. That may have been the sketchiest part of the trail.
At one point a bit further on, a very large landslide has come down, slamming into the lake and creating a wide fluvial fan, devoid of forest or meadow. It's a few years old. The trail winds across it, but does not venture down to the lake shore. From here, one can see the remnants of the original forest, a ghost-forest, poking yet above the lake's surface. The few visible trees are silver snags now, and a couple even have small shrubs growing on top.
The trail continues through the thick alder forest and meadows, at one point passing a very large beaver pond, complete with lodge. I took a lunch break just past this at the junction of the Lakes and Boundary trails. Here the trail overlooks free-flowing Coldwater Creek as it churns through a slot-gorge just above the lake. A new bridge allows access over the gorge to the Boundary Trail, and smooth boulders on the cliff's edge invite a sit-down. While I was lunching, a fellow came down from the Lakes trail, and made his way down to the creek a bit upstream, he was obviously pumping water and taking shots. I scooted up the trail without encountering him - his prints proved to be the only ones ahead of me.
From there, I continued about 1.5 miles along the trail up Coldwater Creek, to roughly 1000' elevation, at which point I stopped, rested, gawked, photographed, and then turned about. I had gone about a quarter mile past the last of the other fellow's boot prints, so I felt somehow satisfied. Beyond here, the trail would have been too much work, and at this point I had scratched my shins up pretty good from sinking through the ice, and had been whipped by alder and willow roughly 10,000 times, as thousands of small trees lay bent and collapsed across the trail above the trail junction. I felt like a penitent on the ancient streets of Barcelona. So I turned about here and did it all over again, but downhill.
Returning to the trail junction, I elected to cross the bridge and see how far up the Boundary Trail I could make it. As it turns out, not far. Again with the whip-snappy willow and alder. Again with the soft, messy, icy slush. So, back to the bridge for another lunch break. At this point, the sun was very warm, and even the breeze was comfortable. I've pulled off my field shirt by now, and am down to my tank-top. By the time I finished 2nd lunch, I could see the sun was wanting to sink below the horizon, and the sky was getting hazy.
The walk back to the parking lot was amazing. I encountered nobody, but had lots of company, as the cackling geese and various ducks on the water were getting noisy in settling down for the evening. Robins were everywhere, and singing lustily. At one point, taking a break at the lake access point near the restrooms, a beaver swam past, then around in circles, at time heading so far out from the shore, all I could see of her were the ripples.
Further down the trail, a pair of cackling geese were occupying the path. They would not let me pass. In no uncertain terms, the gander proclaimed the trail to be his, and invited me to either leap into the lake and swim around, or take a high-route over the meadow grass. I chose to keep dry, and skirted them on the grass. He kept his eye on me the whole time, waving his head back and forth a bit. She paid me no mind, knowing her gander had it all in hand, or wing, as it were. As I returned to the trail, and made my way around the corner, I was able to keep my eye on them. After I passed, they had seated themselves on thin strip of grass between the trail and the drop-off above the water's edge, but after a moment the gander got up, followed hesitantly by the goose, and they walked up the trail slowly. He would march confidently along for about a yard, then stop and turn about, looking back at his mate. She would waddle slowly his way, not directly mind you, but stopping here and there. He was patient, but immediately upon her catching up to him, he would march off again. It rather reminded me of Mike and I out on a walk together.
As the light continued to drain out of the sky, the evening became more alive. Fish were jumping, making ripples across the glassy lake. The roar of waterfalls filled the air from across the lake. A flock of more than a dozen geese took flight, noisily and in two groups, circling about once, twice, then heading up into the air, one group taking the lead, the other trying to take their place - sometimes flying at each other in the process, struggling to make a tight turn about. It was quite the aerial dance. Up the lake, and on out of sight, around the bend of the canyon they flew. Even when I could no longer see them, I could hear them.
I returned to the parking area at roughly 8:00 PM, and it was mostly dark by now. A group of hikers, or climbers perhaps, were parked nearby, organizing their gear by flashlight. Watching them (no, not like that! Out of the corner of my eye, surreptitiously.) left me day-dreaming (dusk-dreaming?) of a night time, moonlit hike along the ridge-tops, perhaps along the Boundary Trail. Under a full moon, that trail should be quite navigable, once the snow melts out. I sense a plan developing...
14.3 miles hiked with 1756' elev. gain over 8:45 hrs. Temps were in the upper 50s, maybe over 60 at one point, with mild breezes and blue skies and a snowline at ~1000'. I got a mild sunburn on my head. I really enjoyed my new trekking poles.
Images taken March 19, 2017 along the Lakes Trail #211, MSHNVM