INDEX — Ken Harrison has one fiat his gang of Bellingham trail hounds never question.
Have fun out there.
That’s it. No edicts, rules or Zen-like decrees about communing with nature.
Harrison, an energetic 70-year-old Fairhaven realtor, has been promoting fun mid-week excursions with the Boomers Hiking Club for 16 years.
He does not need to review trail etiquette with an experienced Bellingham outdoors group that shares a deep passion for the Cascadian wonderland with the Head Boomer.
I lobbied to join the amiable folks on a popular day hike in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that I had never tried.
Harrison promised a spectacular day with a challenging hike to Lake Serene that included a side jaunt to 1,328-foot Bridal Veil Falls, which spills over sheer walls of blackened granite slabs in four sections.
It should not have been surprising that the trailhead parking lot was filled with cars on a weekday because of the hike’s proximity to Seattle and Everett in the Skykomish Basin off U.S. Highway 2.
With the North Cascade hiking routes on hiatus because of deep snow, we headed 1 1/2 hours south and east to a major attraction in the Stevens Pass Greenway. Serene’s thigh-burning route includes the aforementioned waterfall, an inviting alpine lake surrounded by the steep rock towers of 6,000-foot Mount Index and 4,262-foot Philadelphia Mountain.
Not many hikes offer such variety, leading some outdoors people to pronounce Serene as one of Western Washington’s best day hikes. But not me. The best day hike in Washington is the one I am taking at any particular moment.
Harrison had it right. The 8.2-mile trek with 23 switchbacks and wooden staircase after staircase is worth the exertion. A tributary trail takes hikers to the side of Bridal Veil for up-close views of gushing water that spray paints the rock.
Harrison knew of my love of old trees. While few mention the impressive specimens along the trail, the hike to Serene has some ancients that Harrison signaled out. He found a thick and healthy spruce that stood as straight as a soldier at attention. We marveled at a large, old Douglas-fir.
I forgive anyone powering past these statuesque conifers while picking their way toward the plunging waterfall, snow-covered lake and magnificent spires of Mount Index.
But I couldn’t help thinking how lucky we are people cared enough to protect some of the treasures here from logging interests that have made fortunes felling great swaths of forestland.
Public lands often abut privately-held property in the checkerboard map of natural resource management. The Lake Serene Trail was no exception as Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, North America’s largest private landowner, owned a 190-acre parcel with the trail traversing a small portion of its property.
Five years ago, Seattle-based nonprofit Forterra worked with Snohomish County officials to buy the entire parcel for $800,000. Forterra owns and manages the acreage.