Washington Hikes: Barclay Lake

20190914_101343_LUCiDWe wanted to take my brother-in-law and his girlfriend on an incredible hike in the Cascade Mountains last weekend but the weather wasn’t cooperating. Although things can sometimes change while you’re on the trail, the radar strongly suggested our window of hiking opportunity would be Saturday morning–by Saturday afternoon, the rain would be saturating the area and carrying on through the rest of the weekend.

Because of the low cloud cover and limited visibility, I wasn’t sure the vista hikes made a lot of sense and instead put together a list of hikes for them to consider on the western side of Steven’s Pass.

At the last minute during my research, I came across Barclay Lake, a 4.4-mile round trip hike to an alpine lake that looked promising. They elected to try that one so we set out Saturday morning and arrived at the trailhead around 9 a.m. to begin our adventure.

I was surprised by the number of cars already parked when we arrived– we had to sneak into a spot along the fire road because the lot was full. Once we reached the lake, we discovered there was a group doing ‘deep woods yoga,’ as Brian aptly called it. I can see how being out in the middle of nowhere and nature would be an ideal spot for yoga, but we certainly weren’t expecting to see them!

The fire road to the trailhead was in fair shape with only a few pot holes we needed to navigate. The trail itself was in fine condition–relatively flat and accessible–and we saw a number of families and older adults making their way to the lake on our way out. Brian’s app put our elevation gain at about 500 feet for the whole trip.

The trail was well marked and about a mile in we came to a log bridge crossing over Barclay Creek, which we followed for most of the hike. I was surprised to learn later that this area is recovering from clear cutting–the forest is well developed and we saw quite a few old-growth trees, including Douglas firs and hemlocks. There was also a section recovering from fire near the trail entry.

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When we reached Barclay Lake, we found several people tent camping and multiple spots to head down to the ‘beach’ and walk alongside the lake. The clouds were lightly veiling Baring Mountain, which rises up behind the lake and creates a lovely backdrop.

We continued along the trail around the northern part of the lake but couldn’t tell if it officially continued on–it wasn’t well marked. (According to the Washington Trails Association, we did turn around at the correct point!). The clouds were threatening rain, and thankfully we were pretty well protected by the trees when it did start to sprinkle. As we were driving away it began to rain–perfect timing!

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While the lake, mountains and old-growth trees were impressive, what really blew us away were the incredible fungi! The trail description had said something about this trail being particularly suited to those interested in mycology this time of year (we had to look it up: it’s the study of fungi), and they were correct. There were so many shapes, sizes, colors and varieties along the trail–we tried to spot as many as possible. We’ve never seen that many on any other hikes! Below is a sampling of some of the ones I found most impressive.

It wasn’t quite the vista hike I had hoped they would experience, but I think we all were happy to get out into the mountains and spend our morning hunting mushrooms, working up a sweat, and enjoying each others’ company. Another great trail that I would recommend!

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