February 7, 2010

Cub Creek, Schmub Creek

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: — geezerwriter @ 12:12 pm

What has been a pretty boring hike took on several new aspects on Thursday. It is called the Cub Creek Trail, but that has never made any sense to me. Neither “cub” nor “creek” nor even “trail” is particularly apt for describing this hike.

The first time I did the hike, it was a steepish slog up an old road called the Wickersham Truck Trail, which runs from the so-called North Lake Whatcom trailhead (located, in the spirit of geographical confusion so common around here, near the southeast end of Lake Whatcom) up and over the southern end of Stewart Mountain to Highway 9 near the small town of Wickersham. It is gated now and its main use is as an access road for a set of high-tension power lines that carry BPA power between stations in places like Sedro Woolley and Monroe to the south and Bellingham and Custer to the north.

No one seems to know where the eponymous “Cub Creek” is. The local legend is that someone once saw a bear cub near a creek somewhere around here. But this route does not follow any creek at all. Early on you can look down on and hear Smith Creek, a sizable stream, to the north, and the map shows a small intermittent stream to the south, but the road actually climbs up a ridge. There is nothing “creeky” about the trip at all.

A few years ago there appeared at the edge of the parking lot a new path which is an honest-to-goodness trail, winding through the woods for about a half a mile until it rejoins the Truck Trail. This year Pat and Ron discovered a couple more new trails that leave the road and rejoin it higher up. One of them is, in part, apparently an old road, probably for logging, that has been decommissioned long enough for some substantial trees to have grown in the old track, some with trunks approaching a foot in diameter. Other parts of the trails have been built more recently by local mountain bikers. The upshot is that most of the first two and a half miles of hiking can now be spent on actual hiking trails, rather than winding amongst the power lines on a gravel road.

Change can always be difficult, but everyone was quite pleased to be spending more time in the woods, even if some of the trail segments were a bit on the steep side. (I guess fat-tire bikers like stuff like that.) After a couple of miles on the road we came to a fork where we had to decide how to complete the hike. Last year we had taken the left fork, which led to a pretty horrendous slog through heavy snow along another decommissioned road that was choked with alders, but led to a broad logged-off summit with nice views out toward the water and the Canadian mountains, and a decent view of Mount Baker. But that Baker view was partially obscured by another summit, slightly higher and also recently logged, which has been beckoning to me ever since.

Mount Baker and the Sisters

I knew how to find the road leading to that summit, too, but we had never gotten within a mile of it in previous years. But we had gotten an earlier start than usual for this hike, so I talked the group into going for it. The road stayed fairly level for well over a mile but then climbed rather steeply up the last 400′ or so. After almost six miles and 3000′ of elevation gain, we came out on a broad, unbroken view of Mount Baker and the Twin Sisters Range. From that point of view they seemed almost to merge into one massif, although Baker is 4000′ taller and about ten miles further away.

Beaver Lodges?

The only things interfering at all with the view were a line of enormous piles of logs and sticks. Some thought they might be lodges built by some very thoughtful beavers in anticipation of a rise in sea level due to global warming; others thought they might slash piles left from the recent logging operations. That will have to remain a mystery for now.

The Sentinel

But as often happens, the piles/lodges, while not particularly lovely to look at in themselves, did provide some foreground interest. In particular, there was one forlorn little tree that stood proudly on the corpses of its fallen brethren and framed the distant mountains.

The return trip was uneventful, and more pleasant than in the past. The new trails were a great relief to the legs after pounding along for many miles on the hard-packed roadway.

Another improvement would be to find a route from this “new” summit back to other summit and back to the fork in the road, giving the trail a “lollipop” form, rather than just out-and-back, and cutting out even more of the road.

And I propose that we rename this hike to something more suggestive of its new character. Perhaps “Stewart Summit Trail” or “South Stewart Trail”?

Old Stuff

In early January a bunch of us went snowshoeing up at the Heather Meadows / Artist Point area. I got lazy and never wrote anything about it, and now I’ve forgotten whatever is was I might have written. But I did get some pictures that I liked, so I will just tack them on here, without further comment:

The North Cascades

Gary, recumbent

Camp Robber

Fred, Cindy and Amy framing Shuksan

Pillow drifts by Table Mountain



  1. Well! Finally a new post. You do have at least one admirer here, Al, and I look forward to your posts because I always learn something. Thanks for the great pictures, too!

    Comment by DJan — February 10, 2010 @ 7:07 am

  2. Hey Al!
    Just came upon this site as I was searching for hikes for the July, August, Septemember schedule–I always enjoy your writing. Pat has been a great addition to our little group; he pushes us to go higher and further than we had planned to go. Since I am not “pushy” enough, it is good to have him as a part of our group. Let’s hope for great hiking in 2011.

    Comment by Ginny Eaton — May 11, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

  3. Hey, Just did some of this trial by accident today (went up and just kept going 🙂 ) and have been researching… Did you know that a huge chunk of the land you hiked in this great post is up to be protected for low-impact recreation, water quality in the lake, and wildlife habitat? Those trails you hope for could become reality instead of more timber slash piles!

    The county council will actually vote on it pretty soon (this month or next), so if you are feeling magnanimous, please give them a shout….all the details here:

    Comment by Barbara — February 11, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

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