May 25, 2011

Burnout Checkout

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: , — geezerwriter @ 8:30 pm
Old trails in the Burnout Road area

Old trails in the Burnout Road area

Last fall a clear-cutting operation on a parcel of private land adjacent to Larrabee State Park destroyed some informal trails that had been used for years to complete some loop hikes on the south end of Chuckanut Ridge.

On the map to the right the so-called “Burnout Road”, officially known as South Chuckanut Road, is the brown line in the lower portion, leading from the Clayton Beach trailhead to what I’ve labeled as “South Chuckanut Hill”. (You can enlarge the map by clicking on it.) The light and dark blue lines near the top comprise the South Lost Lake Trail.

The newly logged area is roughly square, with the corners near South Chuckanut Hill and the Lost Lake Junction. The green and orange lines are the boot-built trails that were more or less obliterated by the clear-cutting. The green line is called the Overlander Trail on some maps.

Yesterday (May 24) Fred and I hiked up to see if we could find a way to resurrect the two loops that have used this area: the Burnout Road hike, which followed the road and the orange line and part of the green line to connect with the South Lost Lake trail and return via Fragrance Lake; and the South Lost Lake lollipop, which came up in reverse to the Lost Lake Junction, followed the green trail around to the east side of Lost Lake (which is just off the map to the north), and the dark blue line back to that junction.

I was hoping to find a better way across the logged area than that big zigzag using the orange trail – if you blow up the map you can see that it drops down quite steeply and then climbs steeply back up the green trail. It’s good exercise but the hike is hard enough without that bit. Maybe we could just strike a bee line across the clearcut and save some climbing.

Shortly after we started up the road we were met by semi-trailer truck rolling slowly down. This is not the sort of thing one often sees on these logging roads – graders, back hoes, logging trucks maybe, but a full-sized semi? [Is it a contradiction to call something a “full semi”?] Further on we found a large slash pile, one of those loaders with a big claw on the end of an articulated arm and a huge chipping machine. Also a sign announcing that the area was open to hikers and bikers despite the ongoing “Biomass Recovery Project”, which made my day, since I always enjoy a fresh new euphemism. Or perhaps that’s not the right word for it – “euphemism” is usually used to mean a nice name for something naughty, but this is just a fancy name for something simple, like “sanitation engineer” for sewer worker.

The other cute thing about this post-logging cleanup operation is that the company name on the trucks was “Barker’s Chipping Service”.

So what seems to be going on is that dump trucks drive up to the logged site where another of the big articulated claw things loads them up with logging debris (or “slash”) which they bring down and dump on the pile at the chipping site. Then they chip all stuff into the big semi (which probably has an open top).

This all sounds very industrial, but it didn’t really disturb our hiking experience much. The chipping site, or Biomass Disaggregation Station, was uninhabited and quiet since the semi had taken off with its load of chips. We met a couple of loaded dump trucks coming down the road and one empty one passed us on its way back up.

Up at the logging site I was surprised by how small it looked. We could see across some low hills to the tree line marking the state park line and to the Biomass Accumulation and Lading Site (i.e., the claw thing). The road continued on but we couldn’t see exactly where because of the hills.

The View to the East

The View to the East

We climbed up onto a nearby hill that seemed to be the highest point in the clearcut and were treated to some nice views despite the cloudy skies. In the picture above, the view spans from Lookout Mountain and Lake Samish on the left to Blanchard Mountain on the right; at the extreme right you can just barely see the cliffs below Oyster Dome; on a better day Mount Baker would rise over the foothills just left of center.

Fred on The Stump

Fred on The Stump

There was also a fine view over the water to the west but I didn’t get any good pictures. The one on the left shows Fred surveying the domain (the bright spot near the center is Lost Lake) from atop the big stump where we stopped to have an early lunch and discuss where we should go exploring.

Wanderings - our track is in black

Wanderings - our track is in black

Fred had been up in this area last fall with a friend just as the logging was getting started and he was interested in trying to find the paths they had used; I was still leaning toward the bee-line approach. Since we had plenty of time, we settled on going back to the road and following it toward the claw thing and see if we could get to that area where the green trail turned east and then explore to the east.

We strolled along the road through a gentle S-curve, all the while studying the tree line for signs of openings that might have been trails. Just after reaching the place where the green trail should have been we saw something trail-ish heading east and followed it over a rise and down into a gully, but it soon petered out. We then tried to head north – the slope was too steep for me so I headed back up the gully while Fred went straight up the hill.

Neither of us found anything promising, so we regrouped on top of the hill and once again studied the tree line, which was pretty close now. I was by now close to certain that the old trail was along or pretty close to the new road and that we could easily get there in just a few minutes. So it was a good time to explore for the other trail. We picked a spot on the tree line and headed for it.

When we got there, I couldn’t see anything promising and was tempted to head straight west along the tree line back to the road, but Fred headed straight north into the woods and I followed merrily along – it was still early and we were close enough to the goal that we couldn’t get into any serious trouble. And sure enough we soon stumbled across a nice, wide trail heading east and west (at the point labeled 00510, if you’e following the map.) To the east it headed steeply downhill, heading in the general direction of the old green trail. We followed it for a couple hundred yards to get a better idea of its destination, but I was not eager to follow it too far – going all the way down and around Lost Lake would had several more miles to our outing and backtracking would not be easy (did I mention “steep”).

So we headed back west and in short order popped out on the old green trail, within sight of the sign marking the boundary of the state park. We had gotten to this point from the north last January on a little exploratory side trip from a hike to Lost Lake. (At that time the trail was posted with warning signs but they are no longer there.)

For good measure, we walked back out into the clearcut, where the trail very shortly joined the new road, and on to the point where we’d left the road earlier. We were fairly pleased with ourselves, having found some viable hiking routes, so we headed out to the north and took the Fragrance Lake and the Interurban trails back to the car. We went a total of almost 10 miles, but that includes all our wandering and backtracking.


The old Burnout Road loop is doable. On the positive side there are great new views from The Stump and along the new road (less than half a mile). The negatives are the 4 miles up Burnout Road itself and, in the short term, the truck activity on that road. The industrial activity was not a big deal in the clearcut; just the occasional slow moving truck. The chipping operation, which has to be pretty noisy, is a good ways down the road.

Another possibility would be coming up the Fragrance Lake trail and up to The Stump for the view, and back the same way. This would avoid most of the the truck traffic and almost all of the road hiking.

And it looks like the old green trail around Lost Lake has been at least partially replaced by a different trail through the woods. But this will require further investigation.

At the most recent planning meeting for the Trailblazers we responded to the heavy snow conditions in the Cascades by pushing the high country hikes back a couple of weeks into June and tentatively replacing them by Burnout Road and Cub Creek. The main reason we went on this Expotition was to check the viability of that choice. My reaction is positive. Any discussion?



  1. I like the idea of an out-and-back on the Fragrance Lake road, but that’s mostly to avoid the icky parts. I’ll go on anything that allows me to be with my hiking buddies! The other way would give me plenty of opportunity to grumble at the trucks.

    Comment by DJan — May 26, 2011 @ 6:27 am

  2. Hi there – quick question. Does the Burnout fire road begin at the Clayton beach trailhead? Do I have to go up Fragrance Lake Road first? Thanks!

    Comment by adamphaneufAdam — November 14, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

    • From the Clayton Beach TH, you take Fragrance Lake Road for 1 mile to a fork; take the right hand fork onto South Chuckanut Road, which is also called Burnout Road.

      Comment by geezerwriter — November 14, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

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