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Pass Lake — March 2008

By Dan Paquette

A mile north of Deception Pass is Pass Lake which has some nice short hikes. Here is an itinerary that is out and back for a total distance of about 4 miles. The trailhead is clearly marked in the parking lot, and a restroom appears just up the trail. We will go out and back on what I call the “middle trail” which runs through a forest of our native conifers, some open meadows and stands of alder. Note: Page numbers following plant names are from the Pojar book.

Initially, the trail roughly parallels the lake shore but at considerable distance. After a few hundred yards there is an unmarked fork. Stay to the right. In this area you can make a study of Abies grandis (Grand Fir, p. 34) and its light gray bark that sometimes seems to blend to the deeply furled look of Douglas Fir which is also present. At other times, the bark seems to undulate between each story of branch scars and the waves are accentuated by some of the lichens and algae discussed in last May’s walk of the month (Sharpe Park).

After covering close to a mile, go left and then a quick right at the trail junctions. Soon you may notice some cliff faces covered in moss with protruding banners of Polypodium glycyrhiza (Licorice Fern, p.424) on your left. The trail has some ups and downs before a longer descent into something of a low area which you circle about and as you begin to again ascend, watch for large cherry trees up slope. I measured one in excess of 15 inches dbh (diameter breast height). Spring inflorescence will soon help us determine if these are our native Prunus emarginata (Bitter Cherry, p.48).

Rising, you will reach the peeling bark of Arbutus menziesii (Pacific Madrone, p.49) and fields of mosses which host Goodyera oblongifolia (Rattlesnake-plantain, p. 120) and have small inroads of Rumex acetosella (Sheep Sorrel, p.129) a nonnative that is eaten by a number of our native birds including, juncos and towhees. In the same general area, look for sanicles. The one we saw may be Sanicula crassicaulis (Pacific Sanicle, p.214). Beyond the moss meadows comes a meadow of grasses bordered by alders and Carex obnupta (Slough Sedge, p.400) which had inflorescence when we checked in late January. And in the grassy meadow are roses, probably nootkana with little mossy balls attached to the branches as if they had been washed in there during a flood. It turns out that they are galls of the tiny wasp known as Diplolepis rosae. This is our turn around point.

If you choose to explore along some of the rocky areas, please be very careful not to uproot the fragile plants and lichens. Green Trail Map no. 41S is helpful for many hikes in this area although it does not show the first fork encountered. For a late lunch, try Deception Pass Café and Grill which is on your return trip, just a couple of miles down the road.



Updated: July 3, 2016
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