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Whistle Lake — April 2009

A very popular multi-use trail complex in Skagit County is Whistle Lake. An April weekday is a great time to drive to the old part of downtown Anacortes, stopping at the Visitors Center and picking up the three maps describing the Whistle Lake, Cranberry Lake and Heart Lake trail complexes. While the three maps are pricey ($10.00), you can also pick up a number of free maps at the same time. The maps may assist you in planning future trips to destinations like Mount Erie and Sugarloaf Mountain. The trails are managed by the Anacortes Parks Department; the land is called the ACFL, or "Anacortes Community Forest Lands".

Our hike is a scant 2.4 miles and much of it is on trails not authorized for motorized bikes. On the weekdays I visited, I did not see a motorized dirt bike on any of the trails described here. We begin our hike at the parking lot north of Whistle Lake. Elevation is about 370 feet. All page references below are from Pojar and Mackinon’s Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast.

Beginning on trail 20, we walk only a couple hundred yards before taking a cozy little trail numbered "218" on our left. Watch for aquatics in the wet areas such as Oenanthe sarmentosa (Water Parsley, p.216). Trail 218 ascends, levels out, ascends. Holodiscus discolor (Ocean Spray, p. 71) frequently shows up along the trail while ground cover is often a mix of Linnaea borealis (Twinflower, p. 68) and Plagiomnium insigne (Badge Moss, p.457).

After you've meandered south and east for about 3/4 mile, you'll come to a T junction. Follow trail 218 to the right. The maps of this area do not reflect some recent rerouting, but if you stay on 218, you will eventually approach an open area. Perhaps a hundred yards short of the clearing, you’ll pass a single tall alder right along the trail. If you have an ocular, examine the bark. Some of the green splotches are thallus of the lichen, Ochrolechia laevigata. Note the doughnut-like apothecia with pinkish centers. They only get to be about 1.5 millimeters in diameter.

As you near any of the clearings from now on, watch for Lonicera hispidula (Hairy Honeysuckle, p.69). As you pass the various open areas, Trail 218 becomes 219, and then becomes 29 which you follow to Whistle Lake. If you find yourself on 217, you missed a trail 29 junction located next to a Taxus brevifolia (Pacific Yew, p. 40). From the lake, take 205 to the right (north) which will eventually widen and turn into trail 20 which will return you to the trail head. Highest point on this trail is about 520 feet. Special thanks to WNPS Members Katie Glew, Dana Ericson, and Richard Droker for help in identifying a number of lichens on trail 218.

Driving Directions: From downtown Anacortes, drive south on Commercial Street. Continue south on Commercial Street past where SR 20s turns eastward. Turn right on Fidalgo, left on O Avenue. Then left on Spradley, and right on Whistler Lake Rd. Then follow signs to Whistle Lake.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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