Twin Lakes Loop
by Roxy Marck
Are you ready for a squishy, adventurous hike? Today I take you along a trail desperately in need of a sugar daddy, the Twin Lakes loop.
This hike begins at the Mountain Lake boat launch. We travel north, clockwise around that lake. A level trail gives us a nice and easy warm-up before we make the short climb up to Twin Lakes. At the northern end, after hiking down a moderate incline and crossing a small wood bridge we see the sign directing us left up the hill.
This shady, sometimes gloomy part of the park is a mushroom hunter’s paradise. During the season a wide variety of fungi festoon the edge of the trail, the logs and the trees. I cannot (under penalty of getting no more) tell you where the edibles grow so please take only photos.
The trail follows a small stream lined with tall cedar trees until, about half way up the hill, the cedars give way to alders. This time of year all have shed their leaves leaving a light, open area. Tall marsh grass hide the pools and ponds hosting the source of that skunk-like odor, the marginally edible skunk-cabbage. Exiting this microenvironment the trail will become a little more steep as we pass through a forest of fir, cedar and hemlock before reaching “the twins” and the intersection of several trails.
At this intersection we have several options. We could turn left to climb up to the top of Mount Constitution, an aerobic climb of about 1289 feet. Or we could turn right following the sign to Mount Pickett for a 740 foot climb. Or we can travel a figure-eight around the lakes. Or we could go jump in a lake.
Today we’ll do the figure-eight. A coin toss sends us counter-clockwise around the big twin. Head to the right as if going to Mount Pickett. Cross the small bridge and continue a short distance to reach the turn-off to Mount Pickett.
Here’s where things start to get a little tricky. First we need to traverse the small gully directly in front of us. The original trail around the big twin is visible on the left as is the lake. If you follow this trail you’ll quickly find yourself facing a hole the size of a small foreign car. Look carefully to see a small, barely visible trace climbing up the knoll almost directly ahead. This detour becomes a little hard to follow just before it meets up with the main trail.
Once back onto the main trail we travel only a few dozen yards before coming to a fallen tree so massive Paul Bunyan would have found it a challenge. A shout out THANK YOU to the volunteers who managed to cut-out a small section so that skinny or small people can get through. Everyone else will have to turn sideways, suck in the gut and push a little.
At this point the trail becomes more difficult to follow. It climbs a steep set of “stairs” and travels along the mossy face of the rocky outcrop before hitting the first of several water obstacles. Run-off streams pose a small challenge unless, like me, you hike the trail after a serious rain. Crossing successful! New boots waterproof! Onward!
Around the back side of the big twin you may notice tall white stakes marking the boundary of the park. The trail actually exits the park and travels through a day camp for Camp Orkila at this point. It’s my guess that the tread of small feet are the reason why this portion of the trail becomes more well-defined although that big fallen cedar across the trail does pose a bit of challenge.
Having completed our journey around the big twin we find ourselves in familiar territory, the cross trail to the top of the mountain. It is tempting to skip the little twin and head back down the hill but a stubborn desire to do an eight and not a zero sends us left over the bridge toward the Mount Pickett trail. This time we veer right after the up and down of the gully to follow the trail clockwise around the little twin.
The beginning of this trail is gorgeous with a peaceful view of the lake and a nice big log inviting you for a short sit-down. Deceiver! The little twin is the evil twin! Just so you know.
About a third of the way around little twin you hit the first of several bridges which appear to be older than light. Uneven, slippery and with gapping holes they invite a twisted ankle or short step into chilly water. Then you hit the squishy part of the trail.
Twin Lakes reside in a marshy saddle between Mount Constitution and Mount Pickett. I made this hike after a period of heavy rain and quickly wished I brought my scuba gear because the trail was under water. A little “off-roading”, a deer skeleton or two and a balancing act along a log or three takes us the final distance around the little twin to the gully and cross-trail.
Turn left for a third trip over the wooden bridge and left again to head down the hill to Mountain Lake. When you reach the lake check your time. If you have an hour turn left to hike the east side of the lake. You’ll have a teeny, tiny 250 foot elevation gain up a series of switchbacks before you reach the “message board”. There you can check the most recent post and make a new one.
A right turn when you reach Mountain Lake will take you back to the boat launch. Either way the trail will become level near the end so that you’ll have a nice “cool down” walk as you head back to your car. Now that we are back safe and sound would someone please adopt this poor relation, the Twin Lakes loop, and give it some luv! Or if you are ready to adopt Orcas as home, call us at T Willliams Realty. We’ll help you find a lake to call your own.