Cold Springs Trail
Ditch the gym membership! If you want to do the Stair-Master try hiking up the Cold Springs trail.
Gorgeous scenery and varying terrain make this hike a fabulous addition to any work-out routine. This up and back hike can take almost the same amount of time climbing uphill as it takes to traverse down. And while it may seem like the scenery repeats itself, trust me, it looks different when you reverse direction. Because it is up and back and because you can make this hike into a four-plus hour round-trip to the top of Mt. Constitution there is room to grow your cardio program.
Before you begin the hike I suggest a little warm-up stretching at the trail head adjacent to the Kokanee hatchery across the county road from Cascade Lake. The gentle incline at the beginning of the trail where it runs along side Moran Creek does not provide much in the way of a warm-up.
This hike starts with your back to Cascade Lake. It passes through a grove of large, old cedar trees many still showing damage from a devastating fire which swept through the park decades ago. Tread lightly on top of the roots of Great-Grandfather, the gigantic cedar tree, as you loop past his massive trunk when the trail makes a sharp right-turn away from Moran Creek and begins an uphill climb.
Cross the first wooden bridge and wind uphill along a couple of switchbacks. When you reach the point where the trail runs high above a small stream bed keep a sharp eye for the barred owl that frequents this area. You’ll be in position to look into the upper branches of several tall fir trees so sometimes this winged-creature will be at eye-level.
Cross the third wooden bridge to begin one of those increase-your-heart-rate activities popular with most exercise programs. Push on before taking a breather until you reach reach the green gorge with its moss covered slopes, large fallen tree and small waterfall. If you need to, this is a good point to pull-over to check your lungs. If you haven’t thrown one, take a photo, catch your breath and continue on uphill. Or make it a goal to reach this point in less time with your next work-out.
Deer frequent the trail so don’t be surprised if one bolts across the trail. A wide variety of bird-song fills the air with trills, tweets, warbles and calls … assuming you can hear them over the boom of your heart or the angry chatter of the squirrels whose home you’ve invaded.
There are a couple of small water obstacles on this trail. For the most part they are relatively easy to cross. The largest of these streams crosses the trail just before you reach “the meadow”, a relatively large open area of moss covered rocks. Don’t stop at the first one. Push on just a little farther because the second one has a cute peek-a-boo view over the islands.
If you are in reasonably decent condition you should be at about the one-hour mark. I like this meadow because it makes for a good goal. You can be up and back and home in your ‘jammies within two hours. Now that you know you can reach it you can spend a few days of workout improving your time. Once you’ve mastered this portion of the trail you can add to your routine the “Find the Cave” target.
“Find the Cave” means movin’ onward and upward. First, congratulations! You’ve reached “the switchbacks”. Orcas Island’s novelty of “the cave” is about three-quarters of the way up a series of about eight switchbacks. Watch for a not-so-well defined path to your right. This path will take you up a steep, rocky incline to the mouth of two small vaults. One of these was recently walled closed because some “yahoo” managed to get stuck and our first-responders don’t need the exercise it takes to climb to make the rescue.
Unless you have a fascination for caves or want bragging rights the side-trip is hardly worth the effort to climb the steep slope up to reach the mouth of the cave. However, you have just added a good fifteen minutes of intense cardio to your program with this mile-stone. What’s another 90 seconds? At this point you can shoot to improve your time on your next hike or power on to Cold Springs or push on to a lesser goal of the Mountain Lake cross-trail.
Either goal means that you’ll soon finish the steep climb and the switchbacks. Take heart when you pass under the huge, moss-covered granite outcrop. You’ve reached the beginning of the end. You are almost finished with the steep climb and the looming cliff provides good motivation to continue moving.
One last increase of your heart-rate and you’ll reach the cross-trail to Mountain Lake. From here the trail rolls up and down as it passes through the swamps and pools around Cold Springs. There is a shelter a few dozen feet beyond the springs where you can take a long breather or perhaps have a snack.
If you absolutely must climb the whole mountain. And that’s not a bad goal. Continue along the trail through the parking lot and across Mount Constitution road. The trail dead-ends at the Little Summit trail. Turn left at this junction. It is only a short mile and about 300 feet of incline to reach the summit.
The trail passes Summit Lake on your left before reaching the last of your increase-your-heart-rate climbs. Have faith and push-on because you are almost there! In less than one-half of a mile you’ll reach the tiny, little cabin housing the Friends of Moran gift shop. Stop in for an energy bar to much on while you drink in that breath-taking view from the top of our famous tower. Or if you are ready to buy your own mountain or view, call me at T Williams Realty and we’ll go find you your own mountain.
A side note. If you find no desire to climb UP the mountain, you can buddy-up with someone. Leave a car at Cascade Lake, drive up to the parking lot at Cold Springs and walk down the mountain. I promise I won’t call you a wimp…at least not to your face;)