Lime Kiln Trail + Heather Lake

The official dedication of this new trail was just the day before. I thought it would be nice to give it a try. Even though the day was forecast to be rainy Suzanne agreed to come along. I have hiked the old Everett and Monte Cristo railroad grade on the other side of the river for years. I had tried to find this part of the grade years back but failed. It was about time to explore this section of the grade. We arrived at the trailhead at about 8:50. We were the first hikers of the day. The lot has space for about 6 cars. There is a gated gravel road leading to a larger lot a short distance away. The gate was locked when we began and was still locked when we returned. The trail begins, as do all new trails, with a section of gravel. Before too long it turns into good old fashioned dirt. The total distance of the trail is 3.4 miles one way. It ends where the old grade spanned the Stillaguamish River on a bridge which has long been gone.

The dirt trail meets an old gravel road and begins to follow it. The route is actually a combination of old roads and new trail linking them together. That is until it reaches the old railroad grade. At that point the roads are left behind. The grade itself is very flat but there are a few ups and downs before it is reached. The grade begins fairly high above the river. It descends very slowly as the river rises. The Stilly had taken on its gray/green color and began to grow from its summer "trout stream" status. We reached the lime kiln and took a few moments to check it out. It is much taller than I was expecting. There are small openings on each side. It is located just above the grade.

The lower trail looks very much like a rain forest. Moss hangs from most of the trees. The earlier mist had by this time changed into rain as well. As with most of my hikes this fall the way was lined with a variety of mushrooms. I have seen more mushrooms this year than ever before. We reached a sign signifying the start and end of a loop. We went right and climbed then descended to the trail end. This is where the old bridge spanned the river. The loop continued and reached a place where it is easy to scramble down to rocks along the river. We were already wet enough and chose to continue on. My only warning about the trail is that the bridges are extremely slick when wet. A little chicken wire or some such would prevent some nasty falls. The way back was easy with minimal elevation gain. We finally met a few groups in the first mile of the trail.

The 6.8 mile hike only took about 2 1/2 hours and we were back at the car around 11:30. Although the weather was bad we wanted to get in a little more exercise. With the cloud cover at a few hundred feet Mt. Pilchuck didn't seem too appealing. We drove up the Mt. Loop and finally settled on a hike to Heather Lake. It had been at least a dozen years since I was last there and even longer for Suzanne. I knew the trail had been rebuilt and was curious to see what it's like. I remembered the old trail as being short and wet with rotting boardwalks. I also remembered it starting up the road from the parking lot. The new trail starts right across from the lot.

There were half a dozen cars in the lot as we headed out at about noon. The dogs were surprised to get a second opportunity this day and didn't mind the rain at all. The new trail, like all new trails, is very gently graded. It is also a little longer. The sign says 2 miles and it seemed to be just a little more than that. We switchbacked up until reaching an old road. The road has been freshly graveled. It turns to the right and contours for a ways before beginning to climb again. At some point soon after the old trail is met. It is narrower and steeper but is still very easy. The rain was very much in evidence as the trail had running water in many places. Even so, it was not deep enough to dampen my feet.

At long last the route flattened and we entered the lake basin. There were many good sized puddles in the trail here. We reached the lake shore and could barely see across it. We were in the clouds and the rain was picking up. The dogs couldn't miss an opportunity like this and Sadie was quick to dive in. Wet as it was it never felt cold. I had heard that a trail was built all the way around the lake, much of it on boardwalks. The weather was so lousy that we decided to forget going around and just head back. When we soon reached a junction Suzanne wanted to follow it a short ways to see a bridge over the outlet she had seen from the shore. The boardwalk bridge was very long. After that she went a little farther, then a little farther... It soon became apparent that we were on our way around the lake. There were a number of waterfalls crashing down the nearly vertical back wall of the lake. One in particular was outstanding.

The route is partly on boardwalks and partly on dirt. It makes it very easy to circle the lake. When we arrived back at our starting point we took the trail on the right and began our descent. The wet rocky sections proved to not be as slick as I feared. We had no trouble coming down the trail. There is one big log across the route. It's not too hard to get over but it does need to be removed so short legs can get by easily. We took about 50 minutes to hike up and a little less for the descent. This hike is too short to justify a whole day of hiking but is a nice complement to a hike up Pilchuck or to Lake 22.

Even with less than perfect weather we had a good time. We had a chance to check out a brand new trail and return to an old destination which had a trail largely new to us. After many months of warm and dry hikes this was a good reminder of what late season hikes are like. It was also a good chance to try out my new rain jacket. Nothing is waterproof and breathes well enough when hiking uphill but it is a huge improvement over my old gear. All in all, it was a good day of hiking.

Parking Lot
Trailhead Sign
Suzanne On The Trail
Lime Kiln Front
Side Of Kiln
Sadie Swimming
Heather Lake
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2004