Ashland Lake & Bald Mt. Ridge

I joined Kim for a slightly different take on a trip we did last year. Instead of just the lakes we checked out part of an old and no longer maintained trail. It was another dark and overcast July day. We did not get a particularly early start. We headed up the Mountain Loop Highway through Verlot and on to the signed road up to Boardman, Bear, Pinnacle, and Ashland Lakes. The parking lot is quite small. We arrived at about 10:30 am. We waited for a group to pack up and leave as the lot was full. We were on the trail fifteen minutes later.

The trail starts on an old road. Gravel and pretty level. A short way along the route crosses a creek on an old narrow bridge. Laying on the ground is the makings of a big new steel bridge. This one will be nearly wide enough drive a car across. There is more old gravel road until the real trail is reached. Initially there are big stumps. farther along they become big trees. Some very large trees in fact. Among the fairly unique traits of this trail is that it is largely on boards. The boardwalks traverse some muddy sections. Not long ago the boardwalks were rotting away. On a trip a few years ago we met a crew replacing the boards. Now much of the boardwalks are new. The old ones were very slick when wet. The new ones are only a little slick for now. Chicken wire covers some of the boards. It is an improvement.

At the 1.5 mile mark we reached the junction with the spur trail to Beaver Plant Lake. Most of the campsites should be in use in mid July. The poor weather kept everyone away from this lake. The lake is  lined with bright green grasses. Part of the lake is filling in and it too is now grassy green. The green grass and blue water is very photogenic. Kim found slime molds and mushrooms to photograph. Another boardwalk goes along the marshy shore to a seating spot. We stopped for lunch there. There was a little blue sky and some huge white clouds. Photogenic and a precursor to bad weather to come.

Now it time to head was back to the main trail. Two tenths of a mile later we reached another junction. Our original plan was to stop at Beaver Plant plus Upper and Lower Ashland Lakes. We reconsidered this plan. Kim had recently written an article in WTA magazine that talked about the old trail from here to Bald Mountain and a connection with the Walt Bailey Trail. It has not been maintained by DNR for many years. Reports are few and they describe great difficulty hiking the entire distance. We were at the junction with the Bald Mountain Trail. Could we resist seeing a bit of it? Not a chance.

The trail starts with some downed trees and a little bit of cutting to help get by. Quickly it begins to gain some elevation. This is a gem of a trail. Some of the trees are huge. Kim is more of an expert on trees and she pointed out all the varieties. Huge cedars and relatively huge silver firs and others. Not nearly as big as the cedars but huge for the type of tree they are. There were a few more down trees to get over but the trail at this end was in surprisingly good shape. We met several other hikers who had gone up a ways and turned around. I did not expect to see anyone else on this trail.

The trail passes some amazingly big rocks. Giant balds above the route. The trail climbed in forest then dropped a little around a big rocky ridge crest, crossed a meadow, and climbed again. The sky was not very dark. We heard thunder not too far away. The trail was still fine but the weather was now a concern. We had some views out from the forest. I spied Three Fingers which still has some snow on the south side. The top was partly in the clouds. More thunder and lightening convinced us it was time to head back.

All totaled, we hiked about 1.25 miles along. A little farther the route reaches the top of Bald Mountain Ridge. I had hoped to get that far but the lightening changed that. Perhaps we can come back soon. The trail does get overgrown at some point but the first part is in pretty good shape. On the way back we noticed a pond we had not seen on the way up. One of the hikers we passed mentioned it and we could not figure what she was talking about. It is right alongside the trail. How did we miss it? It was raining into the pond but we stayed dry in the forest. I never did pull out my umbrella though it rained on and off coming out.

Back at the main trail junction we turned left and headed on to Upper Ashland Lake. After a forest walk the trail, on more boardwalk, goes right along the shore. We stopped at a wooden square on the shore. Big enough for both of us to stay dry on the shore. There did not appear to be anyone else at the lake. Solitude at Ashland Lakes on a weekend is rare. Just us and birds and a lone loud frog. It was about 3:50 when we arrived at the lake. About twenty minutes later the rain started up. Then came a flash of lightening and a big boom. Time to get the heck out of there.

It is only a couple miles back to the trailhead. The hiking went fast. Kim did find a big patch of more slime mold and that required a long photo session. It is really neat stuff up close. At 5:40 we were back at the car. The road from the highway was in much poorer shape than a year earlier. It as especially bad on the way up. Most any clearance car can make it but the pot holes are many and deep. Going slow is highly advised. Going down did not seem as bad.

This was a last minute idea for a less than ideal weather day. The day before I hiked 14 miles with 3700' of elevation gain, I wanted an easier trip. I did not want a long drive. Ashland Lakes fits the bill perfectly. We made the day much more interesting by exploring the old Bald Mountain Trail. A close in trail that neither of us had ever been on. I'd like to hike the entire trail to Bald Mountain but just the first part was well worth it. The big rocks and big trees were a gem that is a short way from the trailhead but likely sees very few visitors each year. I'm glad we took a look. It may have rained a bit and spat out some lightening but it was a fine day for a hike.

On The Trail
Big Stumps
On The Boardwalk
Beaver Plant Lake
Silver Snags
Reflected Grass
Dark & Bright
Bright Green
Faces In The Clouds
Big Cedar
Another Cedar
Trees Out Of Rocks
A Little Brushy
Big Rock On Ridge
Here Comes Kim
Dark Clouds
Looking North
Small Mushrooms
Very Big Rock
Shelf Fungi
White & Blue
Upper Ashland Lake
Rain Again
Slime Mold
Heading Down
Old Bridge
New Bridge Parts
Trailhead Map
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2016