Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Loop: Tower Road to Summit; return via Scorpion and Unemployment Line

Distance: 5.7 miles
Time: 2 hours 21 minutes

It's a cool and cloudy morning as Raney and I head once again into Galbraith's upper reaches. Today we hike logging roads to the top of the hill, and then return on two of the major east-west trails descending from the summit.

Raney on Unemployment Line trail.

Leaving from the Padden Trails parking lot on Samish Way, we reach Checkpoint Alpha at 0.6 miles, 11 minutes from the parking lot. We follow Road 2000 northward, and then go by Blue Rock junction, where we bear east on Road 3000. (1.4 miles, 27 minutes).

At 2 miles, 39 minutes, we come to Red Rock junction where Road 4000 forks to the left. We stay on Road 3000 toward the summit.

The clouds are hanging low today. It's cool and misty - quite a contrast to yesterday's hike in the heat.

As we pass Checkpoint Delta, we startle a grouse and it breaks the quiet with the distinctive whoosh-whoosh of its wings. We'll be back at Delta later, as this is the point where Scorpion trail comes down onto Road 3000. (2.3 miles, 47 minutes.)

A few steps after that, Road 3200 breaks off to the right at Yellow Rock junction. We keep left on Road 3000.

Suddenly an owl comes out of the woods and dive-bombs me! As I see the great wingspan coming toward me, I involuntarily cry out in alarm and hit the trail, dropping into a crouch. It would have looked hilarious if anyone had been watching. I carry on, feeling a bit sheepish but with my heart still beating from the momentary surprise.

Yellow Rock marker on Road 3000.

As we go by the first telecom tower, we're basically walking in a rain cloud. It's dark, there's misty rain all around us, and I can barely see Raney who's running 100 feet in front of me.

We go by a small rock painted silver. It occurs to me that, on the map, the label "Silver Rock" is really pointing to that rock, and not to the trail from the summit. Perhaps that trail is considered part of Whoopsie Woodle, although they don't directly connect. I think I'll still refer to the trail as Silver Rock.

Silver Rock marker near Galbraith summit.

We reach the summit at 2.9 miles, 1 hour, 1 minute. We pass Checkpoint Echo and, just beyond the second tower on the summit, we see Scorpion trail breaking off to the left. We head down into the darkness.

Scorpion is a beautiful trail. It's another one of these that are for bikes only. The maps don't indicate this, although it may be reasonable to assume that any black diamond (expert) trail would be intended for bikes only. In any event, we're here now and heading down. At this early hour, on a weekday, and with the rain, I doubt we'll encounter any bikes, but we'll keep an ear open for them anyway.

We wind our way downward through the original forest growth. There are lots of cool stunts on this free-ride trail. Note: as you descend Scorpion's first steep stunt, it bumps up against Stinger and Evolution trails. You want to keep to the left to stay on Scorpion.

The bridge to nowhere - this ramp is designed for major airtime for the mountain bikers.

Scorpion has some of the steepest trails and wildest stunts that I've seen anywhere on Galbraith. The inventive stunts include a rope bridge suspended along the trail. This is Disneyland for Bellingham's daring mountain bikers.

After 3.4 miles, 1 hour 22 minutes, Scorpion ends on Road 3000. It's a gorgeous trail. It would be one of my favorite hiking trails, but I can't recommend it as it's intended for bikes only for safety reasons.

Scorpion bottoming out at Road 3000.

We cross Road 3000 and start down Unemployment Line trail. This one is open to hikers. It's one rolling jump after another, and must be very fun for mountain bikers. Partway down we see a new-looking wheelbarrow and some buckets stowed in the woods; they are probably for a volunteer work crew maintaining the trails. Great job on the trail, people!

Unemployment Line starts impressively with this stunt.

The trail ends on Road 2300, marked by Checkpoint Bravo (4.2 miles, 1 hour 43 minutes). We turn left on Road 2300; this should get us out on the same route that we tried yesterday. Hopefully today we can figure it out without having to bushwhack. I refer to my map to make sure I don't miss the route back to Galbraith Lane.

Unemployment Line meets Road 2300 at Checkpoint Bravo.

Looking for the dogleg right on Road 2300, we encounter it at 4.4 miles, 1 hour 49 minutes. Incongruously, there's an old abandoned rusted-out passenger car in the woods here. We go right on Road 2310, and are now looking for the sharp dogleg left.

At 4.7 miles, 1 hour 57 minutes, we're at that sharp left bend on Road 2310. Now we're looking for the right bend that will get us back towards Galbraith Lane.

Okay, now we have it figured out. At 4.8 miles, 2 hours 1 minute, we see a narrow trail branching off to the right. It's marked by red ribbons but is still easy to miss if you're not watchful for it. It doesn't look well-used, but before long we see fresh bike tracks in the mud, reassuring me that we're on the correct way home.

The ribboned trail to the right breaks off from Road 2310 toward Galbraith Lane.

At 5.2 miles, 2 hours 10 minutes, we come upon Atomic Dog trail entering on the right. In short order we're at the gates leading toward Galbraith lane.

Soon we're back at the Padden Trails parking lot (5.7 miles, 2 hours 21 minutes). I'm glad we figured out the Road 2310 return route, without going through the bushwhacking calamity of yesterday's hike! Time to head home, tend to a blistered toe (mine, not Raney's), and plan our next Galbraith Mountain hiking route.

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