Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Through-hike: Supercross and Papa Bear via Tower Road and Keystone Road; out via SST and Ridge Trail

Distance: 7.4 miles
Time: 3 hours

It's clear and sunny in Bellingham and, with a high of 75 degrees, it's the most beautiful of summer days. On our agenda today is a through-hike of Galbraith - entering from its southern end and coming out at the Birch Street parking lot in the north.

Mt Baker provides a backdrop to Road 4000.

Starting in the south end at Padden Trails parking lot, we go by the kiosk labeled Checkpoint Alpha at 0.5 miles, 11 minutes from the parking lot. (See directions to Galbraith access points.)

Raney cools her paws off in the muddy ditch.

Ascending the logging roads, we go by blue rock junction, where we break away to the right on Road 3000. (1.4 miles, 27 minutes.) A half-mile later we're at red rock junction, where Road 3000 continues off to the right toward the summit. We turn left here on Road 4000 towards Keystone area. (2 miles, 37 minutes.)

Mullet trailhead off of Road 4000.

Working our way up Road 4000, we go by the entrance on the left to Mullet trail. We walk by Road 4100 that climbs away sharply to the right. I'm shedding layers of clothing as we continue our ascent up these logging roads.

Ahead, we're treated to views of Mount Baker, rising majestically in front of us. There are also occasional views behind us of Bellingham Bay.

Views from the Keystone area on Road 4000.

At 2.6 miles, 52 minutes, we're at Keystone junction. Road 4000 meets here with Roads 4010 and 4200. if we continued on 4000, it would take us towards Sudden Valley. Instead, we go straight which puts us on Road 4200. We take that up towards the Supercross trail area.

Raney at Keystone junction.

Soon we go past the fallen trees on Road 4200; to the right is the somewhat obscured entrance to Supercross. One of our favorite trails, Supercross descends gently through its scenic wooded route. Supercross is the most eastern path on Galbraith.

Entrance to Supercross trail.

At 3.2 miles, 1 hour 6 minutes, we come out of Supercross onto Road 2700. Turning left, we follow this for a half-mile or so. We bypass Devilcross trail on the left, and shortly we go by road 2720, also on the left.

Most of Road 2700 is mostly flat or gently inclining. The last bit is steeper as we approach Road 2000, which we meet at 3.9 miles, 1 hour 22 minutes. This is exactly where we were earlier in the week when we hiked Lost Soul; I can see that trail exiting to the left. Today we turn right on Road 2000, which is descending in this direction of travel.

Fresh deer tracks on Road 2700.

Shortly we come to Scooby Doo on the left (not labeled on our 2012 Galbraith map), and Papa Bear on the right. Papa Bear is a delightful trail. Deep in the woods, it's decorated with ferns and fairly old-growth fir trees. The well laid-out trail twists back on itself over and over again as it travels northward.

We make a short stop here as I inspect some blister issues on my left foot. Ouch - it's going to be a painful walk out today.

GPS close-up view of Papa Bear trail's twists and turns.

A biker comes by and it looks like she is having so much fun on her bike. This is an appealing trail - not too daunting, just a picturesque path that rolls along pleasantly. I can see why it's the favorite trail of several mountain bikers that I've spoken with.

At 4.6 miles, 1 hour 46 minutes, we come to the end of Papa Bear. At this point our plan is to hike Baby Bear trail - but the trail is overgrown and doesn't look like it has been ridden or hiked in a while. We wander into it a bit but it's not a usable or pleasant trail at this time.

So instead we head south on Road 2000, and then turn right on Road 2800, labeled "270" on a small sign. (4.8 miles, 1 hour 53 minutes.) It's a steep climb up Road 2800.

We come to Road 2810 - really a narrow path - where we turn left. This is a nice path, well-traveled by mountain bikers. It comes to a tee-junction with 1200 Connector. We turn right to head towards SST.

At 5.5 miles, 2 hours 12 minutes, we come to the point where 1200 Connector meets Road 1200. This is an important Galbraith junction - and a bit confusing as there are some orphaned trails that also intersect here. If we turn left, we'd be following Orient Express. Another unnamed trail to the left goes toward Golden Spike and Candy. Going straight goes to Road 1200. And finally, veering to the right goes to SST trail - and that's where we head. 

End of 1200 Connector and a major Galbraith trail junction.

SST parallels Road 1200 for a while before turning northward. SST forks in a few places; most of those lead to orphaned trails. Generally we stay left so that we continue paralleling Road 1200. This is the only part of SST trail that I've haven't been on so far, so it's good to cover this and be able to mark off SST as a hiked trail.

Descending SST, we come to Checkpoint Lima at 6.3 miles, 2 hours 28 minutes. Today we turn left here to head towards Ridge Trail.

Descending SST.
Checkpoint Lima off of SST trail.

Water break!

In ten minutes we connect with Ridge Trail. We turn right and head towards Birch Street trail, and Miranda trail.

We end our through-hike at the Birch Street parking lot. The last couple of miles were pretty painful with blisters; I need to treat those before our next long hike. Despite that, it's been a great day and at 7.4 miles, 3 hours, a satisfying hike across Galbraith Mountain. 

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