|Shadow of the Sentinels Trail |
Last fall, I did a great loop through the North Cascades
, hiking, camping, and blogging about many of the trails and sites. This spring, I hiked one of the several trails I had written about, but hadn't had time to try: the Shadow of the Sentinels
near Baker Lake.
The trees along this hike are amazing. The trail through the old-growth forest frequently passes up-close single and small groups of ancient and huge Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, Silver Firs -- many estimated to be 700 years old.
The trailhead begins at a paved parking lot with an accessible outhouse. There is a picnic table, that can be accessed from the parking lot, but it is not cut out for wheelchairs. Parking requires a Northwest Forest Pass (people with a permanent disability are eligible for the nation-wide interagency "America the Beautiful" access pass
, which is valid at all sites managed by the US Forest-Service and some other agencies).
The trail itself is a .5 mile loop, surfaced mainly with pavement and boardwalk. The path is mostly level, and I was able to push myself, except for one short but steep hill on a boardwalk, where I needed help. The transitions between pavement and boardwalk were flat. There were a couple spots where roots were pushing up through the pavement, but I think they could be passed by all types of wheelchairs.
|Tremendous number of downed|
trees in early spring
This trail is a lesson in the necessity of advanced research. As with any trail, you can find excellent descriptions at the websites of the Washington Trails Association (WTA)
. Just as importantly, both trail websites show Trip Reports written by members. Recent reports inform you of trailhead and trail conditions, alerting you to obstacles and challenges. For example, thanks to WTA trip reports, we were somewhat prepared for the fallen trees on this trail. (Although, honestly, nothing could adequately prepare us for the sheer magnitude of the blowdown -- the incredible number of trees that had fallen over, their size, and the damage caused by their ripped out roots.
|Damaged trail and temporary|
"bridge" constructed to
go around it
Were I a good citizen with a decent amount of energy, I would create accounts with both of those organizations and add my own trip report with information especially pertinent to wheelchair hikers. You see, part of the damage caused by the falling of these huge trees was significant trail damage. Many sections of the paved trail were fixed with packed dirt. And one tree's roots pulled up a small section of the trail, leaving a gaping hole that walking people could go around, but wheelchairs could not. We passed through only because my husband built a bridge and seriously helped me cross over; others may need to go the "wrong" way around the trail (the hole is near the start if one goes the correct way), and then turn around, going back along the same loop the "right" way.
The trail is covered with snow in winter, and it is subject to fallen trees in spring, so the best time to hike in a wheelchair is probably summer to mid-fall.
|Baker Lake Dam (road with a view)|
The trail is relatively easy to find. Drive east on Hwy 20 for about 17 miles, and turn left on to Baker Lake Road at Milepost 82. Then drive north for about 15 miles.
For an stunning view, it is worth taking a short side-trip across the Baker Lake Dam between Baker Lake and Lake Shannon, 2.3 miles south-east of the trailhead.