I just finished going through my last set of pending-review pictures from 2015, so I'm starting 2016 with a post about the past.
In June 2015 I travelled to Seattle/Kirkland area for work purposes, and took advantage of a weekend to plan some more outdoors stuff. After looking around on maps, I settled on the San Juan islands, so I started looking at hiking possibilities, and in the end Orcas island looked the best choice - all the others had much lower elevations.
So, early in the morning, I started driving from Kirkland to Anacortes ferry terminal. The drive itself is quite nice: after getting past the more populated areas, passing Everett, the the view are very nice, especially in the early morning hours and with very few traffic.
At Anacortes, there was already a small queue, fortunately I had a pre-ordered ticket, and there was not much to do until the ferry arrived except to look forward at the day, and hope that the weather will stay nice. On the ferry then, crossing the straits and enjoying the very nice views:
The ferry stops at Orcas (is it a town or just the terminal), and the next stop is Eastsound town. I pre-planned here a stop to get a second mini-breakfast: however, I misjudged what the portion sizes are and got myself a maxi-cinnamon roll at Caffe Olga:
At least I knew I wasn't going to be hungry for a while
Driving on, briefly stopping at Cascade Lake (I also stopped on the way back, the view is nice), then reaching the parking at the Twin Lakes trail on the shore of Mountain Lake. Good think I arrived somewhat early—the parking was quite full already. I also got a bit confused on which way the hike starts, since it's not well marked, but after that I started the hike. It's also possible to drive up to Mount Constitution, but that's just lame; hiking from the base it's quite easy, if you find how to start the hike. Anyway:
At one point, one meets this particular sign:
Beware—the Little Summit is not to be missed! After ~40 minutes of hiking, with some parts a tiny bit strenuous, the view is really breathtaking. It's definitely worth stopping by, as the view is (IMHO) nicer than the view from the top of Mt. Constitution:
The reason I say this is better is because you look towards ocean, whereas later the view is back towards the continent. And looking towards the big ocean is just perfect! Plus, the many small island, fully covered with forest are also nice.
Onwards then towards the peak of Mount Constitution. You cross the "ridge" of the island, and your view shifts to the other side. Which means you see back to the Mountain Lake where the hike starts:
Here the path is more exposed, not through tall forest like at the beginning:
Right before reaching the peak, you pass through an interesting forest:
And then you're finally reaching the peak. Compared to Switzerland, it's very much not impressive (730m), but nevertheless, being so close to the ocean results in some very nice views:
You can go into the small tower, and read through the history of the location, including the personal life of Robert Moran (shipbuilder), who retired in 1905 to Orcas island to live what (his doctors said to be) his last months, and who instead ended living until 1943. Not bad! To be filled under "too much stress is bad, nature is good" heading, I think.
After eating a small packed lunch, I started back. At the beginning the forest is similar to the one back at the beginning of the hike, but then, as you reach the level of lakes, it is slightly different. More tall (old?) trees, more moss and ferns:
I passed briefly by the Twin Lakes, which were interesting (lots of submerged trunks), and then finally on the Twin Lakes trail back to the start. The views of Mountain Lake from here are also nice, especially in the less harsh afternoon sun:
And then the hike was over. I still had some time to spend before the ferry I had a ticket on was scheduled, so I drove down to Olga town, as I was curious what was at the end of "Olga Road". Not much, but again nice views, and this very picturesque pier:
And then it was back to the ferry, waiting in line, getting on the ferry, and crossing back:
Overall, it was a day well spent, part different, part similar to last year's mostly road trip. Definitely recommended if you're in the area, and there are a couple of other hikes on Orcas Island, plus all the other islands which make up the San Juans.
However, traffic on the way back was not that awesome Small price though!