I’d seen plenty of pictures on people’s pages of sweeping views looking over Lake Whatcom from atop Stewart Mountain. I wanted my own. After Hoofin’ it on the Hertz Trail, I thought I’d take a quick stab at the summit. I wanted to see what others had seen – and shared. Looking west onto the horizon, I’d admire the setting sun as the silhouette of the land outlined the lake and the edge of the Salish Sea.
This is an example from a “friend of a friend” of what I’m talking about:
From the Hertz Trail parking lot at Lake Whatcom Park you have two choices for your path to the summit: The wide open service road (aka Wickersham Truck Trail) or the footpath.
Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken led me with his timeless words, “…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” The footpath heads up through the land of moss and ferns.
As you ascend the trail the sounds of Smith Creek echo below. The angle of the hill is steep and you can look straight down into the creek. The path takes a turn and parallels the open swath of the powerlines that buzz in the distance. The silence and solitude is intermittently interrupted by the chirping of birds and the trickle of small creek crossings.
The trail empties onto the road but it is easy to find your way to the next trail head. I chose to stay on the trail- crossing paths with couples descending. I wanted to get up there and see what others had seen. Finally, I came to my first overlook where I was afforded (I felt I’d earned it) views looking over Sudden Valley and South Lake Whatcom. I believe that the bump in the distance is Alger Alp.
I wasn’t to the summit though- so I had to keep on keepin’ on! As I climbed the steep trail I noticed an evident change in the types of trees and the understory as it showed more Oregon Grape with its “pinnate leaves consisting of spiny leaflets” that are prickly to the touch.
Success is a matter of measure. I came to the park to write about the Hertz Trail but found myself being called to the summit of Stewart. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan in advance for this endeavor. While I had water, I had brought zero fuel and my tummy was starting to growl. That, coupled with the fact that the sun was setting (and I didn’t have a headlamp) didn’t set me up for a successful summit-ting of the mountain. So I simply turned around and headed down the road. From the road and the clearcut of the powerlines I could see across the lake and the fog setting in on the horizon.
I believe that I had a successful day and enjoyed my adventure. Next time, I’ll plan a bit more and take my time. If you’re up for a challenge and want to share in the camaraderie of conquering the mountain take a look at this:
Course Description: The second race to the top of Stewart Mountain! The Stewart Mountain Half Marathon starts at North Lake Whatcom Trailhead (Hertz Trail). The half marathon runs along the beautiful & blue lake Whatcom before heading up Stewart Mountain for a partial out and back, and MY OH MY the views are sweeet! The race descends by taking a single track trail after some logging roads with stunning views of Lake Whatcom and Bellingham. Runners will enjoy forest and lake views throughout the race.
Elevation Gain: Approximately 3,369 feet!