Little Cranberry Lake in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands

The Anacortes Community Forest Lands, which, according to their web site, include 2,800 acres of land and 50 miles of multiple use trails, are one of my favorite places to trail run and hike. Our trail running group typically alternates between Little Cranberry Lake and Heart Lake, which means I’ve had a number of opportunities to get to know the lay of the land. After following our fearless navigational leader Nina for a couple of years, I finally ventured out alone last fall in hopes of mastering the trail numbers and locations. A dozen solo trips through the forest later, I’m now confident in my own navigational abilities. During the past several weeks, I’ve taken the time to do what I like to call speed hiking in order to travel at a slow enough pace to stop and take photos but not so slow that it takes me an eternity to complete a hike.

IMG_7661The first time I arrived (at Fircrest Drive) was on a weekday morning at 7:30, just as the sun was rising.It was really quiet, except for this sound coming from at least two different places in the trees above me. Lately, I’d noticed a new (to me) bird in the forest, robin-sized but with even prettier markings, which I suspected might be producing the call. Later, when I returned home and listened to it on line, I was thrilled to learn it was the Varied Thrush, an elusive bird that I’d seen half a dozen times but had yet to get a long look at. The thrushes continued calling for several minutes as I made my way along Trail 126 to Trail 10 in the direction of the Little Beaver Pond in hopes of spying a beaver. I’d soon reached my destination: Trail 12, the southwest side of the pond. I stood silently for about ten minutes looking for signs of movement in the water. On this day at least, it was not meant to be. I snapped a few photos of their handiwork, trees they’d fallen and wood chips lying around the base of trees that they’d spent time gnawing.

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I also noticed a few cool fungi. I think the first is marasmiellus candidus, the last is a type of cup fungus.


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The following week I parked at the A Ave access and followed Trail 10 to Trail 113, where I noticed several types of cool fungi. Last week, local mushroom enthusiast Ida Gianopulous replied to an email I’d sent her about fungus, at which point I learned that I’d been confusing polypore fungi with lichen. She provided some excellent information about distinguishing between the two (mainly, that lichen tend to be green) as well as the names of a couple of good guides by David Arora that I hope will help me identify both better in the future. For now, I can say that I’m pretty sure these are polypore fungi. The second is coprinellus micaceus, third and fourth show moss and ferns.



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I found many mushrooms and fungi along Trail 113, most that I can’t identify (yet). I think that the second shot shows a type of crust fungi, the third jelly-like, the fourth mycena, the fifth I’d never seen before and looks to me like a stack of pancakes.


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I returned within my allotted hour and so arrived at my next destination on time.

Two days later I spent nearly two hours (that is not a typo) speed-hiking a five mile trail run route that I absolutely love that would take the typical trail runner (including me and the gals I run with) less than an hour. Starting from Trail 10 at the A Ave access:  10, 108, 104, 100, 127, 128, 105, 11, 109, 110, 115, 12, 10, 113, 10, 134, 10. It was just as awesome (though twice as time-consuming) when traveled at stop and smell the roses pace. I noticed some polypore fungi.

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Then the leaves of Rattlesnake plantain.


Along Trail 100, I found three different types of mushrooms, I think: pluerotoid, mycena and coral like.

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As I entered a wooden structure near the northwester part of Little Cranberry, I scared off a small flock of mergansers as I stopped to take this shot of the parking area at the north end of the lake.



After crossing the lot, I continued along Trail 127. Soon, I spied two fungi, the first is jelly like.IMG_8541IMG_8546Here the sun peeks through the trees along Trail 128.


As I neared Trail 105, I took a little detour to Trail 132, where I found a treasure trove of fungi, most of which I can’t identify, though the second and third were familiar to me, coprinellus micaceus. It seems that banana slugs enjoy eating mushrooms. The others are jelly-like followed by polypore fungi. IMG_8552

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IMG_8570A few steps further took me to a swampy spot with lots of skunk cabbage, which, according to Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Native Americans used (p 334) “…for lining berry baskets, berry-drying racks and steaming pits…it was mostly a famine food in the early spring; and it was then eaten only after roasting or steaming.” They really do smell like skunk, though it’s not as noticeable when they first emerge from the ground.


Back on Trail 105, I continued on my way. These are mycena, polypore, mycena (two types), polypore (two types, the second along Trail 109), Little Beaver Pond from Trail 12 and coprinellus micaceus. IMG_8578  IMG_8583

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IMG_9086Yesterday, the weather was so amazing that it felt like summer, so I decided it was time to hike the trails around Little Cranberry that run along the shore. I found my way to the northernmost access: Oakes Road to Georgia Road to Little Cranberry Road. From there I followed the tight to the perimeter (for the most part) trails in a counterclockwise direction around the lake: 101, 132, 102, 100, a distance of 1.5 miles. The hike was awesome, though I wouldn’t recommend it for trail running because it is a little technical with lots of rocks and roots. Here’s a view of the lake from the north end looking south.

IMG_9092IMG_9094IMG_9105This is cladonia cristatella, a type of lichen; the view from the Trail 100/Trail 130 junction and a type of moss.


This might be broom moss followed by sedum, red roof moss, coral like fungi.

Here’s a typical rocky place along the trail followed by peltigera (lichen), IMG_9159IMG_9126   IMG_9141

While hiking along the southern part of Trail 102, I startled a couple of Canadian geese. Instead of flying away in a rush, the larger one made several quieter than usual calls as the pair slowly swam off.   IMG_9145

I noticed a neat type of lichen that I’d first seen at Sharpe Park and have since seen nearly everywhere, cladonia chlorophaea. They are one to two cm tall and just a few mm wide at the top. The second shows Gold dust lichen (just learned that today) and the final shot is of an enormous boulder.   IMG_9151 IMG_9161 IMG_9170

In summary, I love the trails in the Little Cranberry Lake area for trail running (except for the super rocky ones nearest the lake) and hiking. My only regret about spending time on these trails is that I didn’t do it sooner.

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