Training at Larrabee State Park

Saturday’s long run mostly followed the soon to be inaugural 2014 Fragrance Lake Half Marathon in Larrabee State Park – Washington’s first state park named in honor of Charles Xavier Larrabee in 1923. Despite the classic January Northwest weather and somehow pausing my watch multiple times, the run was a fulfilling 3500 feet of elevation of 14.5 miles.

2014 0111 - Larrabee State Park run

From the Day Hiking North Cascades book, “…The Interurban Trail (was) once a trolley line that serviced Mount Vernon and Bellingham in the early twentieth century, the railbed was converted into a 6-mile trail in the late 1980s…The Fragrance Lake Trail (winds its way upward) through a dark, dank forest of mature cedar and Doug-fir. …Back under a coniferous canopy, the trail briefly dips into a damp ravine before once again heading upward, occasionally at a steep pitch. …Admire big cedars and babbling brooks along the eastern shore, and be impressed by a series of sandstone ledges along the western shore.”

We ran the first 7 miles following the Fragrance Lake Half Marathon trail, except for a brief detour where a few wrong turns (my fault) added a bit of extra elevation. The trail was mostly runnable even though there were a few decent and long steady climbs up Cleator Road and Two Dollar Trail presented us with a few downed trees we had to run under and climb over. The singletrack was a gradual climb to Fragrance Lake and with short breaks in the tall skinny dense forest showing us the beautiful Chuckanut Bay and Pleasant Bay even though the sky was gray, overcast, the weather teased us with very few glimmering rays sun. After skirting the quaint Fragrance Lake, we bombed the downhill 2 miles back to the Interurban Trail, where we split – her to the warmth of the car and I  turned around 180 degrees and climbed back up the 800′ of elevation to hook back into the trail and finish out the run.

Back at the intersection of the Fragrance Lake Trail and an old service road, I found myself a little lost (again). After deciding that southwest was the way I should be heading, I found what I thought was the trail I should be on and instead discovered after checking my phone numerous times that I was actually on the South Lost Lake Trail (how fitting). Confident now in my route finding, I worked my way to the Rock Trail when it started raining, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and the fog rolled in.

A towering ominous rock face towered over me and with darkness setting in, I pulled out my headlamp and flashlight. Not entirely positive where I was, but knowing there was still more up elevation to gain before descending down in elevation, I followed what I presumed was the trail to an overlook, which told me nothing as the sun had dropped, the fog was billowing through the trees and I had turned myself around through switchbacks not knowing which way was north. Becoming increasingly anxious about getting lost in the dark on a trail system I’d never been on before, I finally decided I knew where I was and bounded to where I thought I should be. I shortcutted my planned run by 4 miles back to Fragrance Lake and all the way back way down to the Interurban Trail just as dark turned to dark-dark.

A pleasure of a beautiful classic northwest trail run, complete with wide trails, maintained service roads, and plenty of singletrack, this trail is forested with new and old growth which open ever so often providing glimmering views of Chuckanut and Bellingham Bay and a serene lake one could spend hours basking in it’s calmness.

I will be back for another run.

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