Smelling Fragrance Lake

February 3, 2018

We slept in a bit and then drug our feet. One cup of coffee turned into two. The gas fireplace rumbled on; my robe begged to stay wrapped around me, warm and sheltered from the showers outside. Chris searched…and searched…for sun.

“There’s a slight chance it’s in Bellingham or Whidbey, but it’s not looking very promising. What do you want to do?” 

Truly, I wanted to read my book over coffee, and then over soup, wearing fluffy socks, under a blanket, silently soothed by the rain’s familiar rooftop cadence. 

“I don’t know. We could go, maybe? A hike would feel good, I guess. What do you think?”

“Not sure.”

He shared my sentiment. Time passed. The kids played. The rain poured. Our old dog snored.

“OK. Let’s go. Fragrance Lake.”

“Sounds enticing.”

Ten minutes, four water bottles, and a snack bag later, we rolled out and headed north toward Larrabee State Park. An hour later, we arrived just a few hours before dark, and saw the sun just beyond our grasp across the bay in Anacortes. Whoops! The day waning, we filed out and approached the heavily forested trailhead. The kids sprinted, free in nature, free from walls and screens and plastic. Warmed and protected by the tree cover, they removed their coats, hats and gloves, jumped over logs, ran along streams, met several friendly off-leash dogs and explored, hugging a cedar tree along the way.

The old-growth forest opened up to expose several boulders encased in a creeping network of hardened, shiny roots, trees still remarkably intact and wise with resiliency. The hike continued upward for over a mile, with a steady and notable incline before reaching a short 0.2 mile path to a striking viewpoint of the San Juan Islands. Heavy mist hung over Samish Bay, and the kids watched a ship and a speedboat forge ahead, ostensibly on a collision course. The larger ship sounded its horn in the distance.

The rain blew in, and we retraced our steps back to the main trail. Reprieved slightly by the brief decline, we faced another two miles of ascending switchbacks that would leave the average adult breathless. Our tiny three-year-old did it by herself, in a dress and pigtails, boots sopping from the puddles she enjoyed along the way. The other kids trudged along, sure the lake would appear just past the next turn. Uphill in the rain, they decided, was a bit of a chore. We neared the top and the tree cover lightened, our hair darkening with every drop.

I knew we were getting close; I’d been smelling the lake for miles. Admittedly, the name “Fragrance Lake” intrigued me, and I likely brainwashed myself into thinking every scent brought something new; something worthy of a namesake. Knowing in fact, that every hike is a familiar collection of smells, just blended and balanced differently. This one was less mushroomy and more coniferous; freshly pine and sweetly muddy with mulchy cedar squishing beneath our feet.

“My wife can smell it. She can smell it.” Chris announced with a face.

We reached the lake and breathed it in. Rain skipped heavily off its surface before sinking; we ate a snack and listened to the infinite drops converge into one water body. And then we descended. This time, Alex asked to be held, just for a minute, and promptly fell asleep. Chris carried her most of the way, down the switchbacks, over mud and roots, with brief reliefs by me and one by our 12-year-old, Jonah.

Finally, we arrived at the van, dusk approaching, super-soaked and quite hungry after the six-mile adventure. Alex woke right up and announced, “That was SO FUN!” not knowing how exactly she ended up in her car seat.

Her summary?

We searched for sun and found the fun.

When was the last time you went on a rainy hike? Or had fun in the rain? Do tell! We’d love to hear from you.

~Angela and Chris


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