Make a pilgrimage to Bellingham for a lakefront ramble and a potent IPA.
Editor’s note: What goes better after a Northwest hike than a stop for a good craft beer? That’s the philosophy behind this series, “A Hike and a Happy Hour.” While not every brew stop may host an official Happy Hour, they will always be places you can spend a happy hour. (Remember to designate a driver.)
THE HIKE: Hertz Trail, Lake Whatcom Park, on the edge of Bellingham
This delightful and easy lakefront ramble, popular with trail runners and the occasional mountain biker, follows the route of the historical Bellingham Bay and Eastern Railroad. Built in 1902, the railway had ambitions of serving forestry and mining interests and carrying passengers between such bustling yesteryear destinations as Fairhaven and Wickersham.
Named for a local luminary who secured the route for public use, this almost-flat trail serves as an intimate introduction to the wonder that is 10-mile-long, 300-foot-deep Lake Whatcom. Nestled between towering Cascade foothills and lined on its northernmost shores by comfortable homes with docks and ski boats, it is the water source for about half the residents of Whatcom County (prompting roadside signs, promoting the use of no-phosphorus fertilizers and urging residents to poop-scoop after their dogs).
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Don’t let the summer-home ambience on the drive in scare you off. Starting from halfway down the northeastern shore, the Hertz Trail quickly leaves most civilization behind and wends its way 3.1 miles southward with views across the mile-wide lake of wild, darkly wooded, 2,677-foot Lookout Mountain. At its foot: little Reveille Island, home to a small summer camp.
THE FACILITIES: Free parking at either of two trailheads. Trails converge after 0.2 miles, whichever you choose. First lot you come to, Access 2, has more parking. Permanent vault toilet at first lot, Porta Potty at second.
THE ROUTE: A Pacific wren tweets among mossy cedars and hemlocks as I set out from Access 2 past nurse logs, sword ferns, vine maples and a huckleberry bush already freckled red with early-summer berries. Winking eyes of yellow buttercups line a nicely constructed boardwalk crossing a marsh.
At the intersection with the other trailhead access, stop by quaking aspens to read about the trail and the old railroad on placards posted beneath a big-timbered kiosk that…