Western alumni Ken Wilcox released the sixth edition of The Whatcom County Hiking Guide in May, adding 15 more trails to his previous list of 100 of the best trails the county has to offer.
As a graduate of Huxley College, Wilcox decided to use his voice to bring awareness to the declining state of Western Washington’s wilderness. The first edition came out in 1987 while Wilcox was taking a break from Western, and as Wilcox explores, he continues to expand the book further.
As a Bellingham native, Wilcox now resides on the east coast and visits the Northwest as much as he can over the year.
“We’ll come out for 10 or 12 days, and I always build in a lot of hiking time. In the summers, I focus on mountains because they are buried in snow over the winter, and then in winter time and early spring I will usually do the lowlands.”
“It is easy to grab onto something that looks really spectacular, exciting and long, but it is best to underestimate your ability in the beginning if you haven’t been out hiking.”
The book details trails with the length, difficulty, special access for wheelchairs and children and even includes the times of year that have the best views. Wilcox suggests mixing length and difficulty to find the best hike, where a five mile flat trail may be easier than a one mile steep hill.
For many beginning hikers, finding the right trail is one of the hardest parts and many beginners overestimate their abilities.
“Don’t let anybody talk you into something that is really long and don’t believe anybody who says it is just around the next bend,” said Katie Velasquez, one of Wilcox’s fans.
Former hiker Hue Beattie also reminds beginners to stay below the snow line when they are starting out because it allows them to see more plants and animals.
“When I decided not to go above the tree line one time years ago, I just sat on a rock and some chipmunks come out, and I fed them nuts out of my hand,” Beattie said.
Wilcox warns new hikers to be cautious of their skill levels.
“It is easy to grab onto something that looks really spectacular, exciting and long, but it is best to underestimate your ability in the beginning if you haven’t been out hiking,” Wilcox said.
The Whatcom County Hiking Guide breaks the trails down to location, many of which are close to campus. Some of the favorites mentioned include Heliotrope Ridge on Mount Baker, Fragrance Lake and the Rock Trail.
Heliotrope Ridge features a close up view of Mount Baker’s glaciers along with many other sights from such a high elevation. The Washington Trails Association calls it “one of the finest views to be had in the Mount Baker area.”
Closer to campus are Fragrance Lake and the Rock Trail which are both less than 10 miles from South Campus. Fragrance Lake features a glassy lake surrounded by tall pine trees, which give the lake its name. The Rock Trail is true to its name and features some of the highlights of the area’s geology as well as caves to explore.
Wilcox’s hiking guides are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.