There are many places to begin the madrone crest trail. For this day I felt that a loop would be best. That way I could experience more than one trail and keep the scenery fresh. If you are wondering different ways to approach the hike, WTA has excellent info on all entry points.
The loop I used was to take the North Lost lake trail until it meets with the Salal trail. This trail then meets with the Madrone Crest trail. On the return trip, I then took the Salal trail to get back to the trailhead I had used This trail is what you would expect from the Chuckanut Mountains. Very wooded but filled with freeway noise. The trail is muddy but nothing out of the norm for Washington in December.
The Madrone Crest trail itself has a nice opening where there is an excellent view of Baker and the Sisters. I missed out on this view due to the foggy skies. I have heard from others that it is well worth the small effort to go up there and see.
The madrone crest trail is an enjoyable day out. Considering the time restraint of making Christmas eve dinner, it was perfect for the occasion. Luckily snow has been falling near Baker and soon snowshoeing season can begin. That will be a far better release from the stress of school.
If you are looking for a more intriguing day out, nearby teddy bear cove or oyster dome are much better options. Both offer far superior scenery.