a destination was difficult as the snow level approached sea level.
There were supposed to be some snow showers in the morning then
clearing in the afternoon. I chose to stay out of the Cascades and head
north to Blanchard Mountain. Before leaving I saw an area of snow
showers south of Mt. Vernon but the highway cameras in Mt. Vernon
showed bare roads. Heck, a little snow would not be problem. I left
Seattle just after 8:00 am. The road was clear until south of Mt.
Vernon where slush was on the freeway. Traffic slowed down and there
were a couple cars that had spun off the road. Nearer to Mt. Vernon the
slush grew deeper. A whole lot deeper.
Soon the whole road was covered in compact snow and the big flakes
coming down were more like a blizzard. Traffic slowed to about 30 mph
and visibility was minimal. Not what I was expecting. I thought about
turning around but the unplowed exits looked pretty bad. I clung to the
fact that an hour earlier cameras showed no snow to here or to the
north. Somewhere just north of Highway 20 the snow stopped. Then the
road was bare again. Back to 70 mph. There was no snow to be seen until
a mile before the Alger exit. At the exit the ground was covered in
I turned left then left again soon on Barrell Springs Road. The road
was covered in several inches of wet slush. A right turn on the gravel
road to the trailhead proved to be much less of a problem than
expected. The road was covered in snow but it was only a few inches
deep. I made it up the one steep hill fine and continued on to the
Upper Trailhead. There were tracks but no cars in the lot. It was 9:45
when I got started. I chose to make a counter clockwise loop this time.
I started up the road passing the gate almost immediately. The small
deciduous trees lining the road were weighed down with inches of fresh
snow. It was nice to hike with no bootprints in the snow. Animal tracks
were all I saw. The gray sky began to lighten. I held out hope for some
good views from Oyster Dome. On the other hand, if that blizzard kept
moving north it might get awfully white awfully fast.
I turned left onto the Alternate Incline Trail. Before leaving the road
the snow depth grew from a couple inches at my car to 4 or 5 inches. In
the trees it was a little thinner though almost no ground was bare. The
snow covered trail was not too hard to follow. The very heavily flocked
trees, ferns, stumps, etc. were very pretty. I took my heavier DSLR on
this trip and spent a lot of time shooting the snowy scenery.
I had no trouble finding both ends of the old Incline Trail by the
bright red and white "This Is Not A Trail" signs. After merging with
the upper end the route becomes much more gentle. I wove through the
forest to the junction with the Pacific Northwest Trail
(PNT). I turned right a short way to Lizard Lake. I visited in early
February last year and skunk cabbage was already blooming. That "non
winter" looked nothing like this winter. The lake was covered in white
though there was a little open water at the shore.
The tables and the fire pit were buried in snow. My visit was short. In
a few minutes I was back at the junction. The PNT follows an old grade
so the route is pretty flat over to Lily Lake. A few snowflakes were
beginning to fall. The sky was a uniform dark gray again. I was not
hopeful for any views. I reached the Lily Lake Trail which would be my
return route. It reaches the road just below the parking lot. There
were no tracks on that trail.
Next I reached the side trail to Lily Lake and turned right on it. A
very short walk brought me to the lake. The lake was completely white.
Snow covered everything including the water. It was 11:30 am when I
reached the lake. I returned to the junction and headed on towards
Oyster Dome. The route descends gentle soon crossing the Lily Lake
outlet creek. More water here than I have ever seen. The route turns to
the right and with a few ups and downs reaches the junction with the
main Oyster Dome trail that comes up from Chuckanut Drive. After seeing
no boot prints all day it now looked like and army had come through.
One more wider than normal creek crossing and it was all uphill. I
reached the Oyster Dome overlook to find two people there. The view was
non existent. White snow merged into gray sky. I couldn't even see the
trees right below. The flocked trees at the overlook did look good
though. Snow was falling steadily now. I had my lunch and enjoyed the
company. We had a true Trail Pair summit view. Twenty minutes later I
was ready to leave. I took a short side trip to the summit of the dome
but as expected even close by North Butte was lost in the clouds.
It did not take long to reach the junction with the trail to Lily Lake.
No bootprints while I was gone. The trail back to the lake had a few
open spots and I could see the snow was coming down much harder now.
When I reached Max's Shortcut there suddenly were many footprints. They
all heading down that trail. It was not far to the Lily Lake junction
with the PNT. There were just a few bootprints heading downhill. I saw
two other tracks. A close look showed it wasn't ski tracks. It was from
two bicycles. From 2-5 inches of soft snow and folks were biking?
The downhill went pretty well. The only bad part was the snow and
temperature. Snow stuck to the bottom of my gaiters. Every dozen steps
I had to try to grind off several inches of hard packed icy snow. The
trail was built to be easy for horses and bikes and it takes some 2 1/2
miles to lose 1200'. At less than a 10% grade it seems to wind all over
the mountain. Near the trail that goes over to Max's Shortcut I met two
bikers coming up. They were having fun despite the conditions. Towards
the bottom the snow thinned out considerably. There was even a little
When I reached the road I found that the tire tracks I followed in the
morning were now completely snow covered. Back at my car I found a
group of trail runners who were just getting started. My car had about
4 inches of snow covering it. I arrived back at the start at 2:15. The
8 mile loop took 4 1/2 hours. The road was slick coming down. Barrell
Springs Road was even slushier than in the morning. The freeway was
bare all the way home. There was no indication of the compact snow seen
the morning. I even made it home before dark. This is a great winter
hike. Even better when it has a fresh coating of snow. In another three
months the wildflowers and skunk cabbage will be out. For now it is
winter on Blanchard Hill.
Click on thumbnails to get
Trees Form Roof
Lone Car In Lot
Starting Up Road
New Trees Narrow Road
Only Bluish Sky Of Day
Flocked Trees Overhead
Stump Along Trail
Bridge At Lizard Lake
Lizard Lake Camp
On The PNT
Lily Lake Viewpoint
Snowy Outlet Creek
Oyster Dome View
Hiker At OD Cliff Edge
Freeze On Creek
More Heavy Snowfall
A Little Bare Trail
Back On The Road
5" Of New Snow
Last Flocked View