Blanchard Hill

It looks like the top of Blanchard Hill and Oyster Dome will be clear cut in the not too distant future. I generally hike there about once per year. This year I plan on several visits. It will not be the same if the entire top is clear cut. Kim joined me for this trip. We headed north from Shoreline at 7:45 am. An easy drive through Mount Vernon and up to the Alger exit south of Bellingham. Soon we were off pavement heading uphill to the trailhead. The road was snow free to the upper trailhead. Since last year's visit the road has been redone. The new dirt surface was wet and slick. Trees on both sides have been cut. It is much more open now. There were 3 or 4 cars at the lower trailhead. About the same number at the upper trailhead. We arrived at 8:50 am and were packed up and on our way by 9:05 am.

We headed up the road towards the Alternate Incline Trail. The road beyond the gate has also been redone and the trees along the side cut down. It is quite different. While it is no improvement for hikers it is inconsequential compared to cutting down all the trees high on the mountain. The old quarry is back in business. It was full of grass and trees a few years ago. Now it is full of rocks and gravel for more logging roads. We stopped for a look at a mostly clear Mt. Baker. At 1.1 miles we reached the start of the Alternate Incline Trail. The tree with the trail sign just up the trail has fallen over. The sign is on the ground and hard to see.

I expected snow and down trees as we ascended. We found just a little of each. The aftermath of recent lowland snow and high winds were not in evidence. It was just above freezing when we started but warm enough as we ascended. Before long we were at the junction with the trail to Lizard Lake. It just takes a few minutes to get there. The lake was iced over. We went part way along the shore then headed for the camping area at the head of the lake. No signs of recent campers. There were some footsteps sunk into the icy snow of the lake. It is too soft now to walk on.

We next took the short cut trail over to Lily Lake. The start of it had a new switchback since last year. What was a narrow boot path a few years ago is a full built trail. We planned to not visit Oyster Dome so we did take the spur up to North Butte. The view is not as wide as at Oyster Dome but it is a little higher. A very clear look over to Mt. Baker from the west side. The rocky top was all in the sunshine. Well, it was a little shady at times but mostly it was full sun. It was in the 40s but felt like 60 degrees. We arrived at 11:40 am. Several groups came and went while we ate lunch, enjoyed the views, and just sat in the sunshine. It really felt like and early spring.

We left at about 1:00 pm. A nice long 1:20 on top. It was much cooler back in the forest. It did not take long to get down to Lily Lake. We visited the old abandoned boardwalk to get a good view. And it was back in the sunshine. Lily Lake is also covered with white. We made a quick stop at the outlet for views down the lake. We had already covered most all of the elevation gain but only half the distance. It was nearly all downhill the rest of the way. At the junction there were all new signs. We saw many new trail signs. Ironic if the mountain will soon be clear cut. We turned onto the PNT and headed for the Lily Lake Trail. The old railroad grade trail had more compacted snow than anywhere else.

At the Lily Lake Trail we turned right and downhill. The last three miles are easy walking. A gently graded trail slowly loosing elevation gain. Soon we were done with the snow. We saw several groups heading up. One group was bikers. They passes us going up and later when going down. We reached the trailhead at 3:40 pm. We still had several hours of daylight left. It was much warmer now. Unfortunately, the sun is so low in the sky that the lot was all in shade. The drive home was easy. We drove 65 miles in the same time it took me to cross Mercer Island the day before as I-90 was down to one lane.

This was a great hike. We saw other folks but it was never close to being crowded. The bits of icy snow were short and no problem. The blue sky was a treat in February. The long stay atop North Butte in the sunshine was fantastic. Kim enjoyed getting out of town for a hike and so did I. Hopefully the avalanche danger in the mountains will be lower soon but a dirt hike was nice too. I'll be back in a few months when the spring wildflowers and skunk cabbage are in bloom.

Starting Out
Heading Up The Road
Mt. Baker
Valley Below
Fungus On Log
Frozen Lizard Lake
Kim On Snowy Trail
Baker From North Butte
Twin Sisters?
Mossy Log
View Northwest
Kim On Summit
Olympic Mountains
Atop North Butte
Mossy Rock
Brightly Colored
Sunny At Lily Lake
Long Shadows
Icy Trail
Bright Moss
Crossing Bridge
Another Waterfall
Shady Upper Trailhead
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017