Oyster Dome Loop

Snow and wind in the mountains. Time for a hike closer to salt water hike. Gwen and I decided for a return to Blanchard Hill. We hiked there in February on a day when it was snow from the parking lot to the top and back. This day was a brown dirt hike. As usual I chose to exit I-5 at Alger and head to the upper Lily Lake trailhead. It was raining at Mt. Vernon and north but was barely a drizzle when we arrived. I was surprised to find no other cars there at 8:45 am.  I usually hike the loop counter clockwise. This day we chose clockwise and headed up the trail to Lily Lake. Lots of leaves down on the trail. The trail begins with long gentle switchbacks. It takes quite a while to reach the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT).

I started with an umbrella open but soon put it away for the day. As we climbed we entered the clouds. Visibility was minimal as the air was gray. The trail is not very muddy considering all the recent rain and the number of bikes that use it. The junction with the trail over to Max's Shortcut is still not signed. We continued on the main route. One runner passed us heading down. In time we reached the PNT. Our plan was to turn left and head to Oyster Dome next. The clouds were very thick. Near the Lily Lake junction the pond on the right of the trail was set in a cloudy mist. Very different feel from my other visits.

After the junction the route slowly descends. We passed the junction with the Oyster Dome trail coming up from Chuckanut Drive. Soon we started seeing other hikers. On the steep climb to the Dome we met three folks with two dogs heading down. There was one group at the viewpoint. They left soon after. Visibility was almost  none existent. Just a vague outline of some trees at times. We could not even see straight down. We did get a few short breaks in the clouds but never were able to see salt water. It was about 39 degrees and a light breeze made it seem much colder. Time to break out jackets.

It was only 10:45 when we arrived. Time for an early lunch. We spent half an hour at Oyster Dome. We headed down and retraced our steps back to the Lily Lake junction. A left turn and within a few minutes we were at the lake. The lake was quite cloudy and the water level was fairly high. Not at all marshy. Our stay was brief. We did see three backpackers coming from the direction of Lizard Lake. Rather than take that short cut we chose to return to the PNT. There is a dam near the trail junction that has turned the area below the lake into a marsh.

We turned left on the PNT heading back to the Lily Lake Trail which we had come up earlier. At that junction we continued straight on the PNT. This old railroad grade provided and mostly flat and easy route over to Lizard Lake. On pile of iron along the trail had the word "Climax" molded into it. Likely it was part of a Climax locomotive in the old days of railroad logging. At the next junction we turned left on the PNT as it quickly reached Lizard Lake. Nobody was camping there unlike on many of my winter and spring visits. We did find many trees cut down around the camping area. There is now an unobstructed view of the lake but at a cost of many small and large trees cut down. I'm not sure if DNR did it for a reason or someone just wanted to create a view. A few trees were cut down by beavers but the vast majority were cut smoothly by a saw.

We soon retraced our steps back to the last junction and headed onto the Alternate Incline Trail. This one starts flat, passes the closed top of the old Incline Trail then begins a number of switchbacks as it descends. Nice forest here. It was not long before we reached the road. There were signs at the trailhead mentioning that there is active logging up this road. There was none on this Saturday. There were a few sun breaks in the early afternoon but it was mostly still a lot of low clouds. We reached the car at about 1:40 pm. 8 milers with 1700' of elevation gain in the books and still pretty early. We had no trouble getting home before dark.s

On days when there is a lot of snowfall in the mountains or heavy rain there but not closer to Puget Sound this makes for a great trip. Not very crowded if you avoid the Oyster Dome Trail coming up from Chuckanut Drive. Most of Blanchard Hill has light use. We had only a little drizzle early then it was dry all day. The thick low clouds added a moodiness that made a familiar trip into one that seemed fresh. It makes a great low level trailhead other than my usual haunts on Tiger Mountain.

Heading Out
Dark Misty Forest
Pond Reflection
Tree Top View
Still Dark
Cloudy Pond
Trail To Dome
Oyster Dome View
Misty Gwen
Nice Views
Momentary View
Lily Lake
Lizard Lake
Many Trees Cut Down
More New Stumps
Train Parts
Green Topped Stump
Final Road Walk
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2014