Blanchard Hill - Oyster Dome Loop

Kim was free for a Saturday hike. In the afternoon there was a chance of thundershowers from the foothills to east of the Cascade Crest. We chose to stay close to saltwater for the sunshine. We met in Shoreline at 7:15 am. The first part of the drive was under clouds but it was clear when we left the freeway at Alger. We arrived at the Blanchard Hill upper parking lot at 8:30 am. The lot was nearly full. We were packed up and on our way at 8:39 am. We headed up the gated road. We would end the loop via the Lily Lake Trail. Opposite the old gravel pit we went to the view east. Mt. Baker was in the clear. One mile up the road we came to the start of the Alternate Incline Trail.

We left sunshine for the forest. The trail starts moderately steeply but much less so than the nearby old Incline Trail. That one was closed right about the time I started hiking here. There  were some wildflowers blooming along the road. On the trail we saw many trillium and some bleeding hearts but not much else. We saw one woman hiking down the road and nobody else before near Lizard Lake. I noticed the upper end of the Incline Trail. It is so overgrown you would not think it was ever a trail. At the junction with the Lizard Lake Trail that one group passed us. They were coming down the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) from the direction of Lily Lake.

We took a break at Lizard Lake. The skunk cabbage was past prime but still in bloom. Nobody was camping there but the smell of smoke was strong. After tome photos the other group headed out ahead of us on the trail to North Butte and Lily Lake. This was a boot path until the trail went in abut 7-10 years ago. There is lots of moss along here. We also saw colorful shelf fungus and a stump with eyes and a mouth. At the next junction we turned right and headed up to North Butte. I expected the other group went that way along with a few other hikers. I was pleasantly surprised to find nobody at the summit. It was 10:53 am when we arrived. The air was still cool but the sunshine and lack of wind made it warm enough without a jacket. Nice views to the west of saltwater and islands plus the top of Oyster Dome. It was safe to say OD had a lot of visitors.

Our stay dragged on. It is such a nice place to sit in the sun and enjoy the day. One other couple showed up on a nearby rock. That was it. At 11:59 we packed up. Another hiker arrived as we left. We went over to the Mt. Baker viewpoint. The view is only partial but still nice. It too was in the sunshine. Now the top of Baker was buried in clouds. The forecast overcast and rain in the mountains was coming. As we neared the trail down a big group was seen going up. We had great timing. The trail led us down to Lily Lake. We detoured down to the old boardwalk along the lake shore. Right before reaching the lake we passed by more skunk cabbage. Brush between the boardwalk and the water was leafing out and partly blocking the view. We saw one tent on the hillside campgrounds above the lake. At the outlet some folks were at that campsite. I almost always stop there for a look down the lake. This day we passed on by.

We quickly reached the next junction. We turned right heading for Oyster Dome. The marsh near the junction is full of skunk cabbage. Much of it was in bloom. The old road/trail gently descends alongside a creek. It reaches the junction with the trail coming up from Chuckanut Drive. The last .30 miles to OD was full of people as expected. Most of them were heading down. We probably passed 30+ people in that short distance. After we crossed the creek I immediately noticed the new trail. I was up in March of last year and had not noticed it then. The old route went more or less straight up. Roots, rocks, and nearly straight up the slope. Now it is a wider trail that is longer but at a gentler grade. Considering the crowds that come up from Chuckanut Drive this is a welcome and needed improvement. Passing folks is now much easier.

It did not take long to reach the viewpoints. We stepped at the first one which looks more southwest. A few minutes earlier there were about 30 more people than now. There were still a few dozen up there. We found a spot a little distance from the others. The sun was now getting quite warm. A quick stop turned into a long break. We arrived at 1:10 pm. We stated until 2:10 pm. That was a full hour stop sitting in the sun. We had a few small puffy clouds moving overhead but it was still mostly sunny. We retraced our steps back to the junction near Lily Lake. We continued straight ahead. This trail took us along the PNT to a junction with the  Lily Lake Trail. That trail took us right back to the car. There was a group at the junction.

This is a nicely graded trail that meanders back and forth  on the descent. Mountain bikers use it a lot.  While much less crowded that trails on the Chuckanut side of the mountain, I always expect to see at least half a dozen groups on this trail. We saw more trillium and bleeding hearts in bloom. We had seen some yellow violets in places and saw more on this trail. There were some colorful fungi on trees too. Half way down we passed two young women backpacking to the lakes. They were the first people seen on this trail. We saw only one more hiker and a couple bikers near the bottom. It was much less crowded than I expected. Especially on the first warm and sunny weekend day in quite a while.

In the last mile the flower show really improved. We saw many starflowers in bloom. In addition to more trillium there were a number of very small blue and white flowers and spring beauty. It was not a wildflower bonanza but it was not bad either. We arrived back at the car at 4:56 pm. With all our breaks, we spent just over 8 hours while hiking just over 8 miles. I estimate we had about 1700' of elevation gain. The weather was really good. Cool for the climb in the morning then warming into the mid 60s. That is warm for this spring. On the drive home we could see thunder clouds over the mountains and even some over the lowlands. There was no rain on our drive. This was a fun day. We avoided some bad weather up high by staying near saltwater. No great views but sunshine and mostly a big loop trail. A fun day on the trail.

Green Shady Road Walk
Mt. Baker
Bleeding Hearts
Bright Red
Skunk Cabbage
Lizard Lake
Stump Face
Mossy Rock
North Butte View
Closer Look
Kim At Summit
Cloudy Mt. Baker
Big Cabbage Leaves
Lily Lake
Oyster Dome View
Yellow Violet
Lit Up Fern
Tuning Fork Tree
Sunny Trail
Sporing Beauty?
Blue Flower
Upside Down "?"
Almost Finished
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2022