Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beyond Oyster Dome

After a lengthy few days of discussing the details for a 16 mile trek into the unknown, Redwic & I ditched that plan altogether and decided to make a visit to the Chuckanuts.

However, before heading out toward the Chuckanuts, we did a little trail head scouting for the 16-miler for future reference.

The reason I mention this is that as we cruised along the Skagit River, Redwic spotted a huge bald eagle standing on the shoulder of the road.

We stopped and reversed the car, but the bald eagle wasn't too keen on that, so he flew up into a nearby tree where he remained while we took some photos. This bird was huge... my pics don't do it justice.

After our TH Recon was done, we made our way to the Samish Overlook, dodging potholes and only bottoming out twice for our hike to Oyster Dome.

Samish Overlook is a good alternative starting point for this trail. The official trail head for Oyster Dome is actually located along Chuckanut Drive.

To find the Samish Overlook, take the Alger Exit from I-5 and head west. Take a left onto Barrel Springs Road and then look for the B-1000 gravel road off to the right, possibly signed as 'Blanchard Mountain'. This gravel road will take you to the Lily and Lizard Lakes trail head (which also connects to Oyster Dome), but instead of parking, just keep driving.

A short distance later you'll take a gravel road to the left. There is a gate that I believe is closed at dusk and opened at dawn (or thereabouts). This road gets a little rough, and steep and potholed, but with caution, it's passable by passenger cars.

The Samish Overlook TH saves you a couple miles of hiking and a few hundred feet of elevation gain. Also, sometimes you can watch the paragliders launch themselves out over the bay. There weren't any on hand when we arrived.

I enjoyed being the tour guide for Redwic, since I'd been here numerous times whereas this was his first visit.

This first section of trail is small part of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT).

First stop was a slippery viewpoint. There was a trace of fresh snow all around and the granite was pretty slick so we decided to not risk a fall and continued onward.

Eventually we arrived at the bat caves, which are neat and all, but I really enjoy looking up the cliff to Oyster Dome, our next destination.

Eventually we reached Oyster Dome, with it's famous views.

This is just a fascinating hike - particularly if you are at all interested in geology. The Dave Tucker of the WWU Geology department has a detailed write up for all the geological highlights along the Bat Caves/Oyster Dome trail on his nwgeology blog. You can read all about that right here.

Due to the warming temperature and the fresh snowfall, the hike between the Bat Caves and Oyster Dome was really wet with all the snow falling/melting off the trees. There was blue sky, but I was more wet than when I hike in the rain.

Since it was still so early in the day, we agreed to head off in search of the Chuckanut Mountain high point, which is a short distance to the east of Oyster Dome.

Despite our fancy technological gadgets, we couldn't quite get to where we thought we needed to be. Then we changed our mind and decided that we were exactly where we wanted to be.

Hint: If you are using a gps with a 'find' function or an electronic compass, make sure it's calibrated. It's a LOT more useful that way. Lesson learned.

We also found a peculiar tree ornament. An orange pipe with a "2" on the outside and an empty ziplock on the inside. Initially, we decided it might be a summit register. Why is it marked 2? Where is 1? We dunno.

We also came across a tarp, a lean to and a small fire pit in that same proximity.

Here's the GPS route... looks like we missed our intended destination.

1,500 feet of elevation gain and just over 5 miles, round trip.

Despite the navigational faux pas, we successfully made our way back to the trail and eventually the car. Still no paragliders.

As we drove out, two vehicles with paragliders were on their way to the Samish Overlook.

Since it was only 12:30 or so, we decided to make a visit to Alger Alp... an obvious point visible from I-5 as you drive by Alger.

Click here to read the Trip report for Alger Alp.

Happy Trails!


PS: Redwic returned to the Chuckanuts the very next day (without me) and did find the Chuckanut Mountain high point via the Lily/Lizard Lake trail route. Rumor has it that there is a survery marker mounted to some Chuckanut Granite to mark the position. Congratulations Redwic!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

GoLite Black Mountain Thermal Wind Jacket Review

Last Friday, the UPS guy dropped of my new Go Lite Black Mountain Jacket.

Just in time for me to take it with me on a hike to Oyster Dome and Alger Alp in the Chuckanut Mountains of western Washington.

Official Description:
With the GoLite Black Mountain Thermal Wind Jacket for Men, you don't have to choose between wind protection, warmth and superior ventilation, you can have them all. Built with thermal windproof face fabric and ventilating brushed fleece side panels, the Black Mountain Thermal Wind Jacket is the perfect jacket for cold weather aerobic activities like running, hiking, Nordic skiing and backcountry adventures. Lightweight and seriously warm, the Black Mountain weighs in at just under a pound and is one all-weather piece that you won't want to leave behind.

Official Specifications
* 100% polyester face and back with PU membrane and DWR water-resistant finish
* 35% Minerale™ and Brushed fleece panels
* Windproof chest and shoulders
* Fast wicking Minerale™ Fabric in back
* Auto-locking zipper with draft flap
* Secure-zip side pockets
* Media pocket with internal cord routing
* Reflective logo
* Semi-fitted
* Weight: 13.4oz / 379g

Unofficial Front photo:

Unofficial Back photo:

Initial Opinion:
I originally requested a Medium size as my measurements seemed to correspond with the specs for that size. Upon its arrival, it was clear that this size was not going to work... simply too small. So, I sent it back on Monday and had a size "L" arrive on Friday.

The color of this jacket is beautiful: Chili Pepper & Granite. I love it. It's so nice to have some color back into my jacket selection.

The coat fits perfectly and the fleece is very soft against the skin, without being hot.

In addition, the coat lays well on my body frame - it seems to be well sewn and a very quality product. That may sound like a simple sentence and maybe an obvious observation, but the quality is far superior to the REI Neo jacket that I've been wearing for four years.

Since this is a semi-athletic cut, there isn't a lot of extra room between the coat and my skin. It slides on easily with short sleeve shirts, but long sleeves (particularly cotton) tend to roll up in the arms. Probably wouldn't be an issue with a synthetic shirt, but I haven't tried that yet.

On The Trail

Our hike on Saturday (trip report coming soon) included mild temps... 40/45 degrees F (guessing) but also substantial winds blowing in off Puget Sound while at the higher elevations of Chuckanut Mountain. Also, there was a light dusting of snow the previous night which coated the tall evergreens and left a dusting on the ground.

With the above freezing temps and the wind, it meant that half the trip to Oyster Dome had us catching snow bomb after snow bomb falling from the trees. It was more wet on this hike than when I hike in actual rain!

Great conditions to check out a new thermal wind jacket!

The DWR finish worked as expected... repelling water for the duration of the hike. I think. It's a little hard to tell because inevitable water from my head would work it's way downward. Since the jacket doesn't have a hood, that's one of the issues that you have to tackle with by using other gear.

In the strong and brisk wind atop Oyster Dome, the Black Mountain Thermal Wind Jacket exceeded my expectations. Despite the wet conditions and the perspiration from climbing 1,500 feet and the strong wind gusts from the north west, this jacket kept me at a very comfortable temperature.

The jacket seemed to be moderately breathable, but it could benefit by adding a set of pit-zips. The side pockets have a see-through fabric used to construct the pockets - leaving the side zippers open might also help to get a little extra air flow into the coat.

While the inside of the coat was a bit wet when we completed the Oyster Dome hike, the entire jacket had completely dried out by the time we arrived at the trail head for our 2nd hike of the day.

Probably in an effort to Go Lite, someone decided to make really small zipper pulls for the side pockets. These can't be opened while you are wearing gloves... the handles are just too small. See pics.

The front zipper is larger and I was able to easily use it with gloves on,

There is a little elastic loop near the chest. Wasn't sure what it is for, but have concluded it must be for keeping control of headphone wires from your .mp3 player.

Here are the sewn-in tags for the coat:

In conclusion, this is a great jacket that will be perfect for keeping me warm throughout many trips in the near future!

I will gladly recommend this jacket to my friends and give it two thumbs up!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Itinerary for 03-19-2011

Currently planning to go exploring  with Redwic from  on a quest to locate and dominate Silo Mountain.

Silo Mountain is situated east of Cultus Mountain (behind it as viewed from College Way in Mt. Vernon looking eastward).  See map.

Access is via a DNR logging road heading south from the South Skagit "Highway" at Prarie Creek Road (just east of Day Creek Road).

Although it's a high mileage hike, route finding should be easy since it just follows the logging road, until it dead-ends a few hundered feet below the intended summit.  From there... well, we'll see.

We're meeting at the gated road at 8:00am and have dinner plans to connect with other nwhikers for dinner at 5:00 pm.  If we are late for dinner and no one has heard from us, then there's a good chance that something has gone unexpectedly wrong.

Previous posts mentioned doing a moonlight snowshoe after dinner.  Well, that depends on how many miles we put in during the day, how tired I am and how the weather shapes up.  Check back for an updated itinerary post from the road after dinner.

While you are waiting for the itinerary update or the trip report, fell free to browse my list of other Dumpster Dive hikes that I've done.

Happy Trails!!


We're bringing bikes, boots & snowshoes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Houston, We Have A Couple Problems

While trying to plan the upcoming hike day I decided to start researching the specifics of where/when I might be able to see the moon from a specific latitude/longitude point.

We found out the hard way that it's not as easy as a google web search. The moon was supposed to be there... but we never found it.  You can read about that adventure in the Skyline Ridge report from Feb. 19, 2011.

How hard is it to find a moon?  Really.

Anyway, my web search brought me to Heavens-Above, which provides a nighttime map of the sky for any specific lat/long location (so they claim).

Based on their sky map, it looks like the moon won't be making any appearances until about 9:00pm that night.  Can you spot the moon on the S/E horizon?  Coincidently, it is located about where the '9' would be on a clock.

Honey, I'm going to be home late.

If it weren't for the cold (and all that extra effort and planning), I'd consider snow camping.

Now, if only I knew how accurately that web site accounts for the surrounding peaks.

Based on their sky maps, the moon looks pretty low on the horizon... low enough that I'm worried it may only be visible from Artist Point/Huntoon Ridge. From Heather Meadows it could very well be blocked by Panorama Dome, Artist Point Ridge and Table Mountain.

Here is the sky map for midnight.  Now can you find the moon?  (deleted bad joke about Uranus)
Any Astronomy Experts out there... feel free to weigh in on the subject matter and help me out.
Tomorrow night I'll probably break out the GPS and see if I can't answer my own question with it right here at home.

There are a couple other problems I'm dealing with as well.

First, what to do with myself during the day?  I'm contemplating doing a little exploring of a few local lowland hikes that I've been meaning to check out for some time.  They're all just dumpster dives for the most part - nothing too spectacular about them other than they're 'new to me'.  Chances are that I'll end up in snow since all the hilltops have been under snow continuously for at least a couple weeks now.

My third and final problem is that my new coat arrived.  That's not a problem, except that I ordered a Medium instead of a Large.  Rumor has it that this frequently occurs on/around people's birthdays.  Especially if they are in their early 40's.

The medium doesn't fit comfortably, so it's being returned.  Unbelievably, they still have the same style and color in the "L".  With a lot of luck it will be here for a day of testing on Saturday.

As always, let me know if you're up for some outdoor recreation on Saturday the 19th.  It's just around the corner and the forecast currently promises 'less rain and a fair amount of sun'.  Cheers!!

Happy Trails!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kudos to GoLite

Here is a favorable shout-out to GoLite (who just happens to also be in the midst of a clearance of winter gear).

They went above and beyond the call of duty for a friend of mine to make right on a problem caused by website technical difficulties.

Give them a browse if you're looking for a deal on winter gear or looking for some new digs for spring.

In other news... next hike is coming up in less than two weeks. If things go as planned the day will probably be spent on some new-to-me rural peaks in Whatcom/Skagit county followed by dinner with some nwhikers and then a moonlight snowshoe within sight of Mt. Baker.

Feel free to join me for the day or even just a portion of it.

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chasing The Moon On Skyline Ridge

Feb 19, 2011
After a fun and photo-filled hike to Wallace Falls, Rob and I headed up to Steven's Pass to undertake a nighttime snowshoe up Skyline Ridge.

Skyline Ridge is located at Steven's Pass on Hwy 2, across the highway from the Steven's Pass ski area.

There are pros and cons to night-time adventures along Skyline Ridge.

The downside to any kind of night-time adventure on Skyline Ridge is that it isn't really dark. The lights from the nighttime skiing at the ski area do a pretty good job of illuminating the scenery on the ridge. If you are seeking a snowshoe outing in the dark... then you'll have to wait until night skiing is over, or consider finding a different destination.

The updside to Skyline Ridge at night is its easy access from Hwy 2 and the fact that you quickly gain elevation to rise above the highway and trees.

There were three main incentives that prompted this particular night time outing.

1) The weather was cooperating. Virtually cloudless skies. Everywhere!
2) The moon was just beyond the 'full moon' status and the moonrise was scheduled for just a short while after sunset
3) Doing a nighttime snowshoe outing has been on my To-Do list for a couple years. Here was my opportunity!

Loaded with camera gear, and fatigued muscles from the earlier hike, we arrived at Steven's Pass around 4:30pm or so. Put on our warmest clothes, donned the snowshoes and began our ascent just as the Alpenglow started to become prominent.

Knowing that we didn't need to be back to the car before dark meant we could take our time on the ascent. Before we knew it, our route left the road and we began a straight line trek up the hill.

The views and scenery continued to improve as the the highway fell away with the light.

About a mile into our journey we came across a suitable location to set up our 'photo camp' and... wait.

Wait? Wait for what? Well, the moonrise of course.

Sitting around on a mountain ridge (wishing for a thermos of Starbucks) quickly led to discussion and speculation about the moonrise. Such a discussion might have sounded a little bit like this:

R: When was the moon going to rise?
E: Well, some weather website indicated moonrise was supposed to be at about 5:52pm.

R: Which direction would the moon be rising from?
E: Well, the East I guess. Over there (pointing in a generally eastern direction).

R: There seems to be a big ridge over to the east. Ya know, with a ski area on it. It looks pretty tall from here.
E: The 5:52 moonrise probably isn't taking into account that fact. We might have to wait a bit longer for the moon to rise 'that' far up into the sky.

R: A 'bit' longer?
E: Probably.

R: Yeah. That seems pretty logical. Hopefully a 'bit' is like, 5 mintues. Did you notice that it's a little cold out tonight?
E: Uh huh. Maybe you can find an App on your phone that will confirm the moonrise time?

R: Good idea. (Consults with high tech mobile device). Yep. Moonrise at 5:52. That's no help. Doesn't your GPS have this data on it too?
E: Hey! I think it does. Let me check. (Wipes frost off GPS, locates moon/sun icon). You're right! It says the moonrise is at 8:01pm. It also says 'current location'... maybe it's telling us that from our specific coordinates the moon will rise in ... about two hours.


Eventually we agree that we'll hang out and enjoy the scenery until 7:00pm or so and if there is no sign of the moon then we'll call it quits.

So, we took some pics while we waited.

Eventually we wiped the frost off our packs and our cameras, packed it up and called a night.

On the descent by headlight we made a quick visit to an Igloo someone had left standing. Very spacious and well constructed. A perfect place to overnight, but not tonight.

Back to the car, cranked up the heat and concluded the day with some good Thai food in Monroe.

GPS Route and Map:

Only about 2miles round trip and 580 feet of elevation gain.

Skyline Lake, at the top of Skyline Ridge, is a great winter destination for snowshoeing. I've been there numerous times with numerous people, including the founders of EverGreen Escapes. Pics and trip report for that daytime trip are available here.

Recommendations for people considering a nighttime snow shoe outing: Dress warmly from head to toe, bring even MORE clothes, bring a thermos of HOT beverages, something to sit on and try to figure out what time the moonrise might be for 'that' location. Don't forget the camera and the tripod too.

Next outing is March 19th. Depending on weather conditions, might try another night time snowshoe, this time to Artist Point.

Happy Trails!