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!

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