Oyster Dome Loop

The past few days had seen morning fog that lasted half the day. Saturday would be one more. With a summit hike set for Sunday I took a chance that Blanchard Hill would be high enough to get above the gloom. I headed north at 8:00 am. Exit 240 Alger off of I-5 about 15 miles south of Bellingham. A left then quickly another onto Barrell Springs Road. Half a mile later a right on a dirt road that took me to the upper Lily Lake Trailhead. 74 miles from North Seattle. By 9:15 am I was ready to go. A road grader and steamroller were at work improving the parking lot. I headed up the gated road. Some colorful leaves along the way. Some were already done and some were still hanging on.s

Across from the old gravel pit I had a view out. A thick layer of low clouds below and Mt. Baker in the clear above. A very scenic spot. I left the fog at about parking lot level. It was all blue sky above. I continued up the road to the Alternate Incline Trail. The trail is in fine shape. Higher up there were even a couple freshly cut logs. At the junction with the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) I took a right for the short hike to Lizard Lake. I was surprised to see water down below on the right before reaching the lake. I was even more surprised a few minutes later. I planned to continue along the lake a ways to get some photos of the lake. A new trail headed above the lake. I stayed low and the trail was quickly under water. Huh? This section of trail can be a little wet in the spring. It was far more than that. The lake level was higher than I have ever seen it. By October it should have been a big pond not a deep lake.

I needed to find out what was happening. The fact that I saw several trees freshly felled with teeth marks all over them made it likely that beavers were the answer. I went back to the new trail section that roses above the water then dropped down to dry trail along the lake once again. I left the PNT on an older trail that followed right above the lake. It brought me to the  outlet where a nice big beaver dam has brought the lake level up a few feet. I could not get a good look at the dam so I followed the PNT a little farther, crossed the outlet creek, and went up the other side to the dam. Mission accomplished. No sign of the beavers out on the lake but more trees felled or soon to fall near the outlet.

I headed back to the other end of the lake stopping at the campsites. Nobody stayed the night. Next it was time to take the short cut trail that heads directly to Lily Lake. It is about a half mile shorter than the PNT. The route was still a boot path on my last visit. Easy enough to follow though occasionally lost where covered by leaves. The first half near Lizard Lake is now a trail. Cut bank and real tread. The start is not marked but quickly becomes a real trail. At the junction I headed uphill towards North Butte. A short climb brought me to the butte and I headed over to the northeasterly viewpoint. Mt. Baker was in the clear and framed by big evergreen trees. To the north west I could see Puget Sound and it was completely covered by low clouds. I was in the sunshine and all directions below were under a thick cold cloud cap. I headed over to the viewpoint to the west.  I could see Oyster Dome and a sea of clouds over the sea itself.

I twas so warm and sunny that I stayed for almost 45 minutes. I hated to leave. I still had a ways to go and Oyster Dome was coming up next. I back tracked down to the short cut trail and followed it over to Lily Lake. Lots of decaying skunk cabbage near the lake. I went to the lake outlet for the view up the lake. Nobody was camping at the lake. As I headed away from the lake I met two hikers. The first people I had seen all day. Total solitude for the first 2 1/2 hours. I had been seeing mushrooms all day. The trail over to Oyster Dome was especially filled with them. The junction with the Oyster Dome trail that comes up from Chuckanut Drive now has no signs. As I dropped to the creek crossing I saw a big party ahead. I passed them and saw several more groups coming down from Oyster Dome.

I reached the upper viewpoint to find a dozen other folks there already. I was not at all surprised. It is a very popular trail coming up from Chcukanut. As I ate lunch more groups arrived. I counted 24 other hikers at the rocky viewpoint Several other groups were at lower viewpoints. Nothing but a sea of white below in all directions. Nothing but blue sky and sunshine above. Even with the crowds it was much better than the dark day folks were enduring just below us. Soon enough I was on the move. First I headed over to the real summit of Oyster Dome. I could see up to North Butte from there. Next I head on down. I went on back to the Lily Lake junction and continued on the PNT. At the junction with the Lower Lily Lake Trail than goes back to my parking lot I continued straight ahead on the PNT. Just a little more distance to make sure I got in a full 9 miles on the day.

I retraced my route back to the lower Lily Lake Trail and headed down. The trail is gently graded for hikers, horses, and bikes. I saw hikers and bikers on my way down. The last few miles seemed to drag on. The lower part of the trail was covered with fallen leaves. I popped out on the road just a short way before the parking lot. I closed the loop, arriving at my car at 2:30 pm. I hiked a little over 9 miles gaining about 2000' in 5:30. More than an hour was spent sitting in the sunshine and more time was spent exploring the raising of Lizard Lake. I saw very few people except for the big crowds at Oyster Dome. The fog never did burn off. Most of my drive home was under the low clouds. It was dark and cold back in Seattle. I managed to avoid a dark and dreary day by climbing up into the sunshine. I very nice day indeed.

Heavy Machinery
Leaf Lined Road
Close Up Leaves
Fall Color
Mt. Baker
Island In Clouds
Tall Mushroom
Busy Beavers
Glass Like Reflection
Lizard Lake Reflection
Beaver Lodge
Beaver Dam
Another Lizard Reflection
Mt. Baker Framed
North Butte View
Old Boardwalk
Lily Lake Color
Colorful Grasses
Lily Lake Reflection
Neat Pattern
Shrooms On Tree
Oyster Dome Clouds
I'm Not Alone
Fog Meets Trees
North Butte
Sun On Low Clouds
Contemplating Clouds
Reflection In Pond
On Lily Lake Trail
Colorful Leaves
Color Overhead
Dropping Into Fog
Leaves Cover Trail
Back To The Start
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2013