Oyster Dome Loop

It was a gloomy drippy day and I needed to get in a hike. Preferably somewhere other than along I-90. Time for another drive north to Blanchard Hill just south of Bellingham. It was 74 miles from North Seattle to the upper parking lot off the Alger exit and Barrell Springs Road. Surprisingly, there were several cars in the lot when I arrived just before 10:00 am. I was last on these trails on January 9th of this year. That day there was snow from near the freeway all the way to the parking lot and on all the trails. No white stuff in late May. It was just as dark and gray as in January however. I headed up the gated road. A few wildflowers along the way but not nearly the show I expected. Looks like I was early in this late arriving spring year.

Just over a mile brought me to the Alternate Incline trail. It was dripping misty rain on the road but the dense forest blocked most of it. The umbrella went back in the pack. There are lots of trillium and some bleeding heart along the trail. Early season flowers in late spring. At about 2 1/2 miles I reached the Pacific Northwest Trail and turned right a short way to Lizard Lake. A group had a big tent and a blue tarp set up and looked to be settled in for the three day weekend. Skunk cabbage all along the lake shore. Most of the yellow spathes are finished but the leaves are big and healthy and the skunk aroma is in the air. I went farther than before around the lake and up to the outlet. It was raining on the lake but not noticeable in the forest.

I headed back around the lake and up the bank to the way trail over to Lily Lake. This trail is pretty muddy and will be a month or two before it dries out. Lots of devil's club just beginning to leaf out That and the skunk cabbage were recurring themes for the day. At the junction I turned right and headed up to North Butte. In the report on my previous visit someone asked if I went out to the viewpoint of Mt. Baker. I did not know there was a viewpoint of Mt. Baker. I wanted to explore for it this day. Just before the top I turned right into the trees and picked up an alternate trail. I wandered farther right and found a small boot path that did indeed lead me to the top of a cliff and a view point to the north east. This would not be the day to see Baker as the view was in feet not miles.

I will just need to come back on a clear day to see the view. I wandered around the summit area and made my way over to the rocky top. A little view appeared to the west. It was at least clearer than when I got started. If the trend continued I might actually be able to see something by the time I reached Oyster Dome. For the most part the trails are wide and even though it rained most of the night I stayed dry. No wet brush to push through. The summit area was brushy and wet. I should have stopped to put on rain gear. I did not. my pants got soaked. Oh well. Onward and downward. Near Lily Lake I reached the usual patch of skunk cabbage. The cool wet spring agrees with something. They were looking very healthy.

I stopped at the campsites at the outlet and found nobody camped. So far I had seen one hiker coming down and heard but did not see the campers at Lizard Lake. About par for this area. It was still raining on the lake. It was still dry in the forest. I headed over to the trail junction and found the skunk cabbage patch as big and green as I have ever seen it. That skunky smell was pretty strong too. The GPS recorded .80 miles from there to Oyster Dome. As expected I saw someone at the junction with the trail up from Chuckanut Drive and many more at the Dome. That trail is always busy.

Not great views but not too bad either. The clouds were more interesting than the views. Lots of heights and colors. Although it was crowded at the viewpoints everyone was friendly. It was 12:35 when I arrived and 15 minutes later I was on my way. I headed back to the Lily Lake junction and continued along the railroad grade to where the Lily Lake trail begins to descend. The hike down was pretty quiet. I saw one biker on the grade and three hikers coming up. For a brief moment the sun came out. It was very brief. By 2:40 pm I was back at the car. I took a short detour to bring my day's mileage up to an even 10 miles. With the 2000' of elevation gain it made for a nice 4:40 hike. This really is an enjoyable hike with a lot of solitude on a gray day.


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Trips - 2011