Thursday, April 4, 2013

Photographs for Hike of the Week

There are no photos for Hike of the Week this week! I'm sorry, will address the problem when I am able to. I hope you enjoy the writeup of Oyster Dome.

Photographs for Hike of the Week

Since I am unable to load photographs onto this site for unknown reasons, I am including a link to my Flickr photo account. Go to the site address below; the photos to accompany this article will be in the first set entitled "Hike of the Week".

Oyster Dome, March 2013

OYSTER DOME (Chuckanut Mountains) If I could count the number of times we’ve hiked to Oyster Dome in the Chuckanut Mountains it would be in the double digits. Though we especially relish hiking trails we haven’t hiked before this trail is an exception to my rule. There are reasons for frequent visits: you can hike the trail year-round, snow is seldom a concern and the views from Oyster Dome are terrific. However, those in search of solitude might want to avoid the trail on a warm, sunny weekend or be prepared to share the sunny outcroppings with other hikers. On our recent visit we shared the sunny overlook with a cheerful family, including a 10 year old boy who still had enough energy to climb a nearby tree and perform acrobatics on the branches. As for us, we were ready for a rest! If that’s not enough to whet your appetite for year-round scenery you can include a visit to the Tulip Festival at Roozengaarde in Skagit County (open April 1-April 30). On a sunny day there are not only daffodils and tulips to admire, there are also stunning views of Mount Baker. The hike to Oyster Dome is about 5.7 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,800 feet. If you don’t want to work that hard you can instead hike up to Samish Overlook from the same trailhead – that’s only 4 miles round trip with 1,100 feet gain. At Samish Overlook you’ll enjoy views of Samish Bay and the Olympics on a clear day (bring a map to identify the islands). When there’s a stiff breeze this is also a take-off point for paragliders. Once aloft they look like giant butterflies in the sky. The trailhead is off Chuckanut Drive (State Route 11) with parking along the road. The hike begins on the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) with a large rock marker displaying the PNT mileages between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast. The trail starts off climbing in long switchbacks to a couple viewpoints of Samish Bay (one with a bench) before meeting the signed junction for Samish Overlook and Oyster Dome. Go right (uphill) to Samish Overlook or continue straight to Oyster Dome. Though it was a little too early for wildflowers the flowering shrubs were beginning to unfurl their leaves and it was a pleasure to hike through this heady mix of evergreens, deciduous trees, shrubs and ferns in dappled light. After gaining most of the elevation we negotiated a couple of minor creek crossings and muddy areas where balancing on rocks and slick roots required some agility and just plain luck. Hence we advise sturdy hiking boots; in spring consider gaiters as well. There are also a couple of steep stretches that require a bit of maneuvering but nothing that could be considered dangerous. As the trail gradually ascends toward Oyster Dome you’ll pass large outcroppings interspersed through the forest and a small sign for the Ice Age Trail (left). Hikers familiar with the trail system sometimes descend a short distance to the boulder field known by some as the bat caves; do not enter the caves as they provide a habitation for bats. Plus, these are not actual caves but rather a large jumble of boulders. In short, it’s a good place to twist your ankle so exercise care. Most trail junctions to Oyster Dome are signed though not far from Oyster Dome you’ll encounter an unsigned junction; here, stay left, head uphill. From there the main trail is easy to follow (you will also be encountering other hikers) though there are socially engineered side-paths that run hither and yon; none lead to better views. After a short, steep climb the main trail opens out onto a long, broad rock outcropping with what could only be described as “sudden” views, the kind of views that make a first-time visitor exclaim “WOW!” Oyster Dome sits above the boulder field with plenty of sitting room, even on a busy day. Here enjoy unobstructed views of Samish Bay, the Olympics and an array of scattered islands. Keep away from the edge of the outcropping and keep track of your children and/or dogs. Additional Information: The hike to Oyster Dome and Samish Overlook is 7.7 miles round trip with 2,300 feet gain. Samish Overlook by itself is 4 miles round trip with 1,100 feet gain. Oyster Dome by itself is about 5.7 miles round trip with roughly 1,800 feet gain. Driving directions: From Seattle head north on I-5 and get off at exit 231 signed Chuckanut Drive, State Route 11. After negotiating two roundabouts continue west about 18 miles to the trailhead. Parking is limited to the left hand shoulder (don’t park where signs prohibit such). For additional information on visiting Roozengaarde visit their website: Karen Sykes