Beyond Oyster Dome

Oyster Dome. For those of a certain generation, this may conjure up an image of Tina Turner. You remember that movie? She wore a strange chain mail dress and giant earrings. She sent Mel Gibson to a fight to the death, taunting… “two men enter, one man leaves.” Well, the “dome” I hiked to on Saturday is a bit less likely to cause injury or death. It was oysters and not thunder, but that’s where my mind went.

Oysterdome has many different approaches. The main one is by way of a part of the Pacific Northwest Trail running through the Chuckanut Mountains. This range, just to the south of the city of Bellingham, hosts more than 60 miles of hiking trails and is accessible via transit and city walking trails. You can take an Amtrak train from Seattle in the morning, hike all day, and be back in town for the last train of the day. Or, you can even backpack here and camp in one of the several campgrounds here, the only part of the Cascades that reaches out to the sea.

More information on this land and efforts to protect it (produced by the Chuckanut Conservatory):

Getting there: To get to the trailhead we took Chuckanut Drive and parked at the first parking area on the shoulder of the road (coming from the south). There is a trailhead here that will take you to Oyster Dome. You can drive partway up the mountain to Samish Overlook for a shorter hike to the Oyster Dome lookout. This is the way described in the WTA hike description. However, the Pacific Northwest Trail trailhead provides a better workout and more options for an interesting hike.

About the route: First, we headed up four switchbacks that made quick work of the first thousand feet of elevation gain. From there, we followed the Lily Lake/Samish Bay connector trail to the main attraction, views from the ledge they call “Oyster Dome.”

After lunch and interactions with a couple adorable dogs who had hiked up with their humans, we sauntered past frozen Lily Lake to “Max’s Shortcut”, connecting to the Larry Reed Trail, through some clear cuts, which completed a loop back to our starting switchbacks.

About the trail itself: It was about a 9-mile journey, according to my friend Andy’s GPS. The trails were snow free and well maintained. I found the hike fairly easy. I think it is suitable for beginners or those getting into shape, though the switchbacks may provide some challenge.

All in all, it was a nice leg stretcher, made all the more enjoyable by an unexpected break in the weather for the entirety of the hike. What timing! It was pouring rain on the drive home.

You can find a map of these trails here:

http://file.dnr.wa.gov/publications/amp_rec_blanchard_2012.pdf 

Note that, as of this writing, this land is slated for a timber sale and is expected to be clear cut. There are a number of groups mounting a last-ditch effort to protect this popular hiking area. Get inspired to act with this short video from Endless Film Production:

For more information:

http://www.conservationnw.org/news/updates/save-blanchard-state-forest-from-clearcutting/

http://craigromano.com/blog/2017/01/05/inslee-axes-full-funding-for-blanchard/

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article58788683.html

At the very least you should go check this out before it is no longer an option.

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