Friday, April 21, 2017

Hike of the Week : Oyster Dome on Easter Day

Got up and out of the tent nice and early and drove south along Chuckanut toward the PNW Trail. Parking proved... challenging -- I can see why the Department of Natural Resources requests people to access the trail from the Samish Overlook instead. But we got Woody all the way off the road (much more successfully than a lot of later arrivals did...) and found the trailhead.

The Pacific Northwest Trail is a 1200 (!!!) mile route that stretches from the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park in Montana to the Pacific Ocean at Cape Alava, Washington. It passes through 3 national parks and 7 national forests. It must be one of the most scenic long-distance trails in the world. (And, um, no, I don't really wish to through-hike it... but to see part of it was pretty great.)

I liked this "Rock Talk" messaging center for PNW Trail through-hikers... though at this point in the season it seemed like "more rock ... less talk". (Thankyouverymuch.)

The trail IMMEDIATELY begins climbing on long, steep switchbacks, leaving the highway far below. The trail was a little rocky, but mostly dry -- which was pretty surprising given the amount of rain we have had lately.

At about a mile and a half we passed a bench with a great view of the San Juans. But we weren't ready for a break yet, so we continued up the path.

The morning was beautiful and the light coming through the trees was pretty magical.

I had brought my map of the area with me, but the route was well marked at each trail junction.

Heading up one couldn't call the trail crowded -- though we did remark that we saw more people in our first mile on the trail on Sunday than we did all day on Saturday. We did still have a lot of solitude -- at least on the way up.

After a while the route leveled off and we passed this awesome, mossy boulder.

But then it was back up up up.

One thing that really impressed me about this recreation area was the emergency information, with the area dotted with clearly labelled and uniquely named help points -- so that in an emergency, someone could call or radio in with the help point name, rather than try to describe where they are. Having the name, too, rather than just a letter, cuts down on potential confusion / miscommunication. J and K are more easily confused than "Juliet" and "Kayak". 

A little over three miles up, we passed the "official" start of the trail:

And things got really steep again. I don't want to condone vandalism, but I did think this little graffito was nice...

And, sure enough, a few more hills and we popped out onto a large, rocky area and this view:

There were about 10 people at the top, including a group of people talking loudly over each other right next to a woman who clearly had arrived earlier and was trying to write or draw. Poor dear. We moved a little ways away and sat and enjoyed the view. (Bonus: the noisy group later unleashed a drone. Hope for the future: another group of young people asked the drone group to put it away, and they did.)

BTW, Wil has two legs, despite how this picture looks:

"Hi! We're in need of showers."

After a snack and a break we headed back down to Chuckanut Drive. We passed a LOT of people on the way up. A LOT. I was glad that we had gotten an early start!

We liked this hike -- challenging, not super long, and a gorgeous payoff at the end. If we lived closer, I think this would be our "standard" hike.

Oyster Dome Trail

6.9 miles
2024 feet elevation


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