For our first hike of the year, that counts toward our 250 miles, we hiked up Oyster Dome. This dog friendly hike is in the town of Bellingham, about 1.5 hours north of Seattle. It may be “in” a town but it’s certainly not an urban hike. It’s a strenuous wilderness hiking experience.
The trail climbs Blanchard Mountain, which is part of the Chuckanut Mountains. The Chuckanut Mountains look more like hills but are part of the Cascade Range. They are the only place where the Cascades come west down to meet the sea.
I hadn’t hiked up Oyster Dome since I was in college and even then I only did it once (so I forgot what the trail was actually like). I decided to take Chester and Gretel up there after our monthly Adventureweiner Club walk. The air temperature was very cold and crisp but it was sunny. I knew the views of the San Juan Islands would be amazing that day.
We started at the Samish Overlook to cut 1,000 feet of elevation gain from the hike. I looked at the map and saw no switchbacks on the upper portion of the trail so I thought “how hard could it be.”
Famous last words! I remembered that the thing about trails that head up a mountain (although, in my defense, I though the trail traversed the side of the mountain) with no switchbacks is that it goes straight up. I haven’t hiked a trail that steep in a long time.
Of course I got all of the usual comments: Are those little guys hiking all of the way to the top?; I am amazed they can make it on those short little legs; they must be so tired.” As usual, I was the one holding THEM back. I did have to carry Chester over some of the wider stream crossings and the big, deep muddy sections. Gretel just plowed right through them of course.
We saw about 25 dogs on the trail. Only 4 of them were on a leash! We were in a different county so I thought perhaps leashes weren’t required there. When I got back to the trailhead I checked the information board and looky what I found.
The only thing that kept me from being totally annoyed is that half of the people leashed their dogs when they saw us. They were disobeying the leash laws but at least they were courteous to others. The other dogs were pretty well behaved so it wasn’t a huge issue. I just stepped off the trail with Chester and Gretel, blocked them with my body, and kept repeating the mantra “leave it, leave it, leave it”.
Chester and Gretel did ok with the off leash dogs for the most part. There were two cases where the dogs circled back around and harassed them. All bets were off then and they caused quite a scene. I don’t look at it as their fault exactly but I do feel embarrassed when we are in the middle of the woods and people can hear my dogs for a mile in every direction. It kind of ruins the peaceful experience.
On the way up there are several large boulders. These boulders are glacial erratics.
These rocks differ from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. The rocks were carried there by glaciers that moved over great distances and deposited when the ice started to melt. My geology is a little rusty but I believe these were left behind by the Cordilleran ice sheet.
We reached the top of Oyster Dome in about an hour and a half. Once we stopped, I remembered how cold it actually was. Parts of the rock were covered with a thinn film of ice. I was VERY careful because the rock face is vertical and if you slipped you would fall a really long way. In that respect, this trail is a challenge for those that are afraid of heights.
The sky was mostly clear and the views were amazing.
Some people stayed up there for sunset. I assumed they brought the right lighting so they could hike down the treacherous trail in the dark. We returned to the overlook just in time for sunset.
Even if you only drive to the overlook, the views are spectacular (not very different from what you get at the top). You can even see Mount Rainier to the south on a clear day. The hard work it takes, and birds-eye view, make the view at the top more rewarding though.
Trail Name: Oyster Dome (from Samish Overlook)
Distance: 4.5 miles RT (2 miles off the total round trip starting at the overlook)
Elevation Gain: aapproximately 900 feet (starting at the overlook)
Highest Point: 2025 feet
Permits and Passes: Discover Pass required to park at the trailhead