Not all elevation gains are equal. Theoretically this hike should have served up a gentle, relaxing climb and some great views of the San Juan Islands. Sadly, it disappointed on both expectations. Early Sunday morning we headed north to Chuckanut Drive and the very convenient trailhead just off the highway. The hike seemed ideal at first. The first half of the hike was a nice steady ascent, and the middle section was relatively flat, but the upper section took us through a very dense dark forest (this is where big bad wolves must live) with very steep sections of slippery roots and rocks. And for all our effort, the view from the dome was non-existent, covered by thick, low clouds.
Zero Visibility atop Oyster Dome
We were able, however, to see remnants of old logging shows (big thick cables and stumps with holes from the springboards) and some very large erratics (big rocks carried by glaciers). And there was a great view from lower on the trail where we could see quite a few of the San Juan Islands out in Puget Sound.
Low Clouds over the San Juan Islands
Being near the Skagit Valley and home of author Tom Robbins, I was reminded of his description of a NW sky in : “The sun has muscled through the oyster frappe. . .” I had assumed Oyster Dome was named for its shape and color, but it could also be for the big gray and white clouds working their way over Blanchard Mountain.
The sun muscling through the oyster frappé
As we drove home, it occurred to us that the daffodils and tulips of the Skagit Valley might be blooming after the warmth of the El Nino winter. Sure enough, after a little detour off I-5 we were awed by fields striped in bright pink, red, and yellow. So, in the end, we scored well and were very satisfied with the day; as my brother-in-law says about hiking (and life), “It’s all in how you manage your expectations.”