Posts Tagged ‘wet’

The Oyster Dome and Bellingham Bat Caves

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

samishoverlooksun

The bat caves and oyster dome have to be one of my favorite hiking destinations.  I usually try and get up there at least once a month in the summer, sometimes as often as 2 times a week.  It helps a lot that its only half an hour from my house.  The trail ranges from flat to scrambles up very steep slopes.

There are multiple ways up the mountain in a car but I like driving up most of the way to give my legs a break, the trail is hard enough without adding another thousand feet of elevation gain.  To get to the Samish overlook drive north on I-5 till you get to the Alger Exit #240, take a left and head west on Lake Samish Road. Take the first Left onto Barrel Springs Road and follow it for 3/4 of a mile till you see a large gravel road on the Right and a sign that says “blanchard hill trail system”.   Follow this gravel road up the mountain. there are 3 parking lots. The first one fairly close to the paved road, this is where you can find maps  and info about the trail system on a bulletin board in the parking lot. Even if you are planning on starting from one of the other parking lots pick up a map here for reference. the other lot is 1/4 of the way up on the right fork of the road. If you follow the left fork for about 3 miles it leads you to the Samish Overlook.  From here the trailhead is at the north-west corner of the parking lot.  Just keep to the right fork at the first 2 trail junctions and a sharp left onto the trail that leads to the caves.  Be sure to look around on the steep sections as this last trail junction is in the middle of one and easy to miss if your looking at the ground alot.   Or if your in for the famous view from the oyster dome then youl want to continue on up that last grueling hill gaining nearly 400 feet in elevation where at the top you take a left and go on up the hill a bit more to the oyster dome.

This is easily one of the most grueling hikes I have ever been on, and yet it also has one of the most rewarding views in the entire north cascade range.  I usually chicken out and take the trail from the Samish Overlook parking lot where the hang gliders and para guys take off from.  there are 3 noticeably steep sections on the trail which nearly require you to scramble up using your hands as well as just foot power.  Also if its been raining recently there’s usually a creek running down part of the trail as well as the 3 or 4 regular creek crossings you have to negotiate. although none of them large enough to worry about, the biggest crossing is probably 4 feet across in 4-6 inches of water.  Most of these crossings are completely dried up by late summer but in the early spring they can be very fast moving (though still shallow).

caves

the Caves are on a short offshoot trail with a sign saying “Bat Caves” and someone just happened to put a batman sticker on this sign.  A ways past this sign you get to the boulder field known as the bat caves.  sorry about the photo, its the only one I have showing a layout of the boulders, even though its only showing the lower 1/4 of the area i still think its a fair representation of the area.  there are 3 “main” caves known as the upper, lower, and middle caves.  The biggest cave has to be the middle cave although it could be alot bigger since it ends at the bottom in a murky subterranean lake.  The other two are fairly easy to find, when you hike into the area the trail widens and nearly disappears then narrows again into 2 separate trails going to the different caves.  The best “lookout” spot to see most of the area would be to the right but you have to scramble over a few of the boulders to get to it.

My most recent foray up there was a great training hike as I am trying to carry more weight in a pack on all my hikes to make it easier when I have to lug a larger pack around.  My bag wasn’t to heavy in the 10lb range.  But it was heavy enough to make my legs sore the day after.  There was a bit of snow on the sides of the road and a spot on the uphill section that was slick enough that I wasn’t sure if my car was going to make it.   But we did and the hike was great as usual, bit more snow at the bat caves but mostly in the crevasses in between boulders.  There were 2 other people with on my hike, Clinton is a good friend that usually comes with me on these trips, and he brought along a girl who’s name escapes me right now.  She had a much harder time than we did mainly because she was about a foot shorter than us tall guys (both Clinton and I are about 6’2″) plus she just wasn’t used to hiking up burly trails.

There were quite a few other people on the mountain besides us.  10 cars in the upper lot and we passed at least 20 people going up and down on various trails.  But it wasn’t nearly as busy as the event they have up there, once a year or so when they fill up the parking lot with cars and have pavilions set up everywhere.

The trail is pretty well maintained although after big storms there are blowdowns on parts of the trail that stay there for 6 months or so till they get cut out by the pnt trail maintence guys.  Its all DNR land so there are signs everywhere and more recently logging survey markers. THEY WANT TO LOG THIS MOUNTAIN!  If you ever want to hike this trail in the best condition you’d best do it soon as they want to start logging by 2010, there will be  a core 2000 acres on the top of the mountain by the lakes and oyster dome they will preserve (supposidly) but they want to log the rest.  When this starts to happen you will deffinetly see posts up here about it and my efforts to deter loggers.  I’m sure at least a few people from Bellingham will go chain themselvs to trees up there, we call Bellingham the hippie town around here for good reason.

Heres a good map of the mountain for refrence and whatnot

http://www.hikerandom.com/images/map-blanchard.gif

I got this image from the PNT website if you want to see their other maps of the pnt go there.


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