Thursday, August 31, 2017

Grand Ridge to Maiden Peak

Grand Valley
8 miles round trip, 1700 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Moderate
Access: Steep, narrow gravel road with drop-offs to trailhead; Olympic National Park entrance fee required

The terrain along Grand Ridge on Elk Mountain is the highest trail-accessible point in Washington State's Olympic National Park, making this an excellent hike for nonstop views of the alpine interior of the Olympics and of the blue waters of the Salish Sea. Maiden Peak makes an excellent day hike destination from Obstruction Point, providing the opportunity to visit two lofty Olympic summits with relative ease. Fairly little effort is required for such awesome views: the trailhead at Obstruction Point is at over 6000 feet above sea level, the highest road-accessible point in the Olympics. The trail itself is often narrow as it traverses steep slopes, especially on the stretch between Elk Mountain and Maiden Peak, making this potentially a challenging hike for hikers with a fear of heights.

I hiked out along Grand Ridge on an August afternoon with clear blue skies. Leaving Seattle a little before 9, I took the Tacoma Narrows and Hood Canal bridges out to the Olympic Peninsula, following US 101 to Port Angeles and then taking Race Street up the hill to the turnoff for the Hurricane Ridge Road. Once atop Hurricane Ridge, I turned left onto Obstruction Point Road just before reaching the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and followed this steep and narrow gravel road through alpine terrain with occasional drop-offs to one side until I reached its terminus at the Obstruction Point Trailhead. The drive along Obstruction Point Road was filled with grand views of Mount Olympus and other snowy Olympic peaks.

Two trails emanated from the Obstruction Point Trailhead: the trail along Lillian Ridge to Grand Valley headed off to the right, while the Obstruction Point-Deer Park Trail, which here I'll refer to as the Grand Ridge Trail, led off to the left. I took the Grand Ridge Trail, which began to wrap around the side of Obstruction Peak and quickly came to a view of bulky, massive Elk Mountain. Elk Mountain is not a particularly elegant looking mountain: the summit ridgeline seemed almost flat and the mountain's sloppes were for the most part barren; it was, however, exciting to think of the views that would from hiking atop such an open landscape.

Elk Mountain
The hike began with a slight descent from the parking lot before the trail leveled off while wrapping around Obstruction Peak. After passing an unmarked junction with the primitive trail descending into Badger Valley about a quarter mile from the trailhead, the trail made its way across loose talus slopes on Obstruction Peak. The trail here was often quite narrow and at some points had clearly been recently rerouted over small landslides. Views opened up to the southeast down meadow-filled Badger Valley and I spotted Mount Deception, which would accompany me through the rest of the hike.

Badger Valley
The trail climbed up towards a saddle between Elk Mountain and Obstruction Peak, then turned onto the slopes of Elk Mountain before actually reaching the saddle. As I ascended Elk Mountain, views of the Olympics widened in all directions. The rocky block of nearby Obstruction Peak looked particularly imposing from this vantage point.

Obstruction Peak
Most of the wildflowers were gone, having bloomed a month earlier, but I still found some small pockets of gentian, a late bloomer.

Trailside gentian
Elk Mountain consists of a long ridgeline with many small summits; it was unclear from the trail which hump constituted the true summit. The trail stuck to the south side of the ridge, keeping views confined to the Olympics during this part of the hike.

Olympic Mountains view from Elk Mountain
Soon the icy throne of Mount Olympus and the snowcapped Bailey Range emerged into view from behind Obstruction Peak. From this angle, I could see both the West and Middle Peaks of Olympus, with three glaciers pouring off to both sides and between the peaks; the massive Hoh Glacier lay to the left of the Middle Peak, the Blue Glacier filled the space between the peaks, and the Snow Dome covered the shoulder of the West Peak. In total, Olympus is cloaked with seven named glaciers despite being less than 8000 feet above sea level. The Bailey Range topped out at Mount Carrie, which boasted its own small glacier.

Mount Olympus and the Bailey Range from Elk Mountain
While I stayed on trail on the hike out to Maiden Peak, on my return trip, I took a detour to what appeared to me to be the 6764-foot summit of Elk Mountain, making my way cross-country from the trail to one of the peaks. The views from the summit were stunning, encompassing not only the view to the south of the Olympics but also of Mount Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north, with Vancouver Island and Mount Baker also visible. The views to the south of Mount Deception, Grand Valley, and Mount Anderson was largely the same as the one seen from the trail itself.

Elk Mountain views
Those Salish Sea views were soon accessible from the trail, as well; after passing a second junction with a trail leading up from Badger Valley, the trail started descending off the east end of the Elk Mountain Ridge, coming to some ridgetop viewpoints of the water. Hikers who aren't up for the full hike to Maiden Peak can turn around here for a hike of about 5 miles round trip. The three-humped summit of Maiden Peak was visible further down the ridge, as was Blue Mountain, the peak at the end of the Deer Park Road. The Gray Wolf River watershed stretched below to the south.

At the east end of Elk Mountain, the trail began a steep descent, sometimes with switchbacks, down Grand Ridge. The trail had some exposure and was cut into a rocky slope so this area may be challenging for those who have a fear of heights. As the trail descended, it entered small groves of windbent trees; this was the only point at which the trail was not out in the open.

The trail bottomed out at the Roaring Winds backcountry campground, where a few sites were scattered amongst low trees; at 6000 feet, this is the only sanctioned camping area along Grand Ridge and permits are limited.

Obstruction Point-Deer Park Trail on my way to Maiden Peak
From Roaring Winds, the trail climbed onto the shoulder of Maiden Peak and passed under the westmost of the three summits of that mountain. I continued hiking along the Grand Ridge Trail as it passed downhill of the saddle between the west peak and the main peak until I came to a fairly obvious side trail marked by a cairn that made a sharp turn to the left. I took this side trail, which led from the Grand Ridge Trail up to saddle just west of Maiden Peak's true summit. The path died out at the saddle; from there, I made my way along the ridge to the 6434-foot summit, which had no clear path but also involved no real scrambling.

At the summit of Maiden Peak, I had a 360-degree view of the mountains and water around the northern end of the Olympic Peninsula. I could see both the Hurricane Ridge Road snake up Mount Angeles and the Deer Park Road wrap up Blue Mountain; Port Angeles and Sequim were visible in the lowlands and I spotted both the Ediz Hook and the Dungeness Spit reaching out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Sunlight reflected off the buildings in Victoria across the Strait and the layer upon layer of mountains on Vancouver Island were mirrored by the layer upon layer of islands in the San Juans and the Gulf Islands. On this exceptionally clear day, I was able to make out the entrance to the Howe Sound and the forms of Mount Tantalus and Mount Garibaldi, both north of Vancouver; stateside, I could see the cliffs on Whidbey Island and the Boeing factory north of Everett in the lowlands. Mounts Baker and Shuksan were easily recognizable in the Cascades, while the serrated alpine ridge of Eldorado Peak was more difficult to discern. Three Fingers, Whitehorse, Dome Peak, Glacier Peak, Sloan, and Pilchuck were also visible.

Mount Baker, San Juans, Dungeness Spit, and Sequim from Maiden Peak
Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Vancouver Island from Maiden Peak
Closer by, Elk Mountain filled the western horizon, blocking out Mount Olympus. Mount Deception and the Needles towered over the Gray Wolf watershed. Mount Townsend peeked out from the side of Baldy and either Mount Constance or Warrior Peak was visible behind the Needles.

Mount Constance, the Needles, and Mount Deception from Maiden Peak
Despite the awesome, easily-accessible alpine scenery on this trail, I saw just a fraction of the hikers here that I had seen earlier in the summer on the similarly scenic Hurricane Hill Trail. This was a relatively easy hike with plenty of beauty and a good way to spend all day in the alpine without having too much company.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

High Divide Loop

Mount Olympus from the High Divide
18.5 miles loop, 4000 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Strenuous, due to distance
Access: Paved road to trailhead, Olympic National Park entrance fee required; limited permits for backpacking

The High Divide is Olympic National Park's most stunningly scenic hike and one of the most complete hikes in all of the Pacific Northwest. This loop trail visits roaring waterfalls in old growth forests, climbs to pretty wooded lakes, passes subalpine meadows brimming with wildflowers and huckleberries, and then delivers out-of-this-world views of Mount Olympus along the hike's namesake ridge. At just shy of 20 miles, the hike is best and usually done as an overnight or multi-night backpack to enjoy the copious treasures along the loop; however, as permits for camping in the Seven Lakes Basin are difficult to obtain, the High Divide is also doable as a very long and tiring day hike for very fit hikers.

Hiking this trail fulfilled a personal dream for me: when I first visited Olympic National Park in 2003, I bought a wall poster with a photo of Mount Olympus from the High Divide. I've kept that poster hanging in my bedroom for the past 14 years, constantly mesmerized by the majesty of the Blue Glacier as it spills off of the high seat of Olympus. I'm a little embarassed to admit that this image may have played at least a small part in my decision to move to Seattle after leaving Charlottesville.

I hiked the High Divide on a late August day, taking advantage of one of the few remaining summer weekends to finally visit the place that I had dreamed about for a decade and a half. I drove out to the Olympic Peninsula the night before; if you're coming from Seattle and planning on doing this as a day hike, that's almost mandatory as few hikers will have the stamina for eight hours of driving and twelve or so hours of hiking in a single day. From Port Angeles, I took US 101 east past Lake Crescent to the turnoff for Sol Duc; here, I turned left and followed the Sol Duc Road to the trailhead at its terminus. I started my hike at 6:20 AM to beat the heat and have enough daylight to do the whole loop.

From the trailhead, the wide, well-maintained trail to Sol Duc Falls dropped briefly downhill to a junction with a trail leading to the Sol Duc Campground about 200 meters in. Continuing straight, I followed the level trail across a small bridge over a tiny tributary to reach the trail shelter at Sol Duc Falls and the junction with the return leg of the loop at 0.8 miles from the trailhead. Here, I took the right fork for Sol Duc Falls; the trail dropped a little further to reach a bridge crossing over a narrow, rocky canyon carved out by the Sol Duc River. While Sol Duc Falls is not particularly impressive in height, it is exceptionally graceful, with three (or four, depending on the season) parallel drops tumbling into a mossy gorge. At 6:40 in the morning, I had the falls all to myself.

Sol Duc Falls
Past the falls, the trail turned and began heading downriver alongside the south side of the river. A couple hundred feet past the falls, the trail for Deer Lake and the Seven Lakes Basin branched off from the Lovers Lane Trail; I took the left fork towards Deer Lake.

The trail climbed steadily uphill through the forest in the valley of Canyon Creek for the next three miles to reach Deer Lake. The forest in the Sol Duc Valley appeared to be old growth, so there were some enormous trees along the way. At one point, the trail made a crossing on a well-built bridge over cascading Canyon Creek; at other points, it was possible to spot waterfalls on the creek through the trees, although there were no good views of those falls from the trail itself. Huckleberries, both red and black, were ripe alongside the trail, providing good snacking opportunities during the ascent.

Three miles past Sol Duc Falls, I came to the wooded, serene shores of Deer Lake. While Deer Lake lacked a stunning alpine backdrop, the perfect reflections on the tranquil surface of the lake were beautiful.

Deer Lake
The trail crossed a footbridge over the outlet of the lake and then began to skirt the eastern shore of the lake, providing multiple opportunities for lakeshore access. At the far end of the lake, the trail returned to the forest and climbed slightly to reach a flatter section of the valley with multiple tarns and some small, semi-open meadows. Berry picking here continued to be excellent.

Tarn near Deer Lake
Subalpine meadows around Deer Lake
After winding through the basin, the trail began to ascend and exit the valley. Views of the surrounding forested peaks in the Sol Duc Valley improved continuously as I hiked uphill until the viewshed broadened and peaks from further valleys and the mountains of Vancouver Island appeared.

Looking back down towards the Sol Duc Valley
As the trail began to climb up through subalpine meadows, I saw soom remnants of the summer's wildflower bloom. Lupine and paintbrush still dotted these meadows near the top of the ridge. Looking out from these meadows, good views abound of the Canyon Creek valley and of the Pacific Ocean in the distance; Deer Lake appeared in the valley below.

Lupine and paintbrush
The trail reentered the forest as it followed the top of the ridge, soon swinging to the south side of the ridge and emerging out in the upper watershed of the Bogachiel River about 6 miles from the trailhead. From here on, the trail remained more or less out in the open for the remainder of the High Divide over the course of the next 4 extremely scenic miles. I had a peek view of Mount Olympus and the White Glacier upon first emerging from the woods, but the peaks of the Hoh-Bogachiel divide soon blocked my sightline of the glaciated peaks.

The trail traversed open, meadow-filled slopes as it ascended along the Sol Duc-Bogachiel divide, passing many patches of blooming wildflower. Gentian was especially plentiful; I seem to have caught it at its peak bloom date. Lupine, paintbrush, and western anemone were plentiful but many other flowers were clearly past their prime.

Trailside gentian
Late-blooming wildflowers
Western anemone
Views out from the trail weren't bad either: green meadows filled the bottom of the Bogachiel River valley and verdant forests filled the mountainsides along the headwaters of this rainforest river. At 7 miles from the trailhead, I passed the junction for the spur trail that descended to the Seven Lakes Basin; at the junction, I took the right fork to stay on the High Divide Trail.

Headwaters of the Bogachiel River
At 7.5 miles from the trailhead, the trail began a steep switchback ascent along the side of Bogachiel Peak, dramatically improving the view of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. From this high vantage point, the shimmering blue ocean appeared behind the many layers of forested ridges of the Olympics.

The Pacific Ocean behind the forested ridges of the Olympics
Shortly after finishing the switchback ascent, a short spur off the left side of the trail led to a viewpoint over the Seven Lakes Basin. Mount Appleton anchored one end of the view while Mount Carrie in the Bailey Range appeared to the east. Below, a number of small, glistening lakes dotted the rocky basin.

Seven Lakes Basin
Continuing forward, the trail soon came to its first true view of Mount Olympus, framed in the saddle between Bogachiel Peak and a small knob south of the peak.

First view of Olympus
The trail rounded the south ridge of Bogachiel Peak, passing the spur trail to Hoh Lake, and emerged into a jaw-dropping view of Mount Olympus and the Bailey Range with the milky waters of the Hoh River snaking below. While Mount Olympus is not particularly tall- at less than 8000 feet, it doesn't even make the list of Washington's 100 tallest peaks- the relief between the summit and the bottom of the Hoh Valley at 1000 feet was extremely dramatic.

Hoh River Valley and Mount Olympus from Bogachiel Peak
The trail began wrapping around Bogachiel Peak, cutting through mountainside meadows. After 8 miles of hiking, I had finally arrived at the High Divide, the subalpine ridge separating the Hoh and the Sol Duc watersheds.

A little past the Hoh Lake spur junction, I came to a marked spur trail that led up Bogachiel Peak. I took the detour, climbing briefly to reach the 5470-foot high point of the hike. While the summit is partially surrounded by trees so there is not a clear view in all directions, the scene was still stunning. Mount Olympus poked out above trees to the south, the High Divide stretched onward towards the Pacific Ocean to the west, many layers of forested ridges reached out towards Cape Flattery, and the Seven Lakes Basin lay below the peak. I could see a sliver of the Strait of Juan de Fuca separating the peninsula from Vancouver Island.

View along the Hoh-Bogachiel Divide from Bogachiel Peak
I enjoyed the view with the company of some other ambitious day hikers doing the High Divide Loop. A solo hiker from New Mexico had made it up to the Olympics after watching the eclipse in eastern Oregon a week earlier and decided to tackle the best of the park while he was here; two other hikers had come up for the day from Port Angeles.

Seven Lakes Basin with Vancouver Island rising in the back, viewed from Bogachiel Peak
The two miles of hiking that followed from Bogachiel Peak were utterly dreamlike. Tracing the High Divide, the trail delivered views alternately of Mount Olympus and the Seven Lakes Basin. It was difficult not to stop every twenty feet to soak in the scenery and snap a few photos. Lakes with names as varied as Lunch, Morgenroth, No Name, and No. 8 dotted the landscape to the north.

Mount Olympus from the High Divide Trail
View of the Bailey Range and the Hoh River Valley
Seven Lakes Basin
The trail along the High Divide had multiple sections with gradual ascents and descents but the consistency of the views along the trail made the hiking relatively easy.

Bailey Range
Bogachiel Peak and the Seven Lakes Basin
The highlight of the view was always Mount Olympus. Olympus is barely the highest peak in the Olympic Mountains: at 7980 feet, it barely beats out 7790-foot Mount Deception and 7750-foot Mount Constance, the second and third tallest peaks in the range. Yet Olympus is a much grander mountain: it has a massive, throne-like summit that holds many glaciers including the White, the Blue, and the Hoh, three of Washington State's most impressive glaciers. It is the tallest peak in the Coast Range in Washington and Oregon. As the Olympic Peninsula is topographically isolated from the high peaks of the Cascades, Olympus has 7800 feet of prominence, making it the most prominent non-volcanic peak in the state.

Mount Olympus
After passing above Lake No. 8, the High Divide Trail came to the ridge that marked the eastern edge of the Seven Lakes Basin. The trail cut along the grassy slopes on the south side of that ridge, leaving behind the views of the Seven Lakes Basin and the ocean.

The High Divide
This stretch of trail delivered the final and most spectacular views of Mount Olympus. From this angle, I could see the Blue Glacier's perfect turn as it flowed down from the Snow Dome of Mount Olympus, with the two arching curves of the glacier's lateral moraines traced atop the ice. The Blue Glacier reached its terminus above a steep, rocky cliff; at the time of the park's establishment, the glacier tumbled down that cliff in a wild icefall. While the Blue Glacier remains impressive today, climate change has not spared this glacier from a major retreat.

The Blue Glacier makes a beautiful turn as it flows off Mount Olympus
After leaving the last view of Mount Olympus, the trail entered the Heart Lake Basin, with a nice view of the open meadowlands around Heart Lake and of Mount Carrie in the distance. After descending along the ridge to a junction with the Cat Basin Primitive Trail, the trail turned to the left and descended off the High Divide into the lake basin. Heart Lake is aptly named, having naturally formed the double-lobed shape that for some reason we associate with the human heart. At Heart Lake, the berry fields returned: I spent an hour near the lake picking and eating huckleberries to my heart's content.

Heart Lake
I wasn't the only one enjoying the berries at the lake. While I munched, two bears ambled through the berry patches near the lake, more intent on stuffing their bellies with sugar and antioxidants for the winter than they were with paying attention to the nearby humans. One bear even hopped in Heart Lake for a short swim.

Resident bear at Heart Lake
A group of ptarmigans with a number of ptarmigan chicks wandered around on social paths near the lakeshore, seemingly oblivious to the presence of hikers sitting by the lakeshore and swimming in the lake.

I was loathe to leave Heart Lake and spent more time than I probably should have eating berries. When I finally realized that I had to leave or risk having hike back in the dark, I reluctantly pulled myself away and began the downhill journey back to the trailhed. The first part of the descent remained out in open subalpine slopes, but the trail returned to the forest with about 7 miles of hiking left from the trailhead.

Descent from Heart Lake
Along the descent, the trail passed the semi-open meadowlands of Soleduck Park. While the terrain seemed beautiful and berries were abundant, the increasingly late hour drove me to continue onward without stopping.

Soleduck Park
Past Soleduck Park, the trail crossed Bridge Creek, one of the headwater tributaries of the Sol Duc River, via a sturdy log bridge. Past the bridge, a steep descent down a few switchbacks brought me to the bottom of the valley. A rocky trail tread made the descent slower and more difficult than I had initially hoped, cutting down at the pace that I needed to maintain to finish the trail before dark.

With about 5.5 miles left from the trailhead, I crossed the Sol Duc River on a log bridge. The trail smoothed out a bit afterward, with a nice dirt tread allowing me to book it most of the rest of the way back to the trailhead. At 5 miles from the trailhead, I passed the turnoff for the trail up to Appleton Pass. The trail stayed in a forest of massive old growth the entire way, paralleling the Sol Duc River and approaching closely enough at times to view a number of small waterfalls on the river.

Waterfall on the Sol Duc River
After cruising through the stretch of trail paralleling the Sol Duc River, I found myself at the shelter at Sol Duc Falls, just 0.8 miles from the trailhead. I had not run into any other hikers since crossing Bridge Creek, but here, just a few hundred yards from the trailhead, I encountered many hikers strolling back from a short jaunt to Sol Duc Falls. I returned to the trailhead 13 hours after I had started and a little under 3 hours after leaving Heart Lake for the return leg of the loop; as I drove back towards Seattle, I caught beautiful dusk lighting on both Lake Crescent and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I visited two friends in Port Angeles before making the drive to Bainbridge to catch the last ferry of the night back to Seattle, collapsing in my own bed at 2:10 AM, over 21 hours after I woke up to hike the loop the previous morning.

I had inordinately lofty expectations about this trail prior to hiking it, but somehow the High Divide managed to live up to be everything that I wished it would be. If you can handle this hike, you should go. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Oyster Dome

Salish waterscape
4.5 miles round trip, 1200 feet elevation gain from Samish Overlook
Difficulty: Moderate
Access: Good gravel road to Samish Overlook Trailhead, Discover Pass required; or paved road to trailhead on Chuckanut Drive, where there is extremely limited parking

Oyster Dome is a rocky outcrop on a wooded summit in northwest Washington's Chuckanut Mountains with an astounding view of the Salish Sea, its islands, and the surrounding mountains. A good hike during winter and spring months when the Cascades are still buried in snow, this is perhaps one of my favorite lowland hikes in Washington State. The view at the summit encompasses the San Juan Islands, the Olympics, and Vancouver Island, and a secret viewpoint on the other side of the dome provides a peek of the Pacific Ranges rising above Vancouver. The hike up is a good winter workout, although parking for this hike is getting progressively more difficult as the hike's popularity explodes; I'd recommend hiking from Samish Overlook to avoid the hazardous parking situation at the Chuckanut Drive trailhead.

I've hiked this trail twice, once from each trailhead; I'll provide directions here to the Samish Overlook Trailhead as that's the preferred approach. Coming from Seattle with a friend in November, we took I-5 north past Burlington to exit 240, turning left when we came off the exit ramp to head west on Lake Samish Road. Shortly afterwards, we made a left on Barrell Springs Road and then a right onto Blanchard Hill Road; we followed this unpaved road to its end at the Samish Overlook, following signs for the Overlook at the multiple junctions along the way. From the trailhead, we had a gorgeous view south of the lowlands of the Skagit Valley.

Hikers who start from the Chuckanut Road trailhead start with about a mile worth of ascent that packs in nearly 1000 feet as the trail makes broad switchbacks up the slopes of the Chuckanut Mountains; this approach adds a mile and 800 feet of climbing to the hike. Towards the top of the climb, a brief clearing delivers the first view of the hike of Samish Bay. I'd once again like to discourage hikers from using the Chuckanut Drive Trailhead as there is very limited parking at that trailhead.

View along the Pacific Northwest Trail
For hikers starting at the preferred trailhead at Samish Overlook, even better views are available at the parking lot. From the parking area, my friend and I followed the Samish Overlook connector trail slightly downhill for two-fifths of a mile to its junction with the Oyster Dome Trail and the Pacific Northwest Trail coming up from Chuckanut Drive. At the trail junction, we continued straight to head north on the Oyster Dome Trail. At this point, an unfortunate event occurred: the sole of my friend's old hiking boot caught some object along the trail and separated from his boot. Not wanting to have the sole flapping on his boot, my friend tore off the rest of the sole; we briefly contemplated cutting short the hike but my friend decided that we might as well press forward and go up to the dome.

The trail to Oyster Dome climbed very gradually for the next three-quarters of a mile, with slight ups and downs as we crossed multiple creeks. The forest around us was lush, with ferns covering the floor beneath a canopy of cedars and Douglas firs.

Chuckanut forests
At about one and a third miles from the trailhead, the trail began the main steep climb of the hike. The trail made a steep ascent through about 400 feet along a small ridge, leveling out as it approached the plateau-like top of the Chuckanut Mountains. Soon after the trail flattened out, we came to a junction where a spur trail for Oyster Dome broke off the main trail, which continued towards Lily and Lizard Lakes. We took the spur trail, quickly crossing a creek before starting a final uphill push to the summit. Finally, a little over two miles from the start, we came to an exposed cliff facing west at the summit of Oyster Dome.

The Salish Sea
The view of the Salish Sea from Oyster Dome is expansive. To the west lay the San Juan Islands, the most prominent of which were nearby Lummi Island and farther away Cypress and Orcas Islands. Behind the San Juans lay the snow-capped mountains of Vancouver Island. To the southwest, Fidalgo Island and the refinery at Anacortes lay beyond Samish Bay and Samish Island. Behind Anacortes rose the wall of the Olympic Mountains. Container ships dotted the sea, impressing upon us the importance of these waterways to trade in the Northwest.

View from Oyster Dome
The name Oyster Dome likely comes from the abundance of oysters in nearby Samish Bay, which was the place where Pacific oysters were first introduced into the Salish Sea. There are still multiple large oyster farms based in Samish Bay today, just a shell's throw from the dome.

After enjoying the view to the west, we explored the back (northeast) side of the dome, where we found a small gap in the trees that afforded us a view to the north. Besides seeing the nearby ridges of the Chuckanut Mountains, we could also see out into the valley of the Fraser River in Canada; the city of Abbotsford was backed by the beautiful peaks of the Pacific Range. We spotted both Golden Ears and Mount Robie Reid, some of the more easily identifiable of the Canadian peaks.

Coast Ranges of British Columbia
Ultimately, my friend had no problem finishing the hike without soles on his boots; we celebrated his accomplishment by consuming large amounts of delicious Indian food at Chaat House on our return.

On the initial of my two visits to Oyster Dome, I hiked up from Chuckanut Drive and afterwards caught a beautiful sunset over Samish Bay, with the sun disappearing under the horizon between the Olympic Mountains and the San Juans. The second visit, when I hiked from Samish Overlook, was followed by watching dusk set over Samish Bay from far above. Both were magical moments brought alive by the interplay of light and shadow with the water and the surrounding landscape of mountains.

Sunset on the Salish Sea