In which we climb Oyster Dome

We eked out the last bit of our sunny three day weekend on a hike up to Oyster Dome in the Chuckanut Mountains near Bellingham, WA. The difficulty says 3.5/5, and that it is “family friendly” – but for two out of shape city folks this trail proved to be a lot of uphill lung busting. Fortunately the views at the top of the Sound and islands was well worth it!

Finally at the top - view of the San Juan islands in the distance over Samish Bay.

We started a few feet above the water pictured below. Finally at the top – view of the San Juan islands in the distance over Samish Bay. Elevation 2025 feet.

Relaxing on top of Blanchard Mountain

Relaxing on top of Blanchard Mountain

Made it to the top!

Looking much better after some lunch.

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Much of the hike was through old growth forests

Much of the hike was through second growth conifer forests

Ghostly tree stumps reminded us of how large these behemoths once were before logging days

Ghostly tree stumps reminded us of how large these behemoths once were before logging days. On parts of the trail you could see old rusting logging coils left over (and harboring tetanus).

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Part of the trail runs with the Pacific Northwest Trail that runs from the Olympics to Glacier National Park in Montana.

There are only two really good places where you can see the Sound. Most of the time you're in the forest. Here was the other one besides the Dome.

There are only two really good places where you can see the Sound. Most of the time you’re in the forest. Here was the other one besides the Dome.

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Total length: 6.5 miles with 1900ft of elevation gain – whew!

In which we take a trip to the San Juans

The San Juan islands are located 2 hours or so north of Seattle, probably faster if the traffic isn’t bad. Bri, one of my co-residents and her boyfriend Ian were so sweet and invited us up to his family’s cabin on Decatur Island to spend the weekend. Even though the trip was too short we had an amazing time! A little time outside the city seemed to exactly what we needed.

There are no bridges to the islands so we drove up after work on Friday evening and took a ferry over in the dark. The next day Bri’s dad came up and took us crabbing on his fully outfitted, customized fishing boat. It was so much fun! Jeff and I’ve watched The Deadliest Catch for years and it was neat to live it out in miniature (and minus all the dangerous conditions of course).

The islands in the morning from the boat

Hauling in the first catch

Helping to pull in a crab pot

Jeff pulling in a crab pot

Sometimes we found creatures other than crabs hitching a free ride on a pot

Many legged star fish

I married him for his inner biology nerd 馃檪

If this was an octopus instead of a starfish and beer you might think we were at a certain hockey game

We can’t thank Bri’s dad enough for bringing up the boat and teaching us how to crab – what a fun day! Seriously we own that man a couple of packs of PBR. After dropping us back onto dry land we furthered our crab knowledge by getting a first hand lesson in cooking and cleaning the wild beasts. One had gotten a claw around my finger while on the boat and I was determined to cook him personally (they’re all “hims” – you must throw the females back).

I think these crabs are the first food I’ve “hunted’ and then eaten. Somehow the many gallons of fresh blackberries I’ve picked in my life and fistfuls of basil I’ve collected from the garden over the years don’t really compare to pulling a live creature smack out of what was probably a pleasant crabby morning and then devouring it. It just made the delicious fresh crab taste even better.

We spent the rest of the evening cooking, eating crab, learning to play bridge and cooking s’mores over a campfire (how can I have s’more of nothing? you’re killing me Smalls). The next day was gorgeous and Bri, Jeff and I walked around the island looking for otters and poking around in tide pools.

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View out from Ian’s cabin

Its so much fun to explore a totally different Nature after spending years climbing around the foothills of Tennessee. There you used to have to worry about snakes and ticks, but here you’re just trying to keep your eye out for an otter, seal or sea lion. Both have lots of deer though!

What a wonderful, much needed getaway! Thanks Bri and Ian for being such gracious hosts!

Our amazing hosts – Bri and Ian and their dog Lola on the beach waiting for the ferry back

We can’t wait to go back and do some more exploring!