Friday, December 9, 2016

A Lily, a Lizard, and a Lexi

"One and done" is a great cliche, but I have an even better one..."never say never". I thought last month's snow experience was going to satisfy me for awhile, but like any addict, I'm needing my fixes more and more. Out of curiosity, and the fact I was still craving a solo trip, I looked to see what backpacking trips people have done in December. (Washington Trails Association's website is a great resource for anyone wanting to do this. Click on "find a hike" then "trip reports", then look for a small icon that says "show advanced options". This allows you to filter to a specific area or month--all kinds of things, actually. It's very handy!!) I was feeling pretty discouraged as I scrolled down because everything looked too hard or just unappealing. As I was just about to give up on the idea, I came across a report to Lily and Lizard Lake that sparked my interest. 
In all the years that I have lived in the Skagit Valley, I can hardly believe Mount Blanchard has never once come on my radar. Oyster Dome, of course, is on everyone's radar; and everyone knows you drive up Chuckanut to do it. Yes, I realize that Mount Blanchard is one and the same now, but embarrassingly if you would have asked me where Mount Blanchard was a few days ago, I would have given you the deer in the headlights look.
When I did Oyster Dome for the first time 6 years ago with my friend Melissa and we got lost, (surprise, surprise...but I will say in our defense the signage back then was very poor. All the new signs are amazing!) I remember being very intrigued by the lakes we were headed to before we figured out we were going the wrong direction. Now all the pieces have been put together, and I'm really excited to have a whole new area to explore that has basically been in my back yard this whole time! 
The white mark is for the PNT, which weaves in
and out of this area. 
I know last post I implied I was over snow--I actually never thought I'd camp in the snow in the first place. But, just like having babies, you forget the pain and only think "look how cute; let's have another!" And the picture of Lily Lake in the trip report that inspired me was all snowy and looked magical...just the kind of cuteness to get me in trouble. ;) It has been years since it snowed here (I think that report was from 2012!) therefore I knew there would not be that many opportunity's in my lifetime to go to this area so close to home and experience a winter wonderland--so even with temps dipping down to close to the teens, I decided last minute I was going for it.
As I was hurrying out the door (with knots in my stomach, not going to lie. I want the feeling, and I abhor the's the love/hate relationship that is hiking) my daughter asked, "Are you taking Lexi?" Well, why not?!?! So I quickly shoved in my pack the oldest, nastiest sleeping bag we own and gave her the "go ahead and get in the car" nod. I did think to myself, "Sure, you're thrilled now...but wait until tonight when you can't figure out why we aren't going home. You'll probably whine and drive me crazy all night." But she's getting up in years, so who knows if this opportunity will present itself again. Carpe diem! 
She actually did great it the tent and didn't whine at all,
though she did act like she was going to barf once.
That was the most terrifying moment of the trip!
So, after driving a mere 25 minutes from my house (on the freeway going north, then off at Alger exit--so much easier than Chuckanut!) I found myself in the huge Blanchard Mountain upper parking lot. The internet directions I read said that once you turn onto the unpaved forest road, you drive all the way to the end where the trail would start. So, seeing a trailhead about half way up that said "to Lily and Lizard Lake" was confusing to say the least; but thankfully I trusted the online instructions and kept going. (when I got home I looked up Google maps and found you could start at the first trailhead, but you will just end up at the upper parking that trail seems a little pointless, IMO)
This is the sign at the 2nd trailhead.
You do have to backtrack a little ways down the road from the parking lot.
It only took me a little over 2 hours to hike the almost 4 miles to Lily. (2 miles an hour is actually pretty fast for me, believe it or not) This meant I had just enough time to make it back to the car before dark if I wanted. This messed with my head for a few minutes, because I was not expecting to have an option. Why do I want to spend the night in the freezing cold when I can simply walk out of here and be home before dinner? I know it's not exactly logical, but it didn't take me long to have absolutely no doubt I wanted to stay. I love it far more than I hate it, it's that simple.
I set up camp at the exceptionally nice site you first come to, (there are many, but the fire pit right on the lake sold me) and then used my extra time to go check out Lizard Lake. I had only an hour before dark, so I set my watch timer and told myself no matter what, I had to turn around after 30 minutes. Thankfully it was the perfect amount of time...I know myself, and if the lake was in view and it was over 30 minutes, I would have kept going...and that would have been stupid because the only thing I had with me was my dog. I know getting lost going back may have been unlikely, but I have gotten lost in even more unlikely situations.
Lizard Lake

Lizard Lake had very nice sites too
This may look like I'm having a cozy time by the fire when I got back, and trust me, I tried. Except with everything so frozen, it was just too much work and not enough cozy, so I gave up and went to bed after only a half hour or so. This is the part I was dreading the most...the LONG night...the laying there for HOURS. But I've been watching the TV show "Alone", and those guys had to hunker down in their shelters for DAYS. So, I figured 5:30 pm to 7:30 am was not going to kill me. And it wasn't that bad, because I have a real talent for sleeping.
Though of course, I wake up a lot during the night, and at one of those times I found that Lexi had gotten on my $200 NeoAir X-therm sleeping pad (worth every penny...maybe someday they will pay me for saying so) and popped it with her nails. I FREAKED out--screaming at her, shouting how I knew this would happen--and poor Lexi was so contrite and cowering in the corner, saying over and over how sorry she was. Wait a second...Lexi was telling me she was sorry? Damn it, I was having one of my crazy dreams again. I tell you, those can really be unnerving! 
With such a short hike out in the morning, I decided it was worth heading over to Oyster Dome to see it again (for the 4th time) and it did not disappoint. Not a soul there, which you know is a miracle if you've ever been. A little tricky coming down the icy steep sections on the way back (I'm never above getting on my butt and sliding down if I have to!) and then a right turn on Max's shortcut and you make a nice little loop back to your car. I think it will be tough to find a better 10-ish mile hike (easily done in a few hours if you don't have a backpack) that is only minutes from 1-5; though I'm guessing those lakes are a mosquito hell in the summer. One more reason to open my mind more to this winter hiking thing. Someone commented last post that they expected I'd be sleeping in a snow cave before long. Who knows? You know what they say, "Never say never!" ;)

You could do two loops--
or even a figure 8! Lots to explore!
P.S. FYI, the foggy forest picture you see on my main page is from that first hike I did to Oyster Dome. :)