Hiking Winchester Mountain & Twin Lakes

I have been debating whether or not to post this trip summary because I’d rather keep this location as much a secret as possible. But, alas, here I am, adding to the internet search results for the majestically scenic Winchester Mountain, atop which lies Winchester Lookout, and at its base, Twin Lakes. For merely the cost of a daily or annual Northwest Forest Pass, hikers can enjoy one of the most idyllic campgrounds I’ve ever been to, or stay a night in a restored fire lookout and wake up to stunning views of the North Cascades. Plus, enjoy the myriad hiking trails that originate from trailheads along the forest road.

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Landscapes I Have Recently Seen

The Top o’ Mt. Erie (Anacortes, WA)

Kiket Island (Washington’s newest state park)

That’s the Deception Pass bridge in the distance.

Father’s Day Road Trip to Okanogan

Baker Lake, along Highway 20

Recreating the “Sound of Music”

Exploring ghost towns along the WA-Canada border

Checkin’ out these beautiful blondes…

Hike to Goat Peak Lookout

Another bad jump/frolic photo.

Eurotour 2012: Part II

(Part One)

Part two is all about Scotland and mine and Savannah’s special week alone in Ireland. These islands/cities/people are seriously some of my most favorite things in the whole entire world.


Edinburgh has PERFECTLY dark and creepy cemeteries.

Two things: (1) that building with the “Furniture Stores” sign is the restaurant in which J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, (2) this wall in the cemetery is supposedly made from the ashes of burnt “witches.”

Stirling Castle, Scotland.

Doune Castle, where Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s famous coconuts scene was filmed.

IRELAND (or at least the western coastal side of it). I was having so much fun in Dublin that I didn’t have time to even think about taking any pictures. So these are all from around Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher.

Also this hike was gray and rainy and windy and precarious as all hell. Here I am climbing a rock wall, ready to jump down into seemingly solid ground…

… and after. And the state of my shoes from here on until Seattle.

(Ireland’s got the monopoly on cutest animals and plushest grass.)

Video Practice with the Canon 5D

I’ve been saving up to buy a new DSLR camera because I really would like one with HD video. In the meantime, I’ve been borrowing a Canon 5D Mark II from my school and filming random places I go.

Firstly, and most importantly, there is a beautiful little place called Woodstock Farm on Chuckanut Drive, right before that first 90 degree left turn. I can’t really pinpoint it any better than that. I had driven by it many a time and there was construction going on so I couldn’t stop and figure out what it was. When I finally did, I discovered a BREATHTAKINGLY GORGEOUS country estate built in the early 1900s by Cyrus Gates, who would later become known for establishing many of the parks around Bellingham. Though all the buildings are closed to the public, you can still walk the trails and through the fields and on the newly built boardwalk to a scenic overlook. And, as there are only two parking spaces (the city suggests you follow the Interurban Trail or walk from the North Chuckanut Mt. trailhead), there are very few people there so you basically get this whole place to yourself! Anyway, I’ve signed up to volunteer here with general upkeep of the property and so far, it’s been really great (though it’s getting a little too cold).

Here’s a 360 degree view from the middle of one of the “pastures” (more footage of Woodstock Farm is at the end of my 5D Weekend video at the end of this post). NOTE: All of these videos best viewed in hi-def fullscreen, as it is a 1080p outdoor/landscape video:

Secondly, I try to drive on every single road at least once. When I have to sit and look at topo maps all day for class, I’m really just looking up new roads so I can find out where they go (hopefully somewhere scenic). Also on Chuckanut Drive, there is a road called Hiline Road (which has been closed for the months of September and October, but is now open!). Hiline becomes gravel and then becomes Cleator Road and takes you basically straight up hill with only two switchbacks to the top of Chuckanut Mountain. Surprisingly, as there is no signage anywhere, there’s a parking lot with picnic tables and bathrooms! And access to the Chuckanut Ridge Trail. Unfortunately, it was freezing and there was a thin layer of snow but it’s definitely a place to come back to in the spring, perfect for a picnic and a hike.

It was kinda dark/wintery/overexposed/foggy so the visuals aren’t so good but here again is a 360 degree view at the top of Chuckanut Mountain (or rather the parking lot):

And finally, a couple weeks/months ago I filmed my weekend in order to learn all the controls on the 5D and the basic features of Final Cut Pro X. My dad and sister came up to Bellingham and we went to Teddy Bear Cove (also on Chuckanut Drive!) and Woodstock Farm. The next day was just hanging out with friends, trying to make them do cool things for the camera, generally failing.

A Hike to Skyline Divide

Skyline Divide: a really popular trail right off the Mt. Baker Highway (and when I say “right off” I mean the road to it is right off the highway, the road then continues 12 miles up the hillside). It’s a pretty short hike but very steep! There is also still some snow you have to cross. But you really get “bang for your buck” as the views are STUPENDOUS!

Lunch spot!

Oyster Dome Hike!

Being a huge fan of scenic vistas, I decided that I absolutely must do the famed Oyster Dome hike.

But I did it the sneaky way (cutting 2 miles off the total RT distance). There’s a road to the Samish Overlook, just off the freeway at exit 240 – Alger. Head west on Lake Samish Road, then take a left onto Barrel Springs Road. There is a gravel road with a small “Blanchard Mountain Trails” sign, or some arrangement of those words, and you follow this road (avoiding potholes) and the signs pointing towards the Samish Overlook for about ~8 miles? This is just a guess, I could be totally wrong. The point is, you will arrive and you will know that you are there.

The overlook is SO COOL! Apparently it’s a common place for hang gliding/paragliding. AND BOY DO I WANT TO TRY THAT!!! I don’t want to ruin the Oyster Dome hike but… it’s honestly the same view from the overlook as it is at the top. But it is quite enjoyable to hike I suppose and you are higher in elevation so technically you do see more… ANYWAY:

Chuckanut Drive!

The trail leaves the overlook parking lot, meeting up with the Chuckanut Drive trail after about 0.5 m. It is an option to park on Chuckanut and start the hike from there but it’s an extra mile of walking straight uphill, so don’t. The trail continues through the woods. It’s pretty well-marked except when you get to the last fork (hint: go left at the unmarked fork). Only one part of the hike is a real hardcore non-stop super climb, but the rest is fairly gradual. There are many stream crossings and mud though. But the parts that are uphill are usually just a conglomerate of rocks and roots that you must figure out how to maneuver up. Far harder on the way down than the way up. This hike took me 1.25 hours. I would rate the hike “moderately easy” though I’m not sure what I would rate as hard. My scale is flawed. If it is possible for me to do it, I consider it in the range of easy to moderate.

The beginning.

One of many.

The top!

There is a rocky outcrop at the top and it appears as though it is a common spot for rock climbers as there was rock climbing equipment everywhere. At the top (like at the Samish Overlook…) there is a commanding view of the Skagit Valley, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympic Mountains. Seeing farmland from above is really cool, like a giant patchwork of vegetable matter. LOVE IT. You can also smell the shellfish farms (the TAYLOR Shellfish Farms…) which is really bizarre when you are so far up a mountain and in the deep forest.

Talus pile; there is an optional side trail to this. Apparently there are caves. And bats. I didn’t go.

It took me 45 minutes to get back to the parking lot. Lovely day. By the way, I didn’t see a single other person until I was about halfway down on the return trip. That’s what I like about early morning hiking; you get a whole entire mountain to yourself. But really these photos are sort of making me depressed. They in no way capture the amazing view that is the Samish Overlook/Oyster Dome. You’ll have to just go there yourself.

Sorta figured out how to do panorama photos.
Although this is not ideal.