I've made it up to Blanchard Mountain to run and hike on the past two weekends. It had been a while, and I was struck by all the changes that have happened up on my local hero hill.
My usual routine is to park at the upper trailhead on the I-5 side. I head up to the Larry Reed Trail, then the Samish Overlook, and then up to Lilly and Lizard Lake and finish on the Alt-Incline Trail. If you understand this, great. If not, basically I do a loop around the mountain.
The first surprise was the logging on the latter end of the Larry Reed Trail as you approach the Samish Overlook. Trees down, trees down! The trail seems different for a portion. I saw a woodpecker on the lone tree in a field, which made me think of the Lorax.
The Overlook has more space. This area has gradually changed over the years, with the addition of a restroom, a paved parking lot, railings for horses, etc. Most notably this time around is the overlook looking out towards Orcas has been improved upon, turned into a park like setting.
The hill formerly known as Kill Bill is now a series of switchbacks. It's still a climb, but the trail is much smoother, and a bit longer, with extended turns. This trail used to be somewhat technical, and a series of three miner's climbs. No more, though it is still a slog to get to the top junction for Oyster Dome-Lilly Lake. The Washington Trails Association, one of my favorite non-profits, has been busy working on the improvements.
I think the most pronounced change is there is an increase in use. Lots more people on the trail. Now, I went mid-day each weekend, which isn't really my M.O., and so perhaps that's why it seemed like more were on the trail. But I don't think so--I think the word is out about Blanchard Mountain. I'd say three to four times as many as I would've seen on a Saturday a few years ago.
It's a great place. The improvements are good, but are hard to embrace, as some of those old routes seem like friends. Change is slow, but the changes over time are significant.
Now, Blanchard is the subject of further conservation discussions and media reports, as the Department of Natural Resources will need to have the timber on the mountain cut unless Olympia acts to protect the area. Reports say $7.7 million is needed.
Hard to imagine that they would cut this area, with so many people using the land for recreation purposes, and in light of the ecological value of the sea to Cascades route here. Also, there's that Pacific Northwest Trail which goes through Blanchard, and is receiving increased attention and appreciation.
In other news, I volunteered at the Tulip Run this weekend. Spring has sprung, and the flowers are blooming. I'm making plans for summer activities. My "Sisyphean" effort to get in better shape continues. Happy to have opportunities to challenge myself.