Exploring Mt. Baker

Mt. Baker is an 11,000-foot mountain that lies about 90 miles north of Seattle, and is frequently visible from the city on clear days. Its snow-covered visage is almost as much a part of the local Seattle scenery at its more famous relative to the south, Mt. Rainier. So, in my continued effort to see more of the outdoor Pacific Northwest, I joined a group of friends, and people who would soon be friends, and headed north for some hiking and sightseeing around the mountain.

On Saturday we did a five-mile hike to Heliotrope Ridge. It felt a lot longer than five miles, thanks to a long uphill climb at the beginning and several streams which took us a while to ford. The trail took us up through dense, lush pine forest, into the streams and past meadows of wildflowers, to the edge of the Coleman Glacier. The glacier is the biggest on Mt. Baker, and even though it was at its smallest size of the year, it was still an impressive sight.

The weather was perfect: sunny, mid-70s, and not too hazy, which made for some very nice views, both of Mt. Baker and the surrounding scenery. Far up on the slope, where the snow and glaciers still reign supreme even in summer, we could see hikers and snowshoers making their way across the slope.

After a soak in the hot tub at the rental cabin, a huge and excellent dinner, and a night of games and conversation, we headed out again the next day, and stopped at Silver Lake near the Canadian border for lunch. Afterward, most of the group headed back to Seattle, but a few of us stuck around for a bit. I had originally planned to join the group heading back to Seattle, but I’m glad I didn’t. We got some excellent views of Mt. Shuksan (ninth-highest in the state), and made it up past the snow line to the Mt. Baker Ski Area. We had hoped to drive even higher, up to Artist Point, a viewpoint with a 360-degree view of both Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker. But the road was closed, and hiking there would have been an 8-mile walk. At that point, it was 4 pm, so we piled in the car and headed back to Seattle.

Now I’m in the middle of a two-day break between trips. Tomorrow, I’m meeting a friend from Texas, and early Wednesday morning we’re due to embark on a driving, hiking, and backpacking tour of Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. There probably won’t be much tweeting or blogging during the trip, but there will hopefully be some excellent photos and stories when I return.

(For those interested, here’s the full set of Mt. Baker photos).