Nearly every week, when we go to our Mount Vernon house, Rich points out Mount Baker, noting the amount of snow, ability to see the summit through the clouds, craggily slopes, or desire to see if from inside our house if we punched a hole in the dining room wall.
A week ago Monday, on the afternoon of my mother’s death, he commented, “We should go there.”
So on Sunday, to the mountain we went.
A 140,000 year old active glaciated andesitic stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, Mount Baker is a ruggedly mountain, covered primarily with scree and snow, with evergreens and lakes at the base. It’s one of the snowiest places in the world, and in 1999, set the world record for most recorded snowfall in a single season.
Because, I’m fonder of beaches, our trip up to the mountain was met with hesitancy and dread by me. In my opinion, “You’ve seen one mountain, you’ve seen them all!”
Nevertheless, I welcomed the break in our routine, especially after an emotional week. As we approached the mountain, it had a different vibe than other mountain ranges. There were large open spaces between the mountains with huge valleys and summits. You don’t feel as if you’re in a forest, and emerging periodically to see the sunlight. Instead, there’s spaciousness about the area. It feels more European than Pacific Northwest rainforest.
Our first stop was by the Galena Chain Lakes, which is set in a meadow with walking paths around the lakes. It would be a delightful place to cross-country ski in the winter. Plus, it afforded panoramic views in all directions of snow-capped mountains and peaks.
Across from the lakes was a retreat center with a turquoise snowcat parked in the back. I snapped a photo of Rich through the cat, and was fascinated by the clouds reflected in the windows of building.
Our next stop was Heather Meadows. We didn’t know what to expect, but saw many cars in the parking lot so surely there was something picturesque to see. Five minutes on the trail, and I was mesmerized. The easy-to-walk trail, through an alpine meadow, ambles around the Bagley Lakes, which are more like ever-changing rivers. In some places, the water is calm, lapping on the shores. In others, it rushes over boulders, under a bridge, and through a small dam, which you can walk over.
As you walk, you pass by small waterfalls as snow continues to melt, and drain down into the lakes. What was green foliage and wild flowers in summer was awash in golds, oranges, and browns. We passed by people with bags of huckleberries, and kids with blue lips and teeth, their hands also stained from the picking and eating the huckleberries along the trails. After identifying which bushes were huckleberries, our fingers were soon equally blue, grabbing at the tasty berries, lingers on the tips of delicate branches, free of leaves, which had already turned and fallen.
It couldn’t have been more idyllic.
Hesitant to leave, but hungry, we returned to the car, and drove up to Artist Point, where we enjoyed our lunch while overlooking the valley below, and the glacier-covered Mount Baker.
With the snows coming, hiking trails and meadows obscured, and cars of skiers arriving soon, we’ll have to wait until the summer to return to Mount Baker.