Mount Baker Hiking

Post by blogger | September 22, 2008      

Lisa and I are spending time getting our son situated at Western Washington University here in Bellingham, so have not had time to really focus on nearby mountains. On top of that the weather hasn’t been ideal, with a wintry pattern of clouds and rain that’s conflicting my Colorado honed instinct for blue sky. Thus, I’ve left the skis in the Yakima box and opted for some hiking.

Northwest hiking.
On the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail, Mount Baker, looking at Mount Shuksan.

Yesterday we did one of the most easily accessed alpine hikes around here. You drive from Bellingham just over 50 miles to a parking area on the flanks of Mount Baker known as Artist Point, at 5,400 feet where timber gets sparse and the alpine begins. The trail winds around Ptarmigan Ridge, eventually placing you high on Baker. We started our walk in the afternoon so didn’t make a big day of it, but any hiking in this area has views and vibe that will blow you away. The topographic relief is huge, and having glaciers all over the place just makes it feel so right when you’re a lover of mountains.

I’d bought a map a few hours before the hike, and figured out how the legendary Shuksan Arm reaches down from Mount Shuksan like the knotty muscled appendage of a swarthy commercial fisherman, thus forming what appears to be some crazy topography for Mount Baker ski area, as well as what I hear is fine backcountry skiing.

Back to college. As a student’s parent I’m really liking Western Washington University. It has a more uplifted and positive vibe than some of the more urban schools I’ve visited over the years — yet still with enough edge to help students just out of high school explore life of the mind and spirit.

As a parental unit, it’s of course a huge transition dropping your son for school 1,300 miles from home, especially a kid like ours who’s been so involved in our mountain town lifestyle. So if you see me with a deer in the headlight kind of look, you’ll know why. I did ask if during visits I could sleep on the floor in the dorm, but that plan was not well received. I guess it’s Motel 6, or a tent up at Baker. Whatever the case, we already got the holiday plane tickets home so the young man can get a fix of Colorado blue sky after a few months of fourteen foot powder days and associated clouds.

Oh, and hey locals, we did eat at Milano’s in Glacier. A bit pricey but good atmosphere and excellent food. Must be a good place to duck into after a big day of skiing.

Northwest hiking.
Bonus photo, self portrait while taking walk in Sehome Arboretum next to Western. Nothing like a bit of vegetation to make the light glow.


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11 Responses to “Mount Baker Hiking”

  1. JW September 22nd, 2008 11:46 am

    My brother and his daughers lived in B’ham for years and my neice graduated from Western. They really liked it. Mt. Baker gets massive snow. The climate is different than you all are used to; so is the snow.

    I moved my oldest out to Bozeman from Philly, when he was starting college, I guess it was 6 years ago. His mom and I were kind of emotional about it. Little did we know–they come back!!

  2. MtnMentsh September 22nd, 2008 2:23 pm

    Welcome to our neck of the woods man. Hope you enjoy the trip. Baker is beautiful no matter what you’re doing. A few people are still farming turns up there this time of year. I am still looking at hikes and kayaking for another month or so before I get the skis out. It feels kinda funny seeing WA on your site. Oh yeah and parking in the Baker lot is a blast. Just wake up in the truck, walk over to the lodge for coffee and grease, and then head out to Herman and environs.

  3. Mark Worley September 22nd, 2008 6:24 pm

    Bellingham and the Western Campus are terrific. The mountains are incredible as well. Just remind yourself while you endure so very much rain in town that the mountains are getting loaded with the white. Many of my Swedish ancestors had lived in Bellingham, and I used to spend lots of time there. Louie, I hope you enjoy it and get settled in well at school.

  4. olddude September 22nd, 2008 7:15 pm

    A sweet sadness and time for reflection on one’s own journey. Good luck with the next stage. If you are anything like your web persona you will thrive.

  5. Chris September 22nd, 2008 11:29 pm

    I prefer the north fork brewery for beer and pizza, incredible. And the backcountry skiing is incredible there, with Herman, Table and beyond being great easy destinations on a powder day. The snowpack in WA while it snows a lot, is relatively safe compared to CO. Be smart and it will reward you with an incredible time.

  6. tom woodson September 23rd, 2008 6:53 am

    school starts late at Western, no?

  7. Jim Jones September 23rd, 2008 7:59 am

    The weather, lol!! Your in for a learning experience with the weather. I went to school in Eugene for a change of pace from CO. Had a good time, but I remember one winter the sun did not come out for something like 6 months.
    Crystal is where the good skiing is.

  8. dave downing September 23rd, 2008 8:34 am

    yeah, only go to the PNW when I go. This summer it was 9 days of perfect bluebird! So needless to say (but i will anyway), I have a skewed view of the area. It was like CO with an ocean and glaciers 🙂

    Hey, Louie. Get to know Baker well so you can show me around some day this winter!

  9. Charlie September 23rd, 2008 10:35 am

    If the weather gods are to be believed, you’ve got some good weather coming, if you stay long enough. Our sunsets on the pretty days are excellent from on high above the Sound. Heliotrope, Pilchuck, Railroad Grade, etc, will give up excellent views to folks on a tighter schedule.

  10. Terry September 23rd, 2008 8:10 pm

    Lou and Louie,

    Bellingham is only a 10 hour drive from the Roger’s Pass, BC. If you have some time get up there and do some touring with Greg Hill. Revelstoke and the Pass are not to be missed!

  11. Rebecca September 24th, 2008 2:21 pm

    Thanks for the great pictures!

    I hope you enjoyed your visit and that your son likes Western.

    We all look forward to seeing you again!

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