August 24, 2009

MisAdventure Upon Mount Baker

Most every weekend since we moved here, we have made trips to different places. State parks, various beaches, hiking trails. Jason and I are outdoorsy people by nature and living up here gives us ample opportunities to explore and enjoy.

This last weekend, we thought we'd try something new: a hiking trip off-island. Mount Baker, one of the northern-most peaks in the Cascades, is a popular destination, so we thought we'd give it a try. We started planning the trip a week in advance. Jason appointed me hiking-trail-finder and off I went through the Land of Google to find a moderate trail that all three of us could tackle.

I found several, in fact. After running the possibilities by Jason, we settled on Blue Lake Trail. At 3,900 feet of elevation, Blue Lake Trail was, the online trail guide assured me, "a beautiful and easy hike." Round trip was only 1.4 miles. Even Caleb could manage that. What could be better?

Full of anticipation, we woke up Saturday morning to sunshine and good weather.

"Do you have directions?" Jason asked me.
"Yep!" I replied. "We take the 20 east to Baker Lake Hwy. Then we look for something called a service road."

After packing lunches, we made a quick detour to Wal-Mart for new hiking boots for Jason. Then we were on our way. Over the bridge, off the island, and into the unknown. We got a later start then we wanted, but hey! it was an adventure!

Until I realized, a few miles outside a city named Concrete, that I'd written Baker Lake Hwy. instead of Baker Lake Road. And that we'd passed said road ten miles back. By then we'd been in the car an hour and a half and were starting to want those lunches. We corrected our navigational error and before long, the road was taking us into lush forests and foothills. Mount Baker peeked out at us every so often.

We passed Service Road 12, noting with some uncertaintly that it wasn't paved, and decided to drive on to Baker Lake to eat our food. After two and a half hours in the car, Caleb was more than ready to stretch his little legs and get into mischief. We found some maps of the area in a local camp store, and Jason poured over them while munching PB&J. Caleb climbed the Baker Lake welcome sign and pointed out pictures of bald eagles and bears for me to name.

Lunch revived us somewhat, and we decided to drive back to Service Road 12 and try to find Blue Lake Trail. The road may be nothing but dirt and gravel, but we probably wouldn't be on it very long. "It's an adventure!" we kept saying to each other.

10 miles and one hour later, I didn't feel quite so adventurous. Service Road 12 literally took us up a mountain. Up up up, on narrow dirt roads barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. The views and vistas as we got higher up were incredible. That also meant the drop off from the left side of the road was equally incredible. I was driving and I had to stop myself from freaking out no less than 734 times. Now, the roads were in good condition; I doubt we were ever in any serious danger.

But we were seriously in the middle. of. nowhere. And those ten miles took us over an hour to drive. At least Caleb napped the whole way up.

We knew we had finally arrived when suddenly, there was no more Service Road 12. The road ended in a sort of clearing, and we spotted this:

Apparently, we'd found the trail. Caleb woke up, we doused ourselves with bug spray (having been bitten several times already back at the lake), and we were finally, finally ready to hike. It was now 3:30 pm.

That nap had really re-energized our son, and he took off as if nothing in the world existed but this hike. And even though we were in the middle. of. nowhere. on some mountain with no cell phone (did I mention the phone had died in the Wal-Mart parking lot?), we were well rewarded for our efforts.

Blue Lake, at last.

We didn't spend too much time there. The sun was going down, and we still had the return trip down Service Road 12 to make. But it was beautiful. Truly, breath-takingly, beautiful. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere. Fish jumped from the water. The water itself was incredibly clear.

Then it was back down the trail to the car, and ten more miles of this:
(Jason drove)

We had one more high point, though. About a mile from the trail head, we pulled off to take in these glorious views:
This is Mount Shukshan

And this is Mount Baker:

Covered in glaciers year-round, it rises over 10,000 feet. And viewing it from 3,900 feet, while breathing clear, thin, clean, cool air, was quite an experience.

Jason and I agreed that next time we go to Mount Baker, we'll research our hikes much more thoroughly. Fun as Blue Lake was, we spent around six hours in the car Saturday and only one on the actual trail. We also decided it'd be fun to camp up there for a weekend and do hikes while staying local.
(Mis)Adventure? Perhaps. Informative? Very. Fun?
Oh yeah.


LeAnna said...

I'm loving getting to go on these hikes and fun adventures through you. Your pictures are beautiful, and I bet you guys are totally loving being where you're at. Gooooorgeous country. That lake is just beautiful. *sigh* Thanks for posting pictures and telling the story, it felt like I was right there, too. :)

Jennifer said...

Wow! Gorgeous pictures!