It’s been a while since my last post! I have been hiking/snowshoeing a few times and need to catch up on the excursion posts… Jared, Tyler, and I went on the first snowshoe trip of the year to Artist Point at Mt Baker. Jared and Tyler each had to try out their new snowshoes and I had to try out my new sleds (LL Bean slope sliders). So off we drove to Mt Baker…
Saturday, January 3, 2015. Hike: Artist Point Snowshoe. Distance: a few miles (WTA lists it at 5.5 miles, but that seems way longer than we actually walked). Elevation gain: 1200 feet or less. High point: apx 5200 feet.
Wake early, pile into Tyler’s Subaru. Coffee from the new Starbucks Roastery for the road. Stop at McDonalds for breakfast sandwiches and hashbrowns. Three hour drive to Mt Baker. A mostly cloudy day, but a few mountains peek out at us. Mt Baker Highway ends at our destination. No snow until the last few miles when the elevation starts to climb. Snowy trees line the road.
We arrive at Mt Baker. Around 10 or 11 am? The parking area is at the Mt Baker ski area. Shuksan appears from cloud cover at times. Mt Baker is nowhere to be seen. The clouds are too thick. We park. The parking lot is mostly full. We go off to our corners to pee in the snow. A couple is practicing with a ski parachute in the parking lot. We bundle up. The day is cold and snowy but not biting or frigid. Probably between low and upper 20’s all day. Snowshoes and tiny sleds in tow, we’re off.
We walk through the parking lot. Then go up the trail that branches right where other snowshoers and backcountry/sidecountry skiers are going. Partially on ski trail but partially out of bounds. Up we go. Tyler and Jared make adjustments to the new snowshoes. Tyler’s take more adjustment to get just right. The dropoff to the right feels kind of steep. Up, up, up.
I’d downloaded a new app called “Topo Maps” and use it to see where we are on the map. It’s really accurate and awesome. And useful with all of the clouds obscuring our view. The hill plateaus and we skirt left. We meet up with the road, completely snow covered, which is open in the summer and will take you all the way to Artist Point. Mt Baker is one of the snowiest places in the world. The snow beneath us is deep but fairly compact. We have no problem with our snowshoes.
We wind our way up, and suddenly we’re there! The views are non existent because we’re in a cloud, but it’s great to be up there. There’s a summer bathroom cabin almost entirely buried in snow. Other people are at the top, playing like we are. Another couple and their dog are getting ready to parachute ski down. It turns out to be an adventure for them – this is the first time they’d tried it with their dog. The woman skies first. The dog follows. The dude’s parachute gets stuck. The dog reappears, looking for his mama. Then runs off again. Then the guy skies off… we hope they all met up at the bottom somewhere… A few others are digging a snow cave. There are fun little hills of snow at the top. We run around a bit, play in the snow. We eat snacks of goldfish and hot peppermint tea.
There’s a tiny break in the clouds and we can see part of a valley below. Tyler climbs a snow hill to take pictures. I set my sights on another snow hill and break trail there. Jared walks between some of the snow hills. The white snow and flat gray light are incredibly deceiving. Is that an uphill or downhill? A sheer drop or flat ground? We all meet up amidst the snow hills. I try to run down a small slope, but end up running into a bank of snow that I had no idea was there. We look at the clock. Time to go down.
We follow the path which the parachute skiers and their dog had taken. We come across snowshoes that someone stashed! Haha, we leave them. And then there’s a steep drop. A couple is sledding on the lower half. They shout at us to sled down. We’re skeptical, nervously switchbacking our way down. Would we keep our snowshoes on? Take them off? Isn’t it steep? Hmm…
Then, out of nowhere, a sprightly old man suddenly appears over the hill above us. He’s at least 65, maybe even 80. He nods and smiles. Without a word he skitters past and jumps down the snow chute, snowshoes on and all. Whoosh. And then he’s gone. We look at each other in disbelief, shrug, and then follow his lead. Tyler first, Jared second, and me third. It’s steep but awesome. There’s a 4-5 foot drop at the top, but the snow is very forgiving. Weeeeeee! We reconvene at the bottom. Tyler tells us that when he got to the bottom, all he saw was the sprightly old man running off into the distance. We can only imagine he was looking for another snow chute to jump down. Mirage or man?
Inspired by our sledding success, we continue down, looking for the next slope to sled. These slope sliders are pretty awesome. They’re like glorified plastic shovels. We’ve adopted the sledding couple as sledding companions. A bit of walking down, and then we’re back at that drop off that I remembered felt steep on the way up. And suddenly it has potential. Could we sled it? Why not? Jared takes off first. Whoosh! Then Tyler. Then me. It’s steep and long and I can’t see anything with snow kicking up into my eyes. Somewhere in the middle I intentionally topple over to slow myself down. I hop back on and sled my way down. Whew that was awesome! The couple follows our lead.
We keep walking down. Mostly flat from here. A few tiny sled adventures along the way. We pass a group in the process of building an igloo. It looks amazing. Before we know it, we’re back to the trail junction, then at the parking lot. Man is my butt cold. I’m thankful for the heated seats. So warm.
We make our way back to Seattle. Sun setting. A stop at the Beer Shrine in North Fork for pizza and really really good beer. A successful adventure.