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.
|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.
|Bonus photo, self portrait while taking walk in Sehome Arboretum next to Western. Nothing like a bit of vegetation to make the light glow.|
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.