If I sound enthusiastic, I am. I have never stayed in a more beautiful campsite than the Silver Fir campsite in Mt. Baker National Forest last August. Jon Pollack, whom I first met on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal in 1999, and I were perched on a low cliff above the Nooksak River, which originated in the Mt. Shuksan glacier. A small island of rocks divided the water as it rushed over the variegated riverbed, changing color and wrapping us in a continuous, hypnotic layer of sound. We were surrounded by huge firs and cedars, some encased in moss, which hung down, giving me the feeling of being protected by a giant cocoon.
Our first big hike led us over steep ups and downs via the Lake Anne Trail to Lake Anne and a wide meadow beneath the Mt. Shuksan glacier. I was mesmerized by the plethora of alpine flowers and the lush flora surrounding us. And I filled my camera with images.
The biggest challenge of our four days came when we departed from Artists Point up the rocky path to Table Mountain. The name, alone, should have raised a flag for me, having almost met my match on the Table Mountain in South Africa, a tale I related in my book, Madam Have You Ever Really Been Happy? Also, the caveat that no dogs were allowed on the trail should have been ample warning. But on we trudged through the mist to the barren summits, each one more rocky than the previous. But the cairns, silhouetted against the sky, were striking, and the 360 degree view in and out of the clouds made the exertion worthwhile. Trouble is, we lost our bearings and circled the mountaintop before heading down toward Ptarmigan Ridge way in the distance. At this point we were faced with ominous black clouds and nothing ahead but unmarked boulders. I called it “rock-whacking,” not bushwhacking. We came upon stretches of sand and pools of water before reaching another pile of rocks…then a steep section of undergrowth on which I slid on my bottom to where the rocks began, again. Hey, it was a great adventure, especially when it was over! I’m always impressed, when climbing in the Northwest, by the lushness of the vegetation at altitudes over 6,000 ft. In N.H. the tree line ends around 4,000 ft. But Jon keeps telling me that WA is lower in latitude than New Jersey. It was almost like a temperate rain forest at times.
Hating to say farewell to our gorgeous campsite, we headed in a different direction for another Mt. Baker trail, The Skyline Divide. We climbed up 2,000 ft. and stopped in a vast meadow, reminiscent of the Alpine meadows I enjoyed in Switzerland with my children when they were young. There were mountain ranges everywhere! To the right Mt. Baker loomed, its huge cone gleaming white, and ahead of us was Mt. Shuksan, where we had been our first day. Next to it was the Pickette mountain range and way over to the left was the coastal range of British Columbia, just clear enough to see. That’s how near to Canada was.
Next year Jon and I plan to wander around Vancouver Island, or, maybe, Alaska. Anybody have any suggestions?