Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 66 - Mt. Baker, Snoqualmie National Forest, WA - Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mt. Baker in Morning Twilight
As we begin our morning walk on Thompson Trail, we look to the right over Fidalgo Bay and the oil refinery and see the tip of Mt. Baker -- with hope of more sunlight to come -- calling to us.  So we load up an ice chest with water, Diet Coke, a water bowl for Jake, and pick up a picnic lunch for the trip.  

We take the 'back road,' Hwy. 9, which parallels I-5 out of Burlington east of Bellingham in northwest Washington.  Along this winding drive are farms of corn, flowers, fruit orchards and many small towns beckoning you to stop and visit.  We are tempted.

After we join Hwy. 542 which comes from Bellingham, we come to the town of Glacier, and have lunch at a picnic table on the grounds of the Visitors' Center.  

Lunch first, photos later

They have displayed a cross-section of a Douglas fir tree, whose rings tell that is was 730 years old when cut.  

Doug Fir

As the road gets twistier, we know we are getting closer to the end of the road at the Mt. Baker Viewing Area.  Each view is more breath taking than the previous and we are truly Southerners delighting in seeing snow close up!

Jake in the back seat doesn't move a muscle, except for the ones in his chest that allow him to breathe while sleeping.

After a few more swithbacks, we get to the parking lot of the Viewing Area, show our Golden Age Passport to the ranger, and put Jake on his leash.  

As he steps onto the snow, he looks to the right and then the left, takes a step or two and sniffs the white stuff.  

He has seen white ground before, but the last he saw was not cold.  Two seconds later he is like a Southern kid in a rare snowfall.  

He is jumping, wanting off leash and digging before he finally just lies down and rolls in ecstasy!

This reminds us of when we walked him on South Padre Island, and he could uncover a dead fish buried a foot deep in the sand.   

Also from this area you can see Artist Point, which is closed in Winter.

There are trails to hike closer to the tip of Mt. Baker, but we don't have appropriate shoes and are  content just to soak up the beauty from here.  At the tip, Mt. Baker rises 10,750 ft.

We meet a man who is a resident of both the United States and Canada, and he shows us a mountain ridge far into the distance that is actually in Canada.  He tells us we are lucky today, as it was only three weeks ago that the road was opened, the parking lot cleared, and yet the buildings at the Viewing Area were still covered with a mound of snow.  Look to the center of the photograph below at the tiny gray peak between the two peaks in the foreground, and see Canada.

As we visit with the local guy, a tourist approaches and asks if this is Mt. Baker, then comments that you can't do anything here.  You can't plant anything, you can't grow anything, you can't farm, so what do you do?

Our friend smiles and tells him, " You just enjoy it."

The scenery is just as exciting on the way down the mountain as it was coming up.

We pass the ski area -- but just enjoy the memories of when we used to ski.  Looks like black diamonds to me; I'm a green slope type of person..... ........probably a bunny at this point.

Not at all anticlimactic is the waterfall we visit on picturesque Hwy. 542 as we travel home.  The North Fork Nooksack River follows the highway eastward from Bellingham and creates the falls, which we first see as a babbling brook.  

Herb points out to me that water is coming from three sources to converge into the pool below, but we cannot see where it goes from there, probably because it is hidden by the large boulder in front of us.  

We learn that the water drops 88 feet and powers a hydroelectric plant originally built by Stone and Webster in 1906, and placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1988. The falls were featured in the movie, "The Deer Hunter."

We see some amazing tree stumps and wish they could tell us their stories.

Yes, Jake is here getting petted, but I think he is more interested in the snack package the child has in her hand.

Heading back toward Anacortes, we are startled to see in someone's front yard an eagle nest!  With three eagles!  We are delighted, as we have spent 'hours' on Thompson Trail watching for the the eagle during the past several days.  Yep, the nest may be real, but the eagles are carved of wood!

Willie of Walldog, Willie and Jake

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