We had a bold camping/hiking trip planned to visit Hell’s Canyon in north-eastern Oregon but school activities and then post-school activities kept pushing that back on the calender. Knowing that it is a high desert climate there, we knew the later on the schedule it fell, the greater the likelihood that we would encounter scorching weather. Finally we set aside a few days before July 4 for the trip, but when a strong heat wave swept over the region and pushed temperatures into the 90s even in Seattle, we knew our trip would be quite unpleasant. So we scanned the maps for places we haven’t been yet and selected the Mt. Baker Highway area as our new destination.
Located in very northwest part of the North Cascades, we hoped to witness the mountains in the later stages of the spring meltout. We were not disappointed. We camped in the anonomously named Douglas Fir Campground with a campsite on the shore of the raging Nooksack River. Despite the intense heat, it was cool in the forest and the river kept things nicely air conditioned. Mt. Baker Highway is a highway which dead-ends above the Mt. Baker ski area, just a few miles from the Canadian border. The views are iconic, especially the views overlooking Mt. Shuksan, which are featured in every calendar of Washington scenery.
Laura and the rest met me at the campground after a very scenic bike ride from home. I rode the Centennial trail from Snohomish through Arlington. Then followed hwy 9 and some very quiet backroads near Big Lake up to Sedro Wooley. Highway 9 continues through a broad valley featuring berry farms and dairy farms. I took a quick side trip up to South Pass road which passes just a few hundred yards from the Canadian border. The valley south of Silver Lake had some cool views of Mt. Baker.
On the second day, we visited Nooksack Falls and rode up to Artist Point. There were a lot of bikes riding up, taking advantage of a long Canada Day weekend. This was the first day of this year that the road was opened for cars. The parking lot was surrounded by enormous snowbanks. We took a short hike on the snow in sneakers to enjoy some fun glissades but Naomi refused to hike at all in the snow. We experienced the weird sensation of being scorched by the sun while standing on top of several feet of snow.
On the third day, we took a short hike up toward Hannegan Pass. We didn’t go far because as we got higher, we encountered a creek covered by a snow bridge. But the scenery from the valley bottom was tremendous. Waterfalls swollen with meltwater were every 100 yards or so and the snowfields up high on the ridge and Mt. Ruth were gorgeous.