Skyline Divide – Trekking towards Mt Baker
4:30 Am, my alarm screams chirping crickets. I slide myself out of bed trying to remember why I was too excited to sleep last night. By the time I’m dressed and in the car I’m only slightly aware of my actions. It’s as if my body knows what I want it to do but my mind is still trying to hibernate. As the wheels start to turn down the interstate so do the gears in my head.
Energy slowly restoring as my mind settles in on todays goal, I’m heading north to climb a mountain.
The directions require me to head off down some old highways. The highway leads through gorgeous green farmlands completely sopped in with fog. This quick one lane road, snaking around the feet of seemingly endless mountains. The valley boxed by wooden farmhouse fences makes for a very distracting journey. Seventy miles in the fog lifts above the tree line, revealing an abundance of fall colors cradling the roadside.
I leave the highway for Forest Service road 37, a rocky, pot hole infected, dirt riddled route. The road winds 3000 feet up through gorgeous moss-covered trees and over a couple misty waterfalls. After about 45 minutes I arrived at the parking area for the Skyline Divide Trailhead.
I begin down the trail and Im destroyed by the 1500 feet of elevation gains within the first two miles. Breathing heavier with every, the cold air burning at my lungs and freezing down my throat.
I’m surrounded by both nothing and everything at the same time. Huge pine trees block out any morning sun, leaving the forest floor damp with dew. The wind lets you hear so much but also again nothing at all.
Three miles in, each step getting a little easier as my legs wake up more and more.
Breaking out of the trees and into a slanted meadow of golden grass and sunlight, glorious warm sunlight! I start to see mountain tops in the distance as I reach the first summit.
Mile four and I’m reaching the top of an amber-colored hill.
I start to break away from the trees as I continue. Approaching the hill I am stunned, now fully awake I feel as though I am dreaming.
To the left in the distance are dry, rocky mountain peaks, grey and dispersing behind a much closer peak. The right a lightly snow covered jagged peak and extremely harsh looking.
Dead ahead is Mount Baker, an eleven thousand foot snow-capped mountain, it looks like the angry parent of every melted snowman ever neglected.
As I am taking everything in I was a small hawk circle in the valley below. As it comes over the ridge I witness a much larger bird come out of nowhere and dash down in the hawks direction, The hawk disappears into the trees.
The large bird proceeds to fly in my direction, as I get a better look i realize that it’s a Golden Eagle. The giant predator loops around the ridge line a few times as if its checking me out.
Baker pulls my eyes in and absorbs my full attention.
I continue down the trail in its direction. I can see the path heads straight for the massive beauty, following a formidable ridge.
With each peak conquered on hand and foot, I gain a new perspective on the surrounding landscapes.
The mountain draws more near. As I reach the highest peak on the ridge, I stare out at the mountain contemplating hiking the few more miles to base of Mt Baker. I decide it’s too late in the afternoon to add an extra eight miles to this 14 mile roundtrip hike. Time to pack up and head home.
It’s an odd feeling, wanting so badly to move on to the next peak for no other reason than to see if there is another peak behind it. It’s all so extremely repetitive while at the same time not at al. Each peak is nearly the same as the last and also nothing like anything else. I hope I never stop wanting to find that next peak.
Resources for Traveling Skyline Divide