Today we had another day of exploring, heading east up as far as we could go onto Mount Baker, a huge, dormant volcano east of our current lodging in Blaine. Mount Baker is the crowning jewel of Mount Baker National Park. The mountain is clearly visible, on clear days, from the entire northwest corner of Washington because it sticks up about 5,000 feet higher than the surrounding Cascade Range.
We left Birch Bay TT in Blaine and headed east on Birch Bay Lynden Road until we got to Lynden where we turned south, following the route we took a few days back getting to Ken Thompson’s house and vegetable stand. We took this route for a few reasons – to buy more of his fabulous sweet corn on the cob, to hobnob with Ken and to see Ken’s gorgeous German Shepherd, Kaiser. Kaiser greeted us at the driveway but, once he deemed us as okay, he went to find some toys to maul. We snagged another dozen ears of Ken’s succulent corn, chatted with Ken and played with Kaiser before continuing on to Deming. Once there, we turned east on WA-542 for the curvy, beautiful drive through Maple Falls and Glacier and up the long, serpentine drive on the northeastern flank of Mount Baker. Most of the drive offers magnificent views of Mt. Shuksan, a huge peak east of Mount Baker. The best view of Mt. Baker was to come later.
The geology of the area is quite varied but dominant features are huge beds of tightly compressed ash layers and extensive areas of columnar basalt laid down through many eruptions of the volcano. Huge crevasses in rock and snow have been cut by water erosion, leaving magical terrain. Glaciers have left huge, smooth domes and U-shaped ravines. There are many roadside small waterfalls, As we gained elevation, we noted the trees are more height-challenged with strange configurations, testaments to the brutal wintertime conditions. Eventually, we arrived at the visitor center on the mountain but Mount Baker was still not visible, blocked by massive ridges of basalt. There we found a few turquoise lakes in depressions in the convoluted terrain created by successive lava and molten rock flows, ash deposits and their subsequent erosion by glacial snowmelt flows. It must have been a bizarre hell during it’s creation.
A few miles above the visitor center, we finally arrived at the end of the road at over 5,000 feet and only then was the massive, glacier-covered cone of Mount Baker visible. And we were still more than 6,000 feet lower than the volcano’s summit. It dwarfs everything around it. It is gorgeous. The very top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds and, despite Peggy producing a very nice lunch that we ate while lingering at the observation area, we did not get a glimpse of the very top of the giant today. Alpine flowers surrounded the parking lot at the end of the road and they were definitely open for business.
Around 4:30 or 5:00 PM, we headed back along the long, narrow downgrade back to Glacier, the foothills and eventually the lush agricultural flat lands crossed by the glacial sediment-carrying Nooksack River. The river water is gray and cloudy from eroding the huge layers of ash and rock from the mountain. It will probably stay that way for a while because there is a lot of mountain left.
We took a few pictures of the places we went today. To see ’em, click the link. https://photos.app.goo.gl/4sRGWgafxKG4XqZj6