Thursday, August 22, 2013

Playing peek a boo with Mount Baker - Skyline Divide

One of my favorite things is hiking and spending the night in the wilderness with my two young-ish sons. Now that they are old enough to carry their own stuff, backpacking is doable. It still means that I carry the tent and most of the heavy stuff, but they carry their fair share themselves.  ('Why', I ask myself, 'do I carry so much heavy stuff when these kids run circles around me?')

This week, Kai, Lukas and I hiked one of my favorite trails: Skyline Divide. It's one of my favorite hikes, because it is so dramatic, what with Mount Baker staring right into your face once you hike up two miles through a mature silver fir forest. After these initial two miles, the hiking book states, “At 2 miles clutch your heart and prepare for visual attack as the trail emerges onto a grassy knoll, unfurling a backdrop of the Great White One (Mount Baker), surrounded by some pretty darn nice ones.” I couldn't have said it better. It's really quite spectacular and mind blowing.

The hike up was steep and hard. We had to carry all of our water, since there is none on the ridge so late in summer. Do you know how much weight a gallon of water adds to your pack? I was a little worried when, five minutes into the hike, my butt cheeks went into spasms. Lukas and Kai didn't fare better, so we took our time and rested frequently, which turned into quite a spectacle. First, gingerly feel behind you to make sure you will land on something soft or level, then let your weight fall down, get caught by your heavy pack, and at the same time unstrap the chest strap so you won't get strangled. When you are ready to get back on your feet, pull yourself up with a lot of grunting and moaning, and then help the person next to you by firmly pulling on their hands.

This is how heavily packed we were.
Steep mountain sides are especially handy for resting, since it's easier to get up when your pack rests a little higher.

I instructed the boys to clutch their hearts once we made it up onto the grassy knoll and get prepared for the splendid view of Mount Baker. Except when we got there, Mount Baker was shrouded in clouds and stayed that way for most of the day. All the other thousands of mountains showcased themselves in all their splendor, but the Great White One played hard to get. It felt like we played peek a boo with this famous mountain all day, until it finally revealed itself to us in the evening, when we cooked dinner by our camp. In the meantime, we had fun, my boys and I, romping in gorgeous meadows, looking for bugs, staring at the sea of mountains around us.

We made it up to the first knoll.

Looking at bugs.

Waiting for the clouds to lift off Mount Baker.  It's getting there!
Our camp site, looking at Mount Baker, finally cloud free.
Dinner with a view.
We couldn't have timed this trip better, because the moon was full that night, and it rose over Mount Shuksan in the East, while at the same time, the sun set in the west. It felt like we were at a tennis match as we sat on the ridge and watched this spectacle. Back and forth our heads swiveled to the East, where the sun came up over Shuskan, and then back to the West, where the sun sank into the mountain range there. I cannot try to convey with words this beauty and the feeling in my heart while witnessing this ancient ritual while my boys were snuggled around me. It reminded me of looking your newborn baby in the face for the first time, or of the way your heart feels open after spending some special time with your beloved.

I am so grateful for my ever-supportive husband Steve, who is a true wilderness man, and who understands how important this time with my boys and nature is to me.  He stays home with little Eva, who can't attempt such a trip (yet), and he takes care of the homestead, the goats, pigs, chickens and ducks while the rest of his family gets to romp in the mountains.  Don't worry - I give him HIS time as well, and once hunting season comes around, I will take care of our charges while he stalks through the wilderness with his bow and arrows.

I also feel very blessed to have friends and neighbors that enable us to go away like that.  I know that they competently will milk the goats and take care of our critters when we are gone, and I trust them completely.  To me, this is worth more than a whole bag of gold!

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