Mount Baker Journey

This was among one of my more interesting adventures, for a while I been wanting to reclimb Mount Baker in April but was unsure of when the right time would be.
This trip took place April 24-25, 2010 (Saturday-Sunday)

The trip idea sparked when I was sent a private message on nwhikers:
"So im still interested in climbing Baker Colman Deming with you… its more for training than any thing else but we will give the summit are best shot…"
-Quest for Adrenaline

I have never hiked with him, but from the stories I've heard about him, if they were true, he was a very experienced mountaineer. We had some phone conversations and we talked about what to bring and if the weather was terrible we could always bail. By the conversations he seemed like a nice guy to climb with (later I found when meeting him in person to be a nice guy and cool partner). Getting to Mount Baker was an issue, he had no car as well as me. He told me about a cheaper bus ride to get to Bellingham from Everett which was slightly pricy but cheaper than the rest. It was $12.75 each way.

On the night of Friday April 23 I had to do a bunch of research on how I was going to get to Mount Baker and those kind of things. Then I also had to pack my pack, which took a while. When I finally got all my gear together, my brother throws up and I end up having to clean it. Then my brother forces me to trim my finger nails which I was kicked out of the bathroom as I was doing it and the only other light I thought of was outside which was dim. I ended up cutting too much and my fingers were hurting and bleeding a little, "uggggggg" I thought to myself because I hate having short nails because it hurts, although mabe I trim them too short. Anyways when I go to bed it was about 12:00 a.m.

Bam! I wake up at 3:30 a.m. to get up and go for the trip. I had only 3 and a half hours of sleep. I now had to bike to Marysville to catch the bus by 7 a.m. The ride was around 15-16 miles, and yes I rode the old bike that once again catches friction making the riding harder, unlike last time, this time I had way more gear in my pack, but fortunately there were plenty of side walks the entire way. It was interesting going through Everett at night because there were so many lights on the trees in the main street. (I guess that shows how often I visit downtown Everett at night)

When I saw that it was 4:30 I tried to bike fast because I wanted to make it to the bus at the casino in time. It was a beautiful little place as I was crossing the bridge over Snohomish River, with the dark blue of the sky. Getting into Marysville there was a smell of donuts in the air which made me droll in my mouth. And then for some reason a block later it smelled like bacon. I get to the Casino and realize I do not know where the bus arrival zone was. I stash the bike in the bushes to prevent it from being stolen, and the bus I was going to ride charges $10 each way for a bike on.

Finally I find the exact location of the bus pick up which in front of the hotel section. The lady at the counter was nice to me, and gave me free water and newspaper as I waited. I was a half hour early which was a relief. After waiting a long time I started to wonder if I was at the right stop and such. 10 minutes after the expected arrival time for the bus I really started to wonder what was going on. I asked the lady and she had me call up the bus service. I had called the bus service the night before to make sure you do not need a reservation which they told me wasn't required, but what they did not tell me was that if no one reserves, then the bus does not show up! "Blame it!" I thought because now I had to wait 2 more hours until the next bus. "This is bad", now meeting Kurt at the trailhead seemed like less of a possibility, but I just had to remain in high hopes.

Excited Waiting Still Waiting
Getting Tired  

As I waited the lady told me I could take a nap… unfortunately that was not so, when I took a short nap leaning on my pack, the manager (or seemed like someone who worked there) told me to wake up because it looked bad. I understand that it looked bad, but it was annoying because I was running on a few hours of sleep and had a Mount Baker climb on my hands. I decided it would be a good idea to call home to make sure Kurt did not cancel or something. When I tried to call, the operator would not let me call because my phone number is an Oregon number because our phone service magicjack does not support Washington phone numbers. So even calling my nabor from home is long distance!

After waiting three hours at the hotel the bus finally comes and I am now heading to Bellingham which I get some nice sleep. When I get to Bellingham it was around 10:30 a.m. and the bus driver made a special stop just for me so I could get as close to Mount Baker as possible.(although he would have drove through the spot anyways, but the stop was not usual) When I got off the bus I had to start running with my heavy pack which was much harder than I had expected and hurt my shins.

As I headed East on Baker View, I knew that I was making very slow progess walking, so now it was time to start hitch hiking. This was the first time I have ever hitch hiked, and I don't encourage it, but to my amazement it worked. I took a while for me to build up the courage to acually do it, I kept some what putting out my thumb, but was to shy to do it, it felt so strange and out of place. At one point when I was finally going to do it, a cop drove by, so I stopped for a few mintutes. Then I got my first ride which was only a few miles, but hey, every mile helps!

Getting the second ride took a long time, I was now in East Bellingham. You learn a lot about being patient when hitch hiking, in the movies they make it look so easy, but in a pinch I had already known it would not be quick. A half hour later I got another ride a dozen or so miles further east which the people who gave me a ride were nice.

The guy who drove me told me about the lady at the gas station who might be able to help me make a sign to Glacier. As he said, she was nice and provided me some cardboard and ideas of how I should make a sign. On the side of the road the sign did not work out as well as I had hoped, if anything it acually made it harder to get anywhere. Eventually after a long time I got rid of it because it was not helping. fortunately a nice lady pulled over and gave me a ride to Kendall, even though she had kids in the back with a dog, and it was a small car.

I would have been against the idea of hitch hiking, but I heard biking was dangerous on this road (which the further East I went, the more I realized why… thin side walks, ect.) and there was no bus that I knew of that goes to the city of Glacier. In Kendall it was raining a little, my cotton clothes were starting to get wet (Kurt recommended I wear casual clothing to increase the odds of me getting picked up which is probably true). fortunately I did not spend to long in Kendall and someone drove me all the way to the city of Glacier which was out of there way, and dropped me off at the very beginning of Glacier creek road. I was now 8 miles from the trailhead of Mount Baker.

As I walked I was impressed at how many homes there were along the side of the road, after walking about 3/4 a mile or so, someone drives by, and I was able to get a ride to the trailhead! They told me they saw me on the way and asked "were you the guy way back there holding that Glacier sign?" which I was impressed that I beat them on time, but they stopped at some place on the way. About 1/2 a mile from the trailhead I see a tent, I yell out the window "Kurt, is that you?" and sure enough he did not leave me. Before this the fear came into me "what if I did not meet him at the trailhead, then what?" but fortunately that was not so. It was now 2 p.m. or so.

I will admit, Kurt had a little bit of a rigged tent, but right back at me, my sleeping bag was only rated 15+ and my ground pad did not cover my full body length. We stopped before the trailhead because there was a spot next to the road without snow and that was not too sloped. I put my pack away and changed into some acual mountain cloths. Even though it was a little crowded in the tent, and I had to be careful not to knock over the logs (which was holding up the tent as well as some stake sticks made of wood found in the woods). I was amazed when looking through the fog and rain at how much fresh snow there was, Kurt told me chances were good we would not summit, but if conditions improved we would make an attempt.

In the tent we told each other stories of some of our climbing experiences, and atleast for me even though it was rainy and wet, I was enjoying the stories and good company. Kurt would tell stories of when he climbed the north face of Baker and his partner being low on ice screws which sounded quite scary, also he told about when he climbed Mount Shuksan and a thunder storm came in which they had to leave all there metal gear and descend the glacier without ice axes and such, and later the ranger threatened to fine them for "littering" which I laughed at this part because this quote comes to mind "Hmmmm should I bring my gear down and risk my life, or should I be safe and leave it, and get it later". Another thing I liked about Kurt was he understood some of my stories, motives, and struggles better than a lot of people do, even people I know don't understand why I sometimes do what I do.

After telling tons of fun stories and such it was finally time for us to get some rest for the Mount Baker climb. unfortunately because we were slightly sloped I kept sliding which made sleeping a little hard at first, plus there was some kind of rock or stump below me. When I wake up in very early morning, the weather still looked very bad, infact the surroundings were covered in fresh snow, and conditions looked perhaps worse. After getting some side sleep we eventually decide to wake up. When we had some breakfast the weather was still bad, and climbing Mount Baker seemed like it would be reckless to attempt. I would like to note that I wanted to atleast check out some of the trail, but Kurt was using good judgement of not even trying out the trail because for most of that day the mountain was covered in clouds and bad weather.

The Snowy Road
The Snowy Road

We packed up the tent and got ready for the way down. We now had to walk around 8 miles to the main road below. Atleast the scenery was decent, and there were some sun spots down in the valley, Kurt told me more about his younger years and such. When we got to the bottom we headed our separate ways and waved good bye. I decide to wait in front of the Glacier Creek Road to increase our chances of getting a ride which is why we did it separate. As I waited for about a half an hour, a ranger patrols by. "Oh no" were my thoughts because I sure as well did not want a repeat of last week, so I started to walk a mile down the road. I finally found a good turn out zone to start trying to hitch hike (you need a place for cars to pull over or else it would be unlikely you would get picked up). A nice lady takes me a mile into the city of Glacier.

Misty Woods on Mount Baker
The Misty Woods

From here I waited a few minutes or so (perhaps 20) and some nice elderly folks picked me up and drove me all the way to Deming. In Deming it was the same story, I was stuck for a very long time wondering if I was going to get a ride, about an hour of waiting (or at least it felt that long) and a very nice guy took me the rest of the way. We had a little bit of conversations, and he took me to the air port which was out of his way, but he was nice and knew getting around town would be harder.

At the airport I first had to figure out where the bus stop was, then I had to make sure I had a reserve so that away they would actually pick me up this time. I have no cell phone, so I ended up having to try to use a pay phone, walking into the airport felt strange with a security guard looking at me while I had an ice axe in my pack with a helmet sticking out, and terrorist risk was at medium. The change machine would not except my dollar because it was wet from being in my pack in the rain on the mountain. The security guard recommended me asking the shop people for some change, and they rudely told me to use the change machine. So now it was time for some new embarrassing tactics – blowing my money a lot. I kept blowing my money over and over and over which people kept looking at me strange, but hey, if this was the only way, I had to do it. The security guard asked me "so what happened with the store" and I told him what happened.

After being much out of breath my dollar was finally dry, or at least dry enough for the machine to except it. Now I was finally able to get my 4 quarters to make my phone call and head home. The bus ride home was nice because I was able to get more sleep. Once I got to Marysville I grabbed the bike and started to head towards home. I so happened to see a bus stop that was bus 200, and it so happened to be speeding to the stop, so I made a wild dash to catch it in time. I made it! This shaved off 12 or so miles of biking. I decided not to take two buses to save myself another dollar and biked the last 3-4 miles which I found to be quite tiring with all the hills and such.

Once I got home, the adventure was over, but I had a fun time. Even though I did not summit, I had an incredible journey, and an experience I will not soon forget. Kurt it was very nice meeting you, and I very much enjoyed your company, and hope to see you on more trips. The next time perhaps the approach won't be so long. Can't wait until my next grand adventure!

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