Mount Baker Experience, Summer 2024

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Grand Parade Car Show • Live Music Pancake Breakfast Street Fair & Fireworks Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration Old-Fashioned
CELEBRATE July 7-13 Blaine Harbor Music Festival July 13 Art-2-Jazz Sreet Festival July 26 The Wave En Blanc Evening July 27-28 The Wave Art Festival August 2-3 Drayton Harbor Maritime Festival SUMMER In Blaine by the Sea! WASHINGTON BLAINE BLAINE WELCOME CENTER 546 Peace Portal Dr. I Blaine, WA I 360-332-4544 /BLAINEBYTHESEA WWW.BLAINEBYTHESEA.COM SECONDS OFF I-5, 276 AT THE US/CANADA BORDER Scan for All Blaine Events!

t was an interesting ski season this year. With a total snowfall of 508 inches from September through April, it was the second lowest amount of snow in the last 14 years. The lowest was 303 inches in 2014/15 and the average snowfall is 668 inches. Still, people had fun and there was enough snow to include the two snow legs in the annual Ski to Sea race the last weekend of May.

What’s ahead for next winter?

Having just gone through a Super El Niño, the Climate Prediction Center is predicting a 77 percent chance that a La Niña will develop in the September to November time frame. If so, we could expect a return to more normal snow levels next season.

Until then, though, we have some treats for you in this issue.

Of course, there’s always the photo gallery created by some of the best photographers in the Pacific Northwest. The stories range from our backyard mountains to Mt. Vesuvius in Italy, a trip taken by one of our favorite contributors, Tony Moceri. Eric Lucas is back with a couple of stories about Alaska cruising and his favorite hot springs. Dylan Price considers why we climb, while Tori Ayers takes us on a tour of the Salish Sea with Dragonfly Kayak Tours.

There’s much more and we hope you enjoy another look at the best that the Pacific Northwest has to offer outdoor enthusiasts. With the weather finally looking like summer might happen, get outside and enjoy the Experience!

Ocean adventures with Dragonfly Kayak

SHUKSAN Official Mascot of Mount Baker Experience WHY DO WE CLIMB? Meditations on climbing from the peaks of New Zealand 36 08 NEWSROOM Outdoor news and happenings from around the PNW 18 SCULPTURE WALKS Outdoor art exhibits just around the corner 20 OUTDOOR ORGANIZATIONS Groups keeping the outdoors available for all 22 GALLERY Summer adventure shots 28 SKI TO SEA Scenes from the Marine Park finish line 32 BEER FRIDGE Northwest-rooted beers at your doorstep 33 MT. BAKER SKI PATROL How you can support the volunteers 38 EATS AND SLEEPS Where to eat and stay 42 EVENTS Races, runs, rides and happenings 46 PARTING SHOT MT BAKER IN A DAY 14 34 KAYAKING THE SALISH
Tours ALASKA CRUISE Coast hopping through Alaska HOT SPRINGS Hidden – and hot –Western treasures 40 MT. BAKER TO MT. VESUVIUS Explorations of a not-so-foreign volcano 44 30 I
A ctivities in Bellingham, WA 1311 CORNWALL AVE, BELLINGHAM | (360) 738-7179 Open Tues - Sun, see website for hours Voted “Best New Restaurant” 1107 RAILROAD AVE. BELLINGHAM, WA | BBAYBREWERY.COM SCAN HERE TO ELEVATE YOUR EXPERIENCE COMMUNITY CRAFTED OUTDOOR ESSENTIALS


Since 1986

Special publication of The Northern Light and All Point Bulletin


Patrick Grubb and Louise Mugar


Nolan Baker


Doug De Visser


Grace McCarthy


Ruth Lauman • Doug De Visser


Gary Lee • Molly Ernst


Tori Ayers, Radka Chapin, Alicia Chesnutt, Erin Deinzer, Jason Hummel, Jasmine Long, Eric Lucas, Jason Martin, Audra Lee Mercille, Tony Moceri, Dylan Price, Rylan Schoen, Matthew Tangeman, Laurel Walker, and Colin Wiseman.






If you can see Mt. Baker, you’re part of the experience. Mount Baker Experience is an outdoor recreation guide for and about the Mt. Baker region, distributed from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. and published by Point Roberts Press, Inc. Locally owned, the company also publishes TheNorthernLight, All Point Bulletin, Pacific Coast Weddings, Waterside and area maps.

Vol. XXXIX, No. 2. Printed in Canada. ©2024 POINT ROBERTS PRESS

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TEL: 360/332-1777

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ON THE COVER Milky Way above Mt. Baker, from Mt. Rexford camp in B.C..

Photo by Radka Chapin

MBE summer 2024



Tori Ayers is the owner of Dragonfly Kayak Tours, offering guided kayaking adventures in the Salish Sea since 2017. When not kayaking, she can be found hiking, rock climbing, biking and enjoying time exploring her hometown of Bellingham.


Radka is a mental health therapist during the week, an avid climber, skier, backpacker and photographer on weekends, and a full-time human servant to a Border Terrier named Mossy. Radkaandchris.smugmug. com


Erin Deinzer has worked as a copywriter, travel writer, and editor, and would one day like to ghostwrite an autobiography. As a recently-minted PNW resident, she enjoys exploring her adopted home as well as off-the-beaten path destinations around the world. Planning for Halloween is her favorite pastime, and wherever she celebrates holidays is her happy place.


Jason is an outdoor photographer from Washington who has documented numerous first descents in the North Cascades.


Jasmine is a Bellingham-born creative with Olympic Peninsula roots. Owner of Mildcat, a modern art, photography and design collective, lover of Mt. Baker and avid snow sport enthusiast, find her online @mildcatcreative and


Lifelong journalist Eric Lucas lives on a small farm on San Juan Island. He is the author of numerous travel guidebooks, and is a regular correspondent for Alaska Airlines Beyond magazine.


Jason is the Executive Director at the American Alpine Institute, a mountain guide and a widely published outdoor writer. He lives in Bellingham with his wife and two kids.

Audra Lee Mercille is a Pacific Northwest-based freelance adventurer. She found photography as a way to display her love and gratitude for the mountains and landscapes that inspire her.


Tony is a freelance writer who loves to get out and explore the world with his family. He shares his journey @adventurewithinreach and


Dylan lives in Bellingham with his partner Ellie and two cats.


A fortune cookie once told me: “This is a good time for you to enjoy the outdoors.” I have always trusted that cookie.


Matthew is an adventure photographer with a passion for deep powder, alpine granite and not making it back to the trailhead until way after dark.


Laurel grew up skiing and ice skating in rural New York, and moved West after college where she got hooked on trail running, climbing and backcountry skiing. She loves to move around the mountain in whatever way she can, and loves to write, teach and mentor those around her.


Colin Wiseman is an outdoor lifestyle and action sports photographer, writer, and producer who has lived in Bellingham since 2007. He also serves as the content and brand director for Funny Feeling LLC, makers of The Snowboarder’s Journal, The Ski Journal and They Flyfish Journal. Follow him on Instagram @colin_wise_man and on the web at

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Northwest Tune-Up announces music lineup

Northwest Tune-Up (NWTU), Bellingham’s three-day cycling, music and beer festival July 12-14 in Bellingham’s downtown waterfront district, just announced its highly anticipated music lineup.

Bluegrass group Yonder Mountain String Band will headline Friday, rapper Lupe Fiasco is set for Saturday, and EDM artist RJD2 will finish out the festival on Sunday.

Other acts include Indigo De Souza (who played on WWU’s campus last winter), Petty or Not and The Lil Smokies on Friday; Emancipator, Magic Sword and Protoje meets Tippy I on Saturday; and Cambodian rock group Dengue Fever, Saxsquatch and The Moondoggies on Sunday.

Festival music director Hunter Motto said this year will include longer, 90 minute headliner sets and free music stages each afternoon.

“NWTU is known for music discovery, legendary performances, and most importantly, as a big, ol’ block party in Downtown Bellingham,” Motto said. “The festival has evolved yearafter-year in response to our community and will boast two big changes this year.”

For the first time, NWTU is offering free music – no ticket required – at “Tunetown,” two stages at the Exhibitor Village in the downtown waterfront district. The two-stage venue will showcase local talent each afternoon of the festival, giving listeners a chance to discover new artists from their own backyard.

For those who just want to listen to the music, and don’t need a full day of mountain biking or pump tracks, NWTU is again offering music-only tickets, with admission starting at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are already on sale for $59 in advance, but increase to $69 when purchased at the door.

Skagit Tours returns after wildfire closures

Want to experience the beauty of Upper Skagit Valley and North Cascades National Park while skimming on top of a pristine lake? North Cascades Institute (NCI) is reopening its

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Notes big and small from around the region

popular Skagit Tours’ boat tours of Diablo Lake.

Persistent wildfires on Sourdough Mt., right on the shores of Diablo Lake, forced NCI to cancel its boat tours for the summer of 2023. Starting July 2, multiple tours are offered for those looking to explore the depths of Washington’s wildest national park.

Skagit Tours offers afternoon cruises for just a few hours, “Lake & Lunch Tours” Wednesdays through Sundays until September 2, and “Fall Morning Cruises” throughout weekends in September.

Hear about the valley’s natural, indigenous and early settler history with a guided tour, while also learning about how the North Cascades provides renewable hydroelectric to millions in the Puget Sound area through the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. The Alice Ross IV boat, provides hidden views of Diablo Lake and the North Cascades that can’t be seen by car or trail.

Once back on land, visit the historic Gorge Inn, one of the oldest standing buildings in Newhalem, for the “Dam Good” Chicken Dinner, Thursdays and Fridays beginning July 4 through August. Dinner starts at 5 p.m., and walking tours of the town are provided roughly an hour prior, provided by NCI.

For more information, visit

Zodiac schooner celebrates 100 years at sea

Zodiac, the historic, 160-foot, two-masted wooden schooner that sails on the Salish Sea out of Bellingham Bay, celebrated its 100th year on the water on May 19 in an open house ceremony.

The ship was originally built for the heirs of the Johnson & Johnson corporation in 1924, and first set sail off the coast of Maine.

Zodiac changed hands multiple times over the past century, eventually making it to San Francisco by midcentury, then was purchased by the sailing enthusiast Vessel Zodiac Corporation, bringing the vessel to the Pacific Northwest with the goal of restoring the legendary ship back to prominence. By 1982, Congress enacted Zodiac into the National Register of Historic Places, and is today one of the last schooners still sailing.

Zodiac holds 29 people overnight, and offers single or multi-day cruises and private charters. For more information, visit

Deception Pass State Parks to hold folk and art festivals

Deception Pass State Park, along with a half dozen other state parks, will host concerts and cultural events all summer long, thanks to the Washington State Parks’ (WSP) Parks Folk and Traditional Arts Program.

The schedule kicks off on June 8 with Salish Sea Day on June 8, 12-4 p.m., a free event (no Discover Pass required) with the Samish and Swinomish tribes at Bowman Bay celebrating indigenous culture. The event will feature a tribal canoe journey, weaving, salmon and other coast Salish food preparation to share with the public.

Starting in July, the park will host “Deception Pass American Roots Concerts,” a series of outdoor world and roots music concerts performed by local artists. Concerts begin at 7 p.m.

Damian Pro REALTOR BROKER 360-303-5072 OVER 20 YEARS OF SERVING PEOPLE On and Off the Mountain SUMMER 2024 | MOUNT BAKER EXPERIENCE 9 Continued on page 10

Newsroom Notes big and small from around the region

Continued from page 9

Deception Pass American Roots Concerts

Saturdays in July and August, 7 p.m.

July 13 – Dunava

July 20 – Caleb Kaluder & Reeb Williams

July 27 – Eduardo Mendonca & Show Brazil

Aug. 3 – Tzepl

Aug 10 – Ranger & the Re-Arrangers

Aug. 17 – Chumlilies

Aug. 24 – Whiskey Deaf Quartet

The Parks Folk and Traditional Arts Program has been around for over two decades, starting at Fort Columbia with fisher poetry readings, and now hosts over 24 concerts at parks around the state, with cultural festivals throughout summer and fall.

Through funding from WSP, the Washington State Parks Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, the program has given thousands access to folk and world music, and the stories, history and cultural traditions of Washington.

For more information on concerts and tickets, visit

North Cascades National Park keeps multiple campgrounds closed through summer

The National Park Service (NPS) announced on May 6 that multiple campgrounds at North Cascades National Park and its surrounding wilderness will remain closed throughout the summer, including the Golden West Visitor Center in northern Lake Chelan.

The visitor center, which can only be reached by boat, plane or foot, will remain closed due to inadequate staffing levels, budget shortfalls and a reported lack in growth of visitors to the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and the lakeside village of Stehekin.

The press release cited a 36 percent increase in visitors to North Cascades (by far the slowest of Washington’s three national parks) over the past 10 years, but a stagnant number of visitors to Lake Chelan and Stehekin.

“The Stehekin area is an important part of the park for both staff and visitors,” said park superintendent Don Striker. “However, it receives significantly fewer visitors than other sections of the park. Budget constraints and challenges in hiring force us to focus limited resources where they can do the most good for the most visitors.”

According to the release, only 11,312 people made it to the remote visitor center annually from 2021-2023, compared to over 100,000 visitors at the North Cascades Visitors Center which sits just off Highway 20.

“Park managers have a duty to strategically implement resources where they make the most sense,” Striker said. “We are stewards of these exceptional national public lands, and we take that mission seriously. While we wish a cadre of rangers could staff all of our remote sites, unfortunately it is simply not realistic in today’s fiscal climate.”

Over a dozen Colonial Creek South campgrounds will stay closed over the peak summer months due to “hazard trees.” Low lake levels at Ross Lake mean the boat launch will be shut down for powerboat use, and multiple campsites along the shore will be closed “for all or portions of the summer,” according to the May 6 release.

Canadians looking to enter the park via the northern Hozomeen gate will have to enter through the U.S. if traveling by car. Foot traffic and trail use is open around the area, but cars and boats will likely not be able to access the north Lake Chelan entrance until lake levels increase.

For updated information on trail, camp and road closures at North Cascades National Park and its surrounding wilderness, visit

Continued on page 12

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Newsroom Notes big and small from around the region

Continued from page 10

Bellingham paddler Jonas Ecker to compete in Paris Olympics

Bellingham’s own Jonas Ecker, along with Seattle-born crewmate Aaron Small, will represent the United States in kayak sprint events for the upcoming summer Olympics in Paris. The University of Washington graduates have been racing together for years in kayak sprint competitions, meeting when both were at local rowing academies. The duo began staking their claim as best paddlers in the country in 2022 when they won the K2 (kayak doubles) 500-meter event in the Pan American Championships, then placing seventh in the World Championships later that same year.

Ecker recently earned the “Top Gun” award at Ski to Sea on May 26 for his sea kayak portion of Ski of the relay race. Paddling for the Beaver’s Tree Service team, Ecker finished with a time of 37:17.6, just shy of a minute faster than teammate Small’s second-place time of 38:15.7.

Canoe and kayak sprint events in the Paris Olympics will begin with heat races on August 6 and continue through August 10. The Olympics will be televised on NBC and stream on Peacock, with sprint kayak events scheduled to air on August 6 beginning at 12:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Ecker will compete with Small in the men’s K2 500-meter event, and solo in the men’s K1 1,000-meter event. The Olympics begin on July 26.

Washington to receive $25 million for wildfire preparation, response

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell announced the procurement of over $25 million in funding to help prevent and combat wildfires in Washington from the recently-passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

In a May 16 press release, the Washington senator illustrated where the millions of dollars in federal funding will go towards fighting wildfires, while calling for more federal relief ahead of the 2024 wildfire season.

“Every summer, wildfires threaten homes and inundate our state with dangerous smoke pollution,” Cantwell said. “These funds will help Ferry County, Spokane, and other communities clear the fuels that enable wildfires and improve evacuation routes to help save lives and property if fires do start.”

Washington experienced its second-highest number of recorded wildfire ignitions last summer, with 1,884 – just shy of the 2015 mark of 2,103 reported “fire-starts,” according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In 2023, a total of 165,365 acres burned from wildfire according to DNR statistics.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center’s National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, a nationwide forecast for wildfire season, potential for significant wildfire in the Olympic and Cascade ranges will be “above normal” by July.

All told, the BIL earmarked $3.4 billion for wildfire risk reduction, $1.14 billion for fuel reduction programs, and $500 million to rehabilitate burned areas. Another $1.8 billion was secured for the U.S. Forest Service Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Ferry County and Inland Power and Light, will receive roughly $10 million each for fuel breaks, emergency evacuation routes, and hazard removal across hundreds of miles of power lines that can often spark wildfires. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission received $750,000 to clean up wildfire fuels, with multiple county and local governments getting hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare for the summer.

At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on May 16, Cantwell told U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore that Washington citizens are bearing the brunt of wildfires, while more action and funding needs to come from the federal government.

“We are on the front lines,” Cantwell said. “And we all see innovative opportunities to have a better response and that’s what we want to see.”

In the North Cascades, the Sourdough Fire in summer 2023 burned thousands of acres of forest around Diablo Lake, closing multiple trails, campsites, the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center, and nearly forcing the evacuation of the hydroelectric dams and generator facilities in Newhalem.

Bigfoot Festival

The Maple Falls Bigfoot Festival is set for Saturday, August 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Maple Falls Town Hall, 7509 Mt. Baker Highway. The festival will feature dozens of local art, craft, clothing, food and bigfoot-themed vendors, live music and refreshments.

The festival also serves as a critical fundraiser to support the Maple Falls Community Park, the only public park serving the community of Maple Falls and Glacier.

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There’s no comparison to the sense of anticipation as the sun begins to rise over the waters of Wildcat Cove in Larrabee State Park. Its illumination foreshadows an epic day of adventure.

The tranquil lapping of waves against the water’s edge is the soundtrack of this moment. As you maneuver your kayak into the water, you ponder where this adventure will take you. Surrounded by the splendor of Larrabee State Park, the options for exploration are bountiful. Will you head north toward Chuckanut Island or veer south to Dogfish Point?

The allure of Chuckanut Island’s captivating views and ambiance is a serene experience. The island’s winding trail beckons explorers, promising a hidden gem for those who love to walk an intimate and exclusive path. Paddlers will have an opportunity to unwind on the beach, savor snacks brought from home, or opt for a refreshing dip in the crystalline waters. Often, islands are beloved pit stops for wildlife creatures such as seals, birds and sea otters.

Alternatively, the journey to Dogfish Point unfolds a world of wonder along the rocky shoreline. Hidden coves of fish, sea stars and other marine life are known to hang in the crevasses of the glorious sandstone formations. There are both natural and manmade terraces to shore up on. Enjoy a snack or stop to soak up the sun on a notable clothing-optional beach, a

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Photo by Alicia Chesnutt

liberating connection with nature unique to this destination.

Either of these remarkable routes promise a treasure trove of exploration and diverse experience of the Salish Sea. They reveal the vastness of our waters and mesmerizing charm of the Pacific Northwest. It is the elegance of a postcard image. You will relish in the awe-inspiring beauty with each stroke of your paddle, and enjoy an unforgettable adventure no matter what you choose.

A day spent on the water is more than an excursion – it is an embodiment of nautical adventure PNW style. From the tranquility of islands to the enchanting rocky coastlines, every moment promises an epic adventure you’ll never forget.   x

(Tori Ayers owns and operates Dragonfly Kayak Tours)

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STATE of the ART

Celebrate summer with these artistic outdoor collections

In 1931, just after the stock market crash, philanthropists Anna & Archer Huntington opened what’s considered to be the U.S.’s first public outdoor sculpture garden. Situated on more than 9,000 acres on South Carolina’s coast, it gave everyone the opportunity to walk amid graceful oak trees, listening to the sounds of birds and insects busily making their way through manicured gardens. And for a few brief moments, visitors could break from the ritual of their everyday working lives and enjoy the beauty in front of both nature and art.

Here in the shadow of Mt. Baker, you can also wander among works of art while taking a break from the daily hustle and bustle. As we head into summer, enjoy a walk through five collections certain to reawaken your senses.


While young families and gaggles of teens flock to Lake Whatcom for a respite from the summer heat, head to a secluded oasis just above the lake at Big Rock Sculpture Garden. Here you’ll find a permanent collection of 39 sculptures by local and international artists (as well as a Japanese-style pagoda) situated on what feels like an expansive plot of land but is only 2.5 acres – making it easily walkable.

Originally named “Gardens of Art” by its founders George, Mary Ann and David Drake, it was purchased by the city of Bellingham in 1993. The garden is cared for by a dedicated group of volunteers, supporting the stated mission of the park, to “inspire an appreciation of the arts and natural environment by showcasing high-quality outdoor sculpture and offering engaging programming in a unique Pacific Northwest setting.”

Notable works include a geometric sculpture by Mexican artist Sebastian, rarely seen pieces by Canadian artist David Marshall, and the recent addition of “Swell” by artist Aaron Loveitt, whose work was selected by a juried process to honor the passing of a beloved Bellingham resident.


In 1896, the iconic Chuckanut Drive (officially known as State Highway 11) was built to provide a land route to the communities along Bellingham Bay. Also referred to as “Washington state’s Big Sur,” the winding road hugs the coast through dense forested canopies striated by bolts of sunlight. At the northern end of the drive sits Chuckanut Bay Gallery & Sculpture Garden, housed in buildings that formerly held a garage, service station and general store.

Today, motorists can pop into the gallery (which opened in 1986) to view the work of over 400 artists, including an outdoor garden that features numerous sculptures among a collection of water features, lanterns, chimes, bird houses and feeders, and an abundance of plants and flowers. Take a minute to sit back and enjoy the sounds of nature and manmade beauty in this peaceful setting.


In 1959, a trailblazing vision led to the inclusion of art in Western Washington University’s construction budget, and in 1974 the state legislature established a public art program to bring more outstanding artwork to the campus. Touted as being one of the top 10 university collections in the U.S., the WWU collection showcases the work of acclaimed artists of the late 20th century to the present.

The university committed to provide a “never-ending maintenance” schedule to keep each piece true to its original form.

From James Fitzgerald’s “Rain Forest” (installed in 1960) to Sarah Sze’s “Split Stone” and Luis Camnitzer’s “A Museum is a School” (both installed in 2019), the outdoor art collection is accessible via audio interpretations from a cellphone, and is available for viewing all summer, even when classes aren’t in session.



Just like the lifecycle of a salmon, the lifecycle of Whatcom Creek has involved birth, death and rebirth.

For 8,000 years, Coast Salish people used the mouth of Whatcom Creek to land canoes, camp, fish, and gather shellfish.

Flash-forward to the 1900s, settlers had “dredged, bermed, moved, paved, diverted and channeled” the creek into city neighborhoods, eventually polluting the once-thriving waterway. But lifesaving efforts were adopted in the mid-1970s to restore the creek and its banks so that it could once more play a part in the ecosystem of the area.

A walk along the Salmon Art Trail takes you past artwork that aims to connect you to nature and showcase the community’s abundance of natural resources. Ten works of art are situated along the path of the creek as it runs out to join the sea, and includes pieces such as Salmon Woman Totem, created by Lummi House of Tears Carvers. Carved from cedar, it peers over Maritime Heritage Park. Adding to the story are native plant signs that explain the significance of a variety of local flora.


Sculptor Ann Morris lives and works on Lummi Island overlooking the Salish Sea. Nestled amongst her 14.5-acre tree-shaded property are many of the life-sized figural sculptures she’s crafted out of bronze. Some are allegorical, some mythical, and some a combination of realism and surrealism.

Finding each sculpture is like a treasure hunt, with every piece revealed providing another opportunity to marvel at the talent of a single artist whose medium is metal.

WWU serves as the steward for the collection (which was donated to the university by Morris and her family), and it’s only accessible the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the artist opens the gates to the public for free.

The sculptures feel tied to the land, with the abundant vegetation playing host to her interpretations of human life in a variety of forms, pursuits, and eventualities. x

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Outdoor Organizations

You Should Know About

Everybody knows and has a favorite outdoor notfor-profit that is doing amazing things. Many of these are oriented toward a specific sport or demographic. But there are a handful of true juggernauts out there that have a major impact on outdoorspeople everywhere. These are the organizations that commonly combine forces to work for positive change. While you feel the benefits of what they do, you might not know who they are.

Certainly, it’s impossible to cover everyone, but this article hits on a select few. When you consider a donation of your time or money, consider each of these as well as the many smaller organizations that we were not able to cover here.

Access Fund (

This organization works on behalf of climbers to provide stewardship and continued access to climbing venues throughout the United States. The Access Fund also directly supports local climbing organizations in their stewardship work. The Washington Climbers Coalition ( represents climbers locally and has been responsible for the purchase and preservation of key climbing areas throughout the state.

American Rivers (

American Rivers is a leader in protecting and restoring our rivers. Their goal is to protect one million rivers in the US, to remove harmful dams, to ensure clean water, provide recreation opportunities and to restore natural habitats. They work through direct advocacy with lawmakers, letter writing campaigns and volunteer clean-ups.

Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education (

AORE primarily supports young outdoor professionals, commonly at the collegiate level. They also support outdoor programs on military bases and at community centers. This organization is deeply invested in education and advocacy and works to ensure that their members have access to professional outdoor development, while also ensuring that public lands provide access for outdoor programs, both for recreation as well as for academic programs.

Coalition for Outdoor Access (

COA represents both for profit and non-profit organizations to the federal government. Their primary mission is to ensure access to public lands for facilitated groups. Many of these groups require permits to operate their trips and classes. COA is working to decrease the red tape involved in facil-

itated outdoor recreation. They recently had a small victory when a key piece of legislation – the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) act – made its way through the House and is currently on the docket for consideration in the Senate.

Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (

The Mt. Baker Backcountry is one of the most accessible backcountry ski and snowboard destinations in the state. But with ski touring and split boarding comes avalanche hazard, and that’s where our local avalanche forecasting agency steps in. NWAC is a public-private partnership that provides avalanche forecasts, education and weather data. Their goal is to create a public that is aware of avalanche risk, that has the ability to make informed decisions and comes home safely.

The Mountaineers (

If you’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest awhile, you likely already know about The Mountaineers. The primary mission of the organization is wilderness education, with a focus on mountaineering. However, they are deeply involved in advocacy and stewardship, while also supporting other organizations with similar missions.

Mountain Rescue Association (

The MRA provides training, accreditation and representation to and for mountain rescue teams. Locally, both Bellingham Mountain Rescue and Skagit Mountain Rescue are accredited members of the association. To be accredited, teams must regularly pass assessments in search technique, avalanche rescue, and technical rescue. Government entities recognize that accredited volunteer teams meet a standard to provide rescue operations in technical terrain. Recently, both Bellingham and Skagit passed their snow reaccreditations with the MRA.

Protect Our Winters (

POW is a climate advocacy group that is deeply embedded in the outdoor industry. Many outdoor influencers also operate on behalf of Protect Our Winters. The primary goal of the organization is to use the power and influence of the outdoor industry and outdoor recreationalists to make meaningful change in climate policy. They do this by educating individuals, lawmakers and government agencies on what they can do to solve the climate crisis.

Surfrider Foundation (

Those who regularly visit Larrabee State Park may have encountered a booth from this organization and warnings about bacteria levels there. The Surfrider Foundation is “ded-

icated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves, and beaches, for all people through a powerful activist network.” The organization’s goals include plastic reduction, ocean protection, beach access, clean water, and climate issues.

Washington Trails Association (

The WTA is likely most well-known for trail stewardship. The organization facilitates trail maintenance projects throughout the year. They also provide a tremendous amount of resources for those who wish to hike or backpack in Washington state. Their website is chock full of information about trail options and conditions, while also providing a space for recent trip reports that include everything from info about snow coverage to how buggy a trail might be. Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition ( Whatcom County is a mecca for mountain bikers. The WMBC is the local organization that represents bicycle access to trails through education, stewardship and advocacy. They are responsible for the maintenance of complicated relationships with land management agencies throughout local, county and federal levels. In addition to this, they provide an array of community programs.

The Wilderness Society (

The mission of The Wilderness Society is to “unite people to protect America’s wild places.” And they’ve done a great job. The organization has led the effort to permanently protect 112 million acres of wilderness in 44 states. They work relentlessly in Washington DC with other constituencies to ensure that there public lands continue to grow and are protected for the foreseeable future.

There are a number of other local and national non-profits that are doing exceptional work in outdoor advocacy. Though small in the scheme of things, we cannot forget about the exceptional work that Shifting Gears (with a mission to empower women outside) and Recreation Northwest (a local outdoor stewardship organization) have done. It should also be noted that there are dozens of affinity organizations that are helping marginalized groups find a place outdoors. These groups empower folks of all identities in every type of outdoor activity imaginable.

These non-profit organizations impact us all, but they don’t just exist in a vacuum. They require time, effort and money to exist. If you have any of those things, and you want to give back to our greater outdoor community, consider giving to the organizations that best fit what you have to offer and your outdoor identity. x

Mt. Shuksan, North Cascades National Park.
recreational real estate Buy or Sell a home with Jason and he’ll donate $500 to the WMBC Since 2015, Jason has helped over 100 mountain bikers with their real estate needs in Whatcom County and raised over $50,000 for the WMBC. Jason Loeb BROKER 360.305.6917 @jlorealty
Below, clockwise from top: Aurora borealis on Shi Shi Beach, Olympic National Park. Photo by Jason Hummel. | Komo Kulshan (Mt. Baker) seen from the West. Photo by Jasmine Long. | Nick Vradenburg hiking near an alpine lake in the Mt. Baker backcountry. Photo by Jasmine Long. | Opposite page, clockwise from left: Tyler Deschaine leads Spencer Arps through Devilcross trail on Galbraith, Bellingham. Photo by Colin Wiseman. | Local legend Zoe Vernon ripping the bowl at The Coal Pad in Glacier, Washington. Parker White in disguise on top of The Coal Pad’s volcano. Photos by Jasmine Long.
Opposite page from top: Backpacking in the American Alps, disc included. Photo by Rylan Schoen. | Tyler Deschaine descends Devilcross trail on Galbraith, Bellingham. Photo by Colin Wiseman. | Below from top, Josh Hummel and his son, Liam, on Shi Shi Beach, Olympic National Park. Photo by Jason Hummel. | Kayaking on Baker Lake, Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest. Photo by Brett Baunton.
Below, from top: Morning light on Mt. Baker. Sunset on the Olympic Peninsula. Photos by Audra Lee Mercille. | Opposite page, from top: Tori Ayers kayaks out towards Lummi Island in the Salish Sea. Photo by Alicia Chesnutt. | Nick Lyon climbing the Morpheus Boulders in the Skykomish Valley. Photo by Matthew Tangeman.


Ski to Sea brought in athletes from around the Pacific Northwest to compete in the classic relay on Sunday, May 26.

Birch Equipment earned its third first-place finish in as many years, beating out other three-time champion Boomer’s Drive-In – and nearly 500 other teams – with a time of 6:07:05.

The seven-leg, ski, bike, canoe, paddle and footrace drew over 3,500 participants from across the U.S. and Canada. Despite rainy, overcast weather – with some rain/snow mix in the early-morning alpine legs – winds were calm on the final sea kayak stretch, and the athletes were able to meander through Whatcom County’s snowy peaks and rushing river without any cancellations.

Jonas Ecker, a Bellingham-born paddler set to compete for Team USA in the upcoming Paris Olympics in canoe and kayak events, earned the “Top Gun” award in the sea kayak leg with a 37:17.6 time.

SHEroes posted the fastest time by an all-female team, with Anna Goodwin (cross-country ski), Alyson Carlyon Stewart (downhill ski), Aly Huerter (run), Anna Talman (road bike), Barb Willson and Kari Wright (canoe), Bridget Meyboom (cylcocross), and Megan Northey (sea kayak), finishing with a time of 7:38:00.4.

One of the newest divisions is “Car-Free” teams, meaning groups that completed the entire race without the assistance of motorized transportation. All racers, support team members and equipment (including canoes and kayaks) are transported without a car, usually by bike. While a daunting task on top of an already daunting journey, it didn’t slow down team Surfrider Mavericks, which finished with a time of 6:40:22, placing seventh overall.

Thanks to a few late spring snow flurries, Mt. Baker Ski Area volunteers were able to pile what snow was left to preserve the ski portions, avoiding the cancellation of the iconic opening alpine legs of the race.

Now in its fifth decade since officially establishing in 1973, Ski to Sea drew competitors from as far as Alabama, Michigan, West Virginia and Alberta, Canada to compete, and thousands of spectators to watch exhausted kayakers reach the final leg of their journey and ring the finish line bells at Marine Park in Fairhaven. It was the first sold out race since 2011. x

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The quiet, pre-dawn air hit my face as I stepped out of the van. I gazed up the dirt road and saw a headlamp dancing off a nearby car. I called out to my friend Jessica and she answered with a sleepy yet cheerful reply. We had driven up to the south side of Mt. Baker late the night before and slept at the trailhead so we could be ready for our 3 a.m. wake up call.

Mt. Baker, the most prominent peak in the Mt. Baker Wilderness area, is an active volcano rising 10,781 feet above the North Cascades. It is one of the most popularly climbed glaciated peaks in the area, and with good reason. The relative accessibility as well as multitude of routes make it a great choice. While most people spend their summit day booting up and down the glacier, we had a different type of movement in mind.

The date was June 11, 2023. The objective: ski Mt. Baker in a day. Jessica and I had met earlier in the summer through an Instagram group and not only became fast friends but trustworthy climbing partners. We’d taken a few day trips to rock climb at Mt. Erie in Anacortes, but this would be our longest, biggest day in the mountains together. As we plunged into the darkness, the nerves were high but the stoke was higher. There is something so special about a big objective that you aren’t sure you can do.

Besides wanting to get out together and summit this mountain in a day, there was something bigger on our minds: We wanted to do this on our own. We wanted to fully own the independence and responsibility of such a serious endeavor. To top it off, while I am sure we weren’t the first and definitely won’t be the last, being the only all-female team we saw on the mountain that day felt extra special.

The first few miles of the ascent are through an eerie evergreen forest. Truly a fairyland of sorts, especially in the dark. There was still snow left in sometimes deep patches, as well as a lot of bare ground. We had decided to hike in waterproofing trail runners until we made it to the snowline, and we were so thankful that we did. Navigating through this forest can be tricky, but we had downloaded the track on the CalTopo app and were able to follow along. As the sun rose we popped out of the trees, buckled into our boots and began the long skin up the Squak Glacier. There are several route options to the summit of Mt. Baker, all of them include some amount of glacial travel. Both the Squak and Easton glaciers on the south side of the mountain are some of the least technical and most commonly traveled. We chose the Squak because we knew there would be other parties, there was a good booter/skin track in, and we felt that our skills aligned with the objective.

Photo by Nathan Sandidge

Lower down, the snow was a bit crusty and patchy, but as we made it to the toe of the glacier, it evened out and we settled into a seemingly endless rhythm of movement up the sea of white. Moving over a glacier is wild; on the surface, and for most of the journey, it can look like a snowfield, however, there is so much more to it. Glaciers are constantly moving, shifting and readjusting. When you come upon a crevasse you can see into the depths of its being.

The blue of the glacial ice in the larger crevasses stood out in stark contrast to the snow as we steered clear of them and continued on our way.

It can be easy to lose track of time on these types of ascents so we made a point to stop for frequent snack and hydration breaks. We ran into a friend ski guiding and chatted with her. The day was gorgeous; not too cold or too windy, and crystal clear.

On this route, you pass the crater which is incredible in and of itself. We paused here to peer into its steaming depths, and transition to boots and crampons.

As we reached the Roman Wall we paused briefly to take in the crater and prepare for the last big push. Crunching up the wall and across the last stretch to the summit was surreal. We peered into the steaming crater, and looked out across the 360-degree view of the North Cascades. As we climbed up the final summit of the mountain’s prominence, it began to sink in – we’d made it! Under our own power, we’d navigated the dark forest, the long glacier trek and finally the Roman Wall, the daunting final section before the summit. As far as we were concerned we were on top of the world. It is hard to fully describe the feeling and significance of this summit, but hopefully photos give you at least an idea of what we experienced.

Jessica, having been raised in northern Washington, had grown up seeing Mt. Baker from her hometown but never imagined she’d be able to stand on its summit.

“I grew up in the shadow of Mt. Baker. I could see Mt. Baker from my house, from my school, from my drive into our tiny town. It never occurred to me that people climbed up its slopes,” Jessica said. “When I first started hiking, I discovered that people would indeed climb Mt. Baker. For years, I never thought that I’d stand on its summit, never thought I’d be strong enough or skilled enough. Even as I stood on the summit, looking over my tiny town in the Nooksack Valley, I could hardly believe it.”

I, on the other hand, grew up on the east coast, but my dad’s side of the family is rooted in Washington and I spent a lot of time in the state as a child. Standing on top of Mt. Baker, I felt an incredible connection and sense of belonging that I did not expect. It was such a special moment.

After a few photos and some summit snacks, we headed down and began the 7,565 foot descent back to the trailhead. Skiing down the glacier was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had on skis! Imagine an endless intermediate ski run of perfect corn for thousands of feet. Add spectacular mountain views, and the fact that you are skiing on a glacier with an amazing friend, and you’ve got an idea of what we experienced. It was a dream come true.

Thoughts from our day:

Hiking to the snowline in trail runners was worth it, especially for the way out.

Lots of accessible, calorie-dense snacks were helpful. Jerky, cheese, fruit snacks, gummy bears, candy, as well as a lunch wrap were all great for me. I also brought some emergency caffeine (caffeinated gel).

A water bottle with a filter cap is a great option for hydration. There is generally a lot of running water on the hike up so you can pack light and then filter what you need for the summit, and get more on the way down. We did this and it was perfect.

Sun protection! Glaciers are one big reflective surface so good sun protection is paramount. We wore sun hoodies, hats, glacier sunglasses and lots of sunscreen.

Skinning up makes you so warm! We still brought lots of layers though since conditions can change super quickly.

While the glacier travel felt pretty straightforward, it is still a glacier and having knowledge of crevasse rescue as well as how to navigate in this environment is a good idea.

Don’t forget the summit Snickers!

Our day’s stats: 14 hours 42 minutes 35 seconds, 14.31 miles, 7,565 feet of elevation gain. Strava link: x



PNW brews to your door

hen co-founders Travis Kane and Jake Bassett came up with the idea for Beer Fridge, a direct-to-consumer, subscription beer service, the Pacific Northwest natives knew they would highlight the plethora of local breweries that, like them, call Washington home.

Since 2022, Beer Fridge has been shipping eight, 12, and 24-packs of curated craft beer to 14 states across the country, with options for basically any fizzy drink lover.

“There’s so many amazing breweries brewing so many cool beers here,” Bassett said. “The hardest part is selecting which beers we’re going to feature. We’re excited to start localizing different gift boxes and curating to a specific area.”

Boxes come by flavor profile – ciders, sours, and hazy IPAs all have their own variety packs – by specific brewery, or by region. The “Taste of Bellingham Beer Box” has been one of the company’s best-sellers, Bassett said, including local legends such as Aslan, Kulshan, Boundary Bay, Stemma, Gruff, Beach Cat Brewing, Fringe, Wander and Larrabee Lager.

“Being locals that love Bellingham and love the brewery scene here, we really just wanted a chance to show off how amazing the brewery scene here is,” Bassett said. “Up here in Bellingham, we’ve got some amazing breweries, it was kind of a no-brainer to put together a box that showcased all the amazing stuff coming out of our area.”

The popularity of the Bellingham-centric subscription lead to Beer Fridge’s newest creation, the “Taste of Washington Beer Box.” Featuring famous brewing companies such as Fremont Brewing, Bale Breaker, and Reuben’s Brews, the Taste of Washington box is a love letter to the hop-producing capital of the world, and the countless master brewers that craft the beer we know and love today.

“Washington is such a landmark location for the brewery scene, it has such a rich history of breweries,” Bassett said. “It was a chance to take the Washington beer scene and put a spotlight on it and share the best that we have to offer with some iconic brands.”

Shipping costs depend on whether you purchase one item, or sign up for a monthly subscription. Beer Fridge ships to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and all orders must sign and show valid ID at their doorstep, Bassett said.

For more info and to learn how to sign up for a subscription, visit x

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Another chapter in MT. BAKER VOLUNTEER SKI PATROL’S long


Photo courtesy

Baker Volunteer Ski Patrol

t. Baker Volunteer Ski Patrol has been around longer than the legendary ski resort it protects. Since 1938, some 15 years before Mt. Baker Ski Area opened for business, the ski patrol has carved those hallowed slopes, getting to know them better than very few others.

But now, the volunteers are changing how they organize. Mt. Baker Ski Patrol recently registered itself as a nonprofit, in order to better fundraise for crucial equipment updates and the rigorous training required for its nearly 400 ski patrol volunteers that make up the Aid Room staff, Mountain Education Center staff, Mountain Hosts and Community Events Hosts.

On volunteer patrol since 2001 and director since 2019, Krister Fast commands the volunteer army that keeps the mountain safe for everyone. He said it takes a certain type of person, someone who wants to give back to the community, to serve on the volunteer teams, but the enticement of a season pass doesn’t hurt to get applicants in the door.

“Initially it’s going to be people looking for the season pass,” Fast quipped. “Then you get a lot of other people that are looking to help and give back to the community. For me, it always come back to the friends and family that you get to know that are part of the patrols and other volunteer organizations up here.”

Mt. Baker Ski Area is one of a dying breed of small, locally-owned ski resorts, and that tight, community-driven ethos bleeds into how the volunteers work – and are treated – on the mountain, Fast said.

“Management is totally supportive of all the volunteers that are up here,” Fast said. “I know a lot of volunteers at other ski areas, and they certainly don’t get the same support or the same sort of friendliness from management.”

Fast said that while the volunteers have full support of ownership and management, funding is always a challenge, when the patrol has to get trained and re-trained for every winter. Organizing into a non-profit, besides making the insurance-side of things simpler, allows the patrol to more effectively fundraise.

Since the change, Fast said donations have already been trickling in, and an official website is in the works. x

A fundraiser sponsored by Mount Baker Experience is set for Friday, October 18 at Boundary Bay Brewery. For more information on the event, check back on

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Daring travel adventure does not always involve towering heights, raging rivers, gnarly trails or precipitous slopes. This particular misty June morning, in a damp and mossy rainforest woodland, is a good example.

“Who’s going to be first to lick the slug?” Dead silence.

Our naturalist guide, Megan, shows the circle of cruise passengers a five-inch banana slug, native to the Pacific Northwest, resting peaceably in the palm of her hand. From some reactions, you’d think she was holding a scorpion. A few adults literally back away a step or two, as if the slug could leap from Julie’s hand and glue itself to an innocent tourist’s nose.

But the kids – some, anyway – are enthralled. In particular, a 14-year-old boy from North Carolina who’s delighted by the idea that licking a slug can be medicinal.

Megan tells us banana slug slime contains a numbing agent, and southeast Alaska Native peoples used it to ease scrapes, burns, toothaches and other ailments. So, lick our gentle slime-lord, and your tongue will go numb.

“It works!” Nathan exults after a thorough tasting. I quell a guffaw while imagining his report next fall in the “What did you do over the summer?” class session.

In this case, the answer is, I went on a smallship cruise in the Alaska Panhandle.

I know what you’re thinking: Cruises are overwrought examples of the glut of tourism’s excesses, with boats the size of Star Trek intergalactic ships spilling polyester hordes into hapless seaside cities and towns. Off to the notorious bars and fake gold crucifix stores they go, spilling money and whining for pizza along the way. Cruising is as adventurous as Candy Crush Saga.

There is a better way, and Southeast Alaska is the best place for it. Thoughtful travelers who value authentic experiences in natural surroundings will enjoy the itineraries offered by companies such as Seattle’s UnCruise and Juneau’s Native-owned Alaskan Dream, with boats holding fewer than 100 passengers, crews who are almost always comprised of Alaskans (or at least West Coasters), with itineraries that include small ports far, far from the madding crowds.

That slug-slime morning, in fact, aboard UnCruise’s 86-passenger Wilderness Legacy, we’d been anchored overnight in a bay on Admiralty Island with no town in sight. Those of us – which means most of us – heading ashore for what the cruise line calls “bushwhacks” had piled into dingys and alighted into an untracked coastal rainforest.

We strolled through glades of sphagnum moss reaching our knees. We admired thousand-year-old cedars. We dodged devils’ club thickets, notorious plants whose thorns are reputedly as toxic as slug slime is helpful. We ogled a brown bear “hot stomp,” where these behemoths mark their territory by crashing their considerable feet into forest duff.

And Nathan, the young North Carolina traveler, had encountered his most-sought sight, a red-breasted sapsucker. “Awesome,” he declared evenly, like a seasoned naturalist. On other small ship cruises, I’ve kayaked

across a wilderness bay to glide above a pink salmon run, thousands of fuchsia fish shimmering in four feet of emerald water like dabs of pointillist paint. That same paddle, we admired a black bear on the beach harvesting seaweed, which is as healthful for ursids as for us.

This was aboard Admiralty Dream, Alaskan Dream’s 49-passenger boat whose shallow draft, narrow beam and modest length enables access to inlets and docks that bigger ships simply cannot get to. That’s why it can tie up in small hamlets such as Kasaan, a tiny Haida village (30 or so people) 25 miles but a world away from Ketchikan, a major cruise port. In Kasaan, local artists are trimming away at a new cedar totem, and one invites me to try my hand at adzing, the scallop notching iconic to Northwest Coast carved art.

The pole will feature Raven, the Trickster; Thunderbird, king of the skies; and Bear, monarch of the woods. It will not feature, as it turns out, carving by Eric, as my efforts are uneven and ragged.

Carver Harley Holter hands me some sandpaper.

“Hmm. Maybe try smoothing out this part here?” he suggests, not unkindly.

Kasaan artists have recently restored their traditional longhouse and a few adjacent totems, and residents show their work proudly to we two-dozen visitors from Outside, as Alaskans call the rest of the world.

On the ships sailing these remote waters, Outside is truly far, far away. Cell service is rare. Fast food consists of the expertly cooked seafood the galley staff trots out each night at dinner – with less than a hundred people to feed, there’s no buffet, little waiting, and not a speck of dry, overcooked chicken in sight.

The passenger reading lounge has an antique globe or two, several jigsaw puzzles, and guides that describe all the animals scrawled in magic marker on the whiteboard that charts wildlife sightings. Someone has included “unicorn” here, and who’s to argue?

So, did I try licking the slug? Certainly.

And on the final day of the voyage, parked at the foot of Johns Hopkins Glacier in Glacier Bay, the captain called his passengers to the back deck for the ritual, de rigueur climax to a small-ship Alaska cruise. Twenty or so hardy travelers donned suits (wetsuits, for sissies) and lined up just above a swim deck that the rescue-ready crew lowered gleefully. Bets were made; a few would-be adventurers had a look and backed away, as if a marauding banana slug was on hand.

The water was 42 degrees.

Its indigo depths held narwhals, kraken and giant squid, not to mention orcas and the dreaded Pacific viperfish.

Ice crumbled off the glacier nearby.

A pleasant, sunlit 56-degree breeze scurried north.

The drop to the ocean surface was a tidy five feet.

When the captain asked who would be first, I raised my hand. x

Eric Lucas lives on a small farm on San Juan Island, where he grows organic hay, beans, squash and apples. He lives in peaceful coexistence with banana slugs, but favors Tylenol for pain.


Why do we climb?

View of Mt. Aspiring/Tititea and its Northwest Ridge, from Bevan Col. The mountain’s official name was updated to “Mt. Aspiring/Tititea” in 1998 by the Treaty Settlement of the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act of 1998.

B“ecause it’s there,” never did much for me.

This winter my partner Ellie and I visited New Zealand during their summer. We bought a camper minivan and toured the wonders of the country’s two islands for two months.

One thing I was especially excited for was the prospect of mountain climbing. Sometimes I like to load up my running pack and climb alone – fast and light. This would be a perfect opportunity.

But beyond climbing onsite, solo, and in a foreign country, there was an extra challenge I wanted to take on: to make friends with myself.

Before our trip I had started going to therapy and meditating regularly. Aside from working with unprocessed emotions around my parents’ divorce and my relationship with my bipolar dad, I started noticing how I treated myself when I climbed.

“I’m not good enough. <Insert climber I admire here> would have done this easily,” I would tell myself.

“It’s much harder for me. If only I had the money/time/ talent/fitness/discipline, then it would be different for me,” I would say. “But I should stop making excuses. I’ll just have to try even harder, no matter how much it hurts.”

This combination of comparison, tough love, and a tryhard mentality are deeply embedded in our culture, and in

each of us as individuals. What would happen if instead of reaching for toughness, grit, and determination I chose softness, kindness, and care? Would I lose motivation, lose my “edge,” and stop climbing altogether? Maybe the willpower holding my life together would crumble and I would descend into chaos and be lost forever, like my dad in a manic episode.

The pinnacle of this challenge was when I went to climb Tititea, aka Mt. Aspiring. It is the easiest of the 24 named peaks over 3000 meters (9842 feet) in New Zealand, which made it both a worthy objective and more reasonable for me to do as a fast and light solo climb. But with 25 miles of travel, 12,000-plus feet of elevation gain, multiple class 5 rock sections, a glacier crossing, and 45-degree snow slopes, it was still no joke.

I started by light of headlamp at 4 a.m. from the Aspiring Hut, running under the stars. The trail slowly wound its way up the valley, becoming brushy and harder to follow for the last couple of miles. I soon found myself at the waterfall slabs, climbing up grassy class 4 and 5 slabs for nearly 1,000 feet of vertical gain. Near the top I had to carefully navigate a maze of streams running down the slabs, making the grass and rock dangerously slippery.

From there it was 2,000 feet of easier hiking up rock slabs to Bevan Col, where I got my first view of the mountain. This was roughly the halfway point to the summit and I was only four hours into my day, but starting to feel discouraged.

I knew others had been faster than me to this point and I doubted my ability to make it to the summit and back in time. The cold wind pouring off the Bonar Glacier chilled my spirits but I told myself that it was still early, and the sun would get higher in the sky. I pressed on.

I put crampons on and crossed the Bonar Glacier, which was flat and minimally crevassed at this point. I climbed up the steep Kangaroo snow patch, which in early summer allows climbers to bypass some of the scrambling on the Northwest ridge. I gained the ridge and found myself under a vertical rock buttress. My beta, from the blog of prolific local climber Alastair McDowell, said, “It’s fun easy scrambling all the way up on the left side avoiding the major buttress.”  Didn’t look fun or easy to me!

I gingerly made my way along a slanting ledge system that worked its way around the buttress. The exposure to the glacier below was intense. But step by step I made it around until there was just 2,000 feet of easy hiking between myself and the top.

I took a look at the views but quickly pushed on, knowing I had just reached seven hours, when I had hoped to be on top. My body was fatiguing, and I could feel the thinner air above 8,000 feet. It was colder and windier than I’d anticipated, and I didn’t feel very comfortable even in all my layers. Yet all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other, believe in myself, and I would make it.

All of a sudden, the wind gusted, and the icy alpine air cut


through the illusions of my ego. I felt a shiver run down my spine. At this pace, it would take me too long to reach the top and come back down, and I would get cold. The route down was not trivial and I needed my energy and my wits about me. I was running low on food and my margins were too slim to chance getting cold and tired. In my head I was already on top, telling my friends back home how cool this climb was, that I worked hard and got what I deserved. The mountain said otherwise.  I stopped. I bowed my head. I turned around and tried to take in the view.

First, I felt the pain of disappointment and fear well up in me. I had worked so hard to get to this point and I wasn’t going to get another chance anytime soon. I should have known it would be this cold, should have bought a bigger running pack so I could bring more layers and more food, should have been in better shape and moved faster. Then came the guilt and shame. I shouldn’t feel so bad about turning around anyway, it’s not a big deal. I should feel grateful to be here in the first place. Most people don’t even get the chance.

But by now I knew this pattern of my mind well. There is a huge difference between learning from our experience and beating ourselves up because we don’t want to feel bad. But I did feel bad. I was disappointed and I was afraid of what my failure meant about me. So as a friend, I listened and offered my love.

It’s ok to feel this way, to be afraid that you aren’t good enough, that you don’t belong. It’s ok. And as I listened, the pain in my body and the love in my heart met, and a great sense of compassion for this life rose in me. A feeling of humility and surrender, because no matter how hard we try, no matter how much knowledge, gear, fitness, or skills we accumulate, there is still fear, there is still pain, there is still discontent.

As I made my way down the mountain, the sense of compassion grew into a feeling of freedom and joy. I found myself running down rock spines surrounded by cascading streams of clear water, their droplets sparkling like diamonds in the afternoon sun, and I knew I had finally found what I came for.

I felt loved, connected to my body, connected to the

world around me, and I knew that I belonged on this earth. Running the last miles back to the hut with surprising lightness in my legs, safe and on time, I felt prouder of this day in the mountains than any other in a long time. Contrary to my fears, being friends with myself didn’t sap my strength or motivation. After Tititea, I felt fired up. I realized that so often the biggest difficulties of the mountain are really difficulties in how we treat ourselves, and I had a growing confidence that freedom could be found in turning towards, rather than away from, our pain.

Now my answer to the age-old question is: Because I’m here.

I find myself living in this body on this planet at this time, with the desire, capability, and means to climb mountains. I don’t pretend to know where it all came from. Do we really get to choose who we are? What matters is to do what we do with kindness. This is the only reliable method of happiness I have found. I think it can be worth risking our lives out there if it helps us know the power of an open and tender heart. x

The author on the way down, the summit now far in the distance View of the Therma Glacier from the Northwest Ridge The ledge system which bypassed the steep buttress on the Northwest ridge The waterfall slabs




9565 Semiahmoo Parkway


Seaside dining with stunning views and a fresh menu of seafood, hand-crafted pizza, and local specialties.



205 Prospect Street, Suite A105

360 /510-8494

A local craft cider producer and solar-powered restaurant with a full bar overlooking Bellingham Bay. Our food is prepped fresh and sourced from local farms and businesses.


1107 Railroad Ave


A family-friendly community hub. Unwind in the taproom, bistro, deck or beer garden with handcrafted brews, fresh local food. Open every day at 11 a.m.


4073 Hannegan Rd.


Washington’s original pasty company. Artisan hand pies made from scratch. Order online.


1309 Cornwall Avenue


Featuring a variety of delicious, shareable “small plate” dishes and creative craft cocktails. The perfect downtown Bellingham destination for any occasion.


1208 E. Maple St.


Serving classic Asian cuisine with fresh ingredients. Open Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and 4-9 p.m.


601 W. Holly St.


Open every day 11:30 - 9:00

Fried chicken sandwiches, burgers and beer made by us. Also: Check out our Original Taproom at 1420 N. State St.


1900 Grant Street, Suite 101


Open Thursday thru Monday. Ages 21+. Our new taproom in Bellingham! Here you’ll find some of our sour projects, other ales, and lagers from our Deming brewery. Dogs welcome!



18042 Hwy 20


Offering the highest quality in local seafood. Daily lunch specials freshly prepared. Local jams, jellies, salsas, honey and sauces.



44568 State Route 20


Family-owned pizza restaurant focusing on fresh, homemade quality Italian fare. Friendly service, helpful information and great food combine for an unforgettable experience.



6186 Mt. Baker Highway


Handcrafted beer and hand tossed pizza. Order online for to-go orders. New covered beer garden. Weekday Happy Hour Mon-Fri 12-5 p.m.



4876 Haxton Way


Diverse dining options from woodstone pizza to award-winning fine dining at The Steak House.



9989 Mt Baker Hwy


NW Craft Brews on tap, NW Comfort Food with a culinary twist. Live music.

Open 7 days a week at noon.


9990 Mt. Baker Hwy


Succulent, fresh smoked meats, order by the pound or dish. Burgers, tacos and vegan option. Beer, wine, craft cocktails.


6903 Bourne Street


Open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. serving breakfast burritos & sandwiches, quiche, soup, paninis, and freshly baked goods. Savory and sweet gluten-free and vegan options. Organic espresso and coffee.



202 S. 1st Street


Deli food from scratch using fresh, quality ingredients, sourced from local and organic suppliers whenever possible. Entrees, side dishes, soups, salads, sandwiches, and handmade, organic ice cream. Vegan, vegetarian, raw, gluten-free, and whole food choices for every meal.





4565 Semiahmoo Parkway


A casual northwest beach resort surrounded by the Salish Sea. An authentic Pacific Northwest experience for everyone – from families looking for a fun getaway to couples and friends seeking an easy-going retreat.



4876 Haxton Way


Exit 260 off I-5. 206 luxurious rooms or suites to make yourself feel at home with beautiful Mt. Baker views, complimentary breakfast, free WiFi.



10005 Mt. Baker Hwy.

360/398-9590 or 877-90-BAKER

Redefining the cabin in the woods. Vacation rentals in the heart of the Mt. Baker Recreational Area – perfect for hitting the slopes or relaxing.



Quality vacation rentals that sleep from 1-12 guests. Choose from pools, hot tubs, dog friendly & more.



Premier Mt. Baker vacation rental. 3BR, 2BA luxury timber home with modern amenities, hot tub, WiFi, gourmet kitchen, fireplace, fire pit. Your perfect getaway base camp!



100 5th Street


Your closest full service hotel to the Mt. Baker Ski Area. 35 luxury rooms in a historic building, close to shopping and restaurants. Less than 5 miles from the Canadian border.



7425 Mt. Baker Hwy.


Find your perfect accommodationsfrom rustic to luxury getaways, from studio to 12+ bedrooms. Open 7 days a week. find out

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S“o, I’m a cowboy.”

I gazed at my companion in the hot pool at Alvord Hot Springs. He shrugged. I’d asked what brought him to this ultra-remote spot in southeast Oregon, a salt-scrub desert slope at the eastern foot of Steens Mountain overlooking a vast salt flat worthy of a Howard Hawks panorama.

“Really. I work at the ranch,” he added. “Nothing like a hot mineral soak after a day wrestling with horses and cattle. Well, ATVs too.”

“The ranch,” is Alvord Ranch, a famous eastern Oregon redoubt on whose land the hot springs bubble up. It’s a throwback place in an old-school landscape, and its hot springs epitomize the old-school value of these geothermal wonders that sprinkle the mountains and valleys of the West. The cowboy-soak in Alvord Hot Springs dates back more than a century, so 21st century visitors are percolating in history.

Including me. I get down this way (two days drive from western Washington) once a year for summer volunteer work. I’m no cowboy, but pulling old barbed wire fence on a wildlife refuge in the Oregon outback G E T T I N G I N h o t w a t e r

sure puts me in a cowboy frame of mind.

I explain my mission to my real-cowboy compadre, and he laughs. “Funny, I was just out yesterday fixing up old barbed wire on the ranch.”

We two ease back in the 105-degree mineral water and agree that it’s a great place for peaceful coexistence, whether you are fencing cattle in or out of a piece of land.

It’s the same as it ever was at hot springs throughout the west, whose importance dates back millennia among Native peoples who would agree to set aside enmities around the hot mineral springs that they all used for easing sore joints and healing bodily ailments. They also bathed in the bigger ones, minus a handy bottle of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap.

Later, Euro-American pioneers adopted the same approach. Hot springs were a community resource, and Sunday after church was often wash day – women first for a couple hours, then men later, followed by a community picnic. I have actually met old ranchers who remember this from their childhood.

Time marches on, and hot springs today run the gamut from five-star deluxe resorts (there’s one in Arizona that charges an eye-watering $2,125 a night per couple) to obscure warmish puddles clasped amid tree roots on remote riverbanks. You can camp at some hot springs, rent cabins at others, take part in sacred moonlight chants at others (really), sink in hot mud up to your neck in others, or hike a half day to wilderness springs storied in trekker legend.

Public land hot springs tend to offer hand-built rock pools, and maybe local do-gooders have hauled in a few sacks of cement to spiff things up. Commercial ones are usually, in some sense, the American version of those European spas where visitors come for wellness vacations, and who may be enjoying the very same waters that Roman soldiers did two millennia ago.

But while Europeans take their spas seriously – thermes,

they are usually called – the American attitude toward hot springs is often a querulous skepticism that is a weird cousin to the widespread disdain for eating insects. Hot water? In the wild? I’ll just take a nap over here, thanks.

Fine. More space for me.

Private hot springs can be, well, colorful. Oregon’s Breitenbush, in the Cascades east of Salem, is a throwback with clapboard-and-log buildings scattered about like an old mining camp. It’s off-grid, of course, calls itself a sanctuary, is clothing optional, and an early ’70s New Age communal atmosphere drifts around like mist in the woods. I promise someone will be wearing a tie-dye wrap dress … at least until they shed it to climb into a soaking pool. A delightful place for time travel, in other words.

Up in British Columbia, Fairmont Hot Springs is a family resort with mid-level luxury lodging, a golf course, an RV park and vast swimming pools of mineral water. Across the Canadian Rockies a few hours, at Radium Hot Springs, you can decide for yourself whether low-level radioactive material is sufficiently healthful that you might survive the apocalypse and straighten out your golf swing.

I’ve enjoyed my days at these commercial resorts, but I prefer the quirky, remote springs that may require a little work and tend to have not a soul in sight.

Way out on the B.C. coast, on a remote island, is a hot spring that trickles down to the ocean, so bathers can alternate hot mineral water with waves of cold seawater, all in one perch.

Not far from Lakeview, Oregon, is a spring that gushes from the ground at 120 degrees, much too hot for an instant soak. Locals have hauled in an old cast-iron clawfoot tub that you fill with the hot water hose, and then wait for it to cool.

In the heart of Washington’s Cascades Mountains, a 4.5-mile hike leads to Goldmyer Hot Spring, which yields 111-degree water that visitors can enjoy in a small cave, or

outdoor in pools. Like so many such places now, irresponsible overuse forced caretakers to establish a daily visitor limit and reservations are required … just to illustrate how Americans have abused something long revered by most of the world’s people.

The same is true back at Alvord Ranch, where the formerly drive-up-and-soak hot springs have been transformed into a small visitor attraction, with campsites, tiny cabins, an office and a daily fee. Long-time visitors grouse about all that, but having on-site supervision has quelled the rowdy misbehavior.

This is just 40 miles as the crow flies (but three hours by car) from my favorite hot spring of all, a simple heartshaped pool tucked into a mountain meadow at the verge between aspen foothills and sagebrush high desert. It’s about 2½ feet deep, 105 degrees with a mud/rock bottom and mild sulfurous odor, surrounded by low ridges in every direction. Only once in 25 years have I shared the pool with strangers, and they were very hip hot spring zealots from Nevada, which is the western heartland of mineral springs.

Here, occasional mule deer stroll by, oblivious to a half-submerged human. The sagebrush breeze whisks past like a song. In the evening, at dusk, nighthawks ply the sky. The evening star rises over the ridge like a distant diamond. Where is this magical place?

I cannot say. I was long ago sworn to secrecy by the old desert trekker who showed it to me … emphasis on show

“I won’t tell you,” he explained. “But I’ll show you, as long as you keep the same pact into the future with other people as long as you live.”

One of the finest bargains I ever made. x

Eric Lucas lives on a small farm on San Juan Island, where he grows organic hay, beans, corn, squash and apples. His affection for hot water led him to import a soaking tub from Spain for his farmhouse.



Sunday, May 26.

The original multisport relay race from Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay, now celebrating 51 years. A team consists of between three and eight racers competing in seven different sports: Cross-country ski, downhill ski/snowboard, running, road bike, canoe (two paddlers), cyclocross bike and sea kayak. The racecourse runs through the towns of Glacier, Maple Falls, Kendall, Everson, Lynden and Ferndale, finishing at Marine Park in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham. 500 teams participating! Ski to Sea is the largest one-day event in Whatcom County and the largest multisport race in North America. Info:


Friday, May 31.

A 70-mile unsupported, human-powered boat race from Tacoma to Port Townsend in 48 hours. Teams must ring the bell at City Dock in Port Townsend by 7:00 PM. Info:


Saturday, June 1.

The ultimate Galbraith Mountain bike race. Do the 33 miles, 5,200’ vertical on your own or divide into segments with one or two teammates. Info: questraces. com/galbraith-supreme.


Sunday, June 9 and Wednesday, June 12.

North America’s longest human and wind powered race. Race to Alaska is held in two legs. Stage 1 is a 40-mile sprint from Port Townsend to Victoria, B.C., which is designed as a qualifier for the full race. Stage 2 is the long haul from Victoria to Ketchikan, Alaska, with racers following their own route across the 710 miles to Ketchikan. No official course besides waypoints in Bella Bella and Seymour Narrows, B.C. Info:


Sunday, June 9.

The Swedes discovered SwimRun in 2006. It consists of swimming and running and swimming and running. Held at Lake Padden and offered as a 15K and 5K. Racers can compete solo or with a team. Info:



Celebrating our 25th anniversary!


Friday, July 19

11:00 AM - Shotgun Start Course Contests | Top Team Trophy | Prizes


Saturday, July 13.

An Olympic-distance triathlon that is a USAT sanctioned event. The race includes a 1500-meter swim on Lake Whatcom, 40km bike ride along North Shore Drive and Y Road, and a 10km run around the trails of beautiful Whatcom Falls Park, with the transition area and start/finish lines at Bloedel Donovan Park. The event draws beginner to elite athletes, in individual and relay divisions, and includes an expo area for athletes and spectators. Info:


Saturday, July 13.

Challenging 30-mile foot race along the Baden-Powell Centennial Trail from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove, climbing 8,000 ft. and descending another 8,300 ft. in Vancouver’s North Shore. Recognized by Running Wild magazine as one of the 25 toughest races in North America. Info:


July 12-14.

Bellingham. A bike, beer and music festival celebrating PNW culture on the Bellingham waterfront. Family friendly events. 3-day festival passes, which include endless bike demos, award-winning headliners, bike and skills clinics, shuttles to trailheads, as well as single day admission. Info:


July 12-14.

Takes place on Galbraith Mountain across two days. Podium awards and post-race revelry will be held down on Bellingham’s waterfront each day at the Northwest Tune-Up. Info:racecascadia. com/events.


Saturday, July 20.

Enjoy all that the Northwest has to offer in one ride — Mt. Baker, Lake Whatcom, valleys, rivers, farmland and beaches. Rides vary from 22 to 100 miles. Post ride party at Boundary Bay Brewery. Info:


5k and 10k courses around scenic Stanley Park. Info:


Saturday, August 19.

A new course this year. The trail run now loops around Lake Padden and the paddle loops around Bellingham Bay. For more information or to register, visit


Saturday, August 17. Coupeville. Known as one of the most beautiful rides in the PNW. Choose from: 10, 33, 50, 67, 100 miles and the ride of your life – a perimeter of Whidbey –162-mile route with a total 10,723 feet of elevation. Info:


Sunday, August 18.

USAT sanctioned. Includes a 800 meter swim on Lake Padden, 9K mountain bike loop along the Lake Padden horse trails, and finishes with the classic 4.1K (2.6 mile) gravel loop trail around Lake Padden. Info:


Saturday, September 7.

Great Olympic Adventure Trail Run is a point-to-point half marathon, marathon, and 50K trail race that traverses Kelly Ridge between the Olympic National Park and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Port Angeles. Info: peninsulaadventuresports. com.


Sunday, September 8. Burlington. Full and half marathon, and 5k. This marathon course is the flattest Boston qualifier in all of Washington state. Visit:


Sunday, September 15. Bike up 4,462’ from Chair 9 in Glacier to Artist Point (5,140’ elevation) in 22 miles along the Mt. Baker Highway. One of the most scenic paved roads in the country. Steep elevation but the views are stunning. Experience the agony and the ecstasy. Info: visit



Sunday, September 22.

Full and half marathon, 5k and 10k. Designed by runners for runners and walkers. Beautiful views of Bellingham Bay, San Juan Islands and North Cascade mountains.


Saturday, September 28.

A premier multi-sport race on the Olympic Peninsula. A four-leg test of endurance, strength and tenacity intertwined with the beauty of the North Olympic Peninsula. Starts with 16-mile mountain bike, followed by 2.6-mile kayak, 30-mile road bike and a 10K-run along the scenic Olympic Discovery Trail, Port Angeles. Info:


Sunday, October 20.

Teams of 4-8 runners relay to 8 different breweries in Bellingham over a 35-mile course, with an after party at Boundary Bay Beer Garden. Visit: trailstotapsrelay. com


Saturday and Sunday, October 26-27.

Port Angeles. The first of its kind on the Olympic Peninsula. Runners and walkers will circle the park on a 1.3-mile loop around the Salt Creek Recreation Area over 24 hours, either solo or part of a relay team. For more info visit

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From Mt. Baker to Mt. Vesuvius

The exploration of a not so foreign volcano.

Mt. Vesuvius ascends from the water like a monolith above bustling Italian towns. From Naples to Sorrento, the 5,000-foot mountain is always in view while navigating the tight Italian roads and tighter Vespas weaving in and out of traffic.

The lack of a peak is a reminder that this quiet mountain is more than something pretty to look at. It showed its power in 79 AD, freezing the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in time, burying them in ash. Vesuvius reminded the region of this power again in 1944 with an eruption that filled the sky with clouds of ash but spared the cities from destruction.

Visiting Mt. Vesuvius and the surrounding areas was high on the list as we planned our trip to Italy. Whenever travelling, we try to get outside the cities and explore the local environment. When in reach of a national park, we plan accordingly to give ourselves the opportunity to explore it. What could be better than getting to one in Italy?

I would be traveling from my home volcano of Mt. Baker to one in Italy, where my ancestors came from. Having been to Italy in the past, I was prepared for the level of energy the cities bring. The people are packed tightly into cities laid out before modern times, resulting in the regular sound of honking horns and the revving of engines as people race to their spot in the line of traffic. After a couple nights of Rome, I could not wait to get to the quiet mountain and explore.

Before leaving Whatcom County, I tried to get tickets to the park with no luck. I gathered that tour companies buy all the tickets, so people are forced to ride with them. Some random tickets are released throughout the day, but with spotty cell service, winning that lottery seemed unlikely. So, after a train to Naples to rent a car, we optimistically headed up the mountain. Saying the drive up to Mt. Vesuvius has a different feel than driving up to Mt. Baker would be an understatement. The wide double lanes of Highway 542 gently flanking the North Fork of the Nooksack River as you wind your way through the foothills before passing through Glacier and ascending the mountain was instantly a distant memory. What we experienced were tight roads, tight corners, and tight squeezes by cars and tour buses. It was time to put relaxation on hold and hope for survival.

As we neared the top, I anticipated a booth holding a park ranger wearing a green uniform. I knew some hikes needed tickets, but I had also read that there were plenty of other, free hikes in the park. As the landscape opened up, I could feel I was entering nature. I was surrounded by green instead of houses, and the view out to the Tyrrhenian Sea grew more impressive around each corner. With the summit in view, I felt like we would make it. I would finally be able to take a breath and relax.

Not so fast. The Italians had other plans.

A woman in the middle of the road signaled that we needed to turn right instead of con-

tinuing up the road. There would be no getting to an Artist Point parking lot and choosing my direction. We were directed to park along the side of the road and either pay for a shuttle or walk the three kilometers up the road dodging shuttles and tour buses on the just-shy-of a two lane road.

Wanting to survive, we handed over the three euros per person. The shuttle driver was as skilled behind the wheel as any driver I have ever seen, and he safely got us to the top, having to back up twice so that descending traffic could make it by. As we reached the top, the level of chaos only grew. There were little tables selling trinkets and tour buses crammed everywhere with nothing more than a small parking lot for them to turn around. There were also people everywhere. People lined up for shuttles, people herded to tour buses, and people like us, standing around trying to figure out how to get in.

There was only one entrance . If you didn’t have a ticket, you were not getting through. There were no other obvious trails, and now we seemed stuck. After questioning what to do for a few minutes, we decided that maybe this was all we would see, and instead of waiting for a shuttle down, we would risk life and limb and walk back to our car. I saw a little path to my right as we descended no more than half a kilometer. I figured when in Rome – or rather, when on Mt. Vesuvius – so despite everyone else’s skepticism, we took the trail. From the trail, we found what seemed to be an actual path, and we began winding around the mountain, finally feeling a level of calm. We ascended the mountain gradually away from the bays of Naples and were greeted by a large valley filled with towns. We continued circling the volcano rising up in elevation. We had the trail to ourselves until we encountered an Italian family who, between broken Italian and broken English, we were able to gather that if we pushed on up this trail, we would be rewarded.

We continued up and around the mountain and found ourselves looking to the south over Pompei and out to the sea. Sailboats dotted the water, and Sorrento, our home the next night, could be seen in the distance perched above steep cliffs with buildings and villas vining their way up the hill. From this perched-up view, it felt as though you could almost reach out and touch the water. The expanse felt endless, and the world below was deceptively quiet.  While I was never greeted by a ranger in green, Mt. Vesuvius delivered a grand adventure, a great hike through nature, and unforgettable views. We ended up exploring six miles of mountain trail, if you include walking down the road to our car. By the time we reached the road, traffic had subsided and our lives never felt in jeopardy.

It is strange to say that having a volcano around is comforting, but when you live near one, it is unsettling to be away from the mountains. The mountains look over us, comforting us in their wilderness. A journey to them is an escape from our bustling cities to calm the senses. They also remind us never to get too comfortable, or they may display the power building up inside.  x



Aurora Borealis Photo by Jason Hummel
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