I’ve only been to Mount Baker, Washington in the fall, and that’s the way I like it.
The time of year of that first visit was coincidental — it was on my trip list and we wanted to get in before the highway closed for the winter — but I don’t know that any other season could be as good here near the Canadian border as the crisp autumn.
Our first visit, in early October 2020, was full of fog and mystery and howling winds. This visit was brisk, but sunny and clear. (And on a Saturday afternoon, an absolutely packed parking lot.)
Last time, we explored Artist Point, so we decided to take the Table Mountain trail this time and see how far we got. Athleticism isn’t among my notable qualities (hence the couch potato rating below) and I’d just done a (distanced, outdoor) client photo session the day before, so I wasn’t sure I’d make it very far, but agreed to try.
With an elevation over 5,000 feet, I knew I was also going to get short of breath faster than usual, so I decided to ditch my usual attempts to blend in and just rest whenever I needed to.
I ended up resting every twenty feet or so, which doesn’t sound quite as bad when you understand that the trail has an elevation gain of 725 feet over 1.4 miles. A couple of sections are pictured below, but when we got to the steeper parts I mostly concentrated on hiking and breathing.
In the past I would have been deeply ashamed of stopping every few minutes to rest, and of being the fat lady breathing heavily and looking like a wimp. But you know what? I’m over it. I have as much right to be on the trail as anyone else.
Unlike many of the east coast trails I’ve been on, the volcanic rock here does give excellent grip on the trail, which is nice for stability.
We made it over a half mile up the trail before sitting on some conveniently placed boulders for a while. Raymond took some photos of me hiking (more on that another day) and we cheered on some folks going past, then headed down before it got dark. The views from even partway up the trail were absolutely glorious.
(Apparently when you get higher up, the trail looks like this, which: heh, no. The whole section of trail we hiked was safely surrounded by solid ground, thankyouverymuch. Image below courtesy of Alamy.)
Once we reached the bottom third or so of the section of trail we’d hiked, Raymond wanted to take an alternate way down. It was steeper, so I was reluctant but willing to try it. He gave me a hand down in a few spots, but eventually we got to a boulder where the earth beneath had eroded, leaving a gap of a couple of feet between the stone and the trail.
I was worried about my camera (in my camera backpack of my back), afraid of losing my balance on landing and tumbling down the hill, and couldn’t figure out where to put my feet. I could feel myself freezing in panic.
I’m not generally afraid of heights, but I have nightmares sometimes about exactly this situation: being stuck on a trail where I feel like I’m going to fall and can’t move backward or forward.
In the past, I might have refused to try it and insisted on going back up and around the easier way.
This time, I chose to inch back up to where I felt stable, then spend a few minutes breathing. I then inched back toward the drop, handed down my backpack to Raymond, and sat my butt down on that trail and scooted forward over the boulder until my feet dangled over, reducing the jump to just a few inches.
And then I jumped down, safely, easily and calmly.
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