The Joy of Solo Trekking in the Mt. Baker Wilderness
Many people associate Washington State with Mount Rainier or Olympic National Park. North of Seattle, however, is filled with wonderful mountain trails to entice any type of hiker or mountain enthusiast. As a former resident of the state, I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't get a chance to explore much of the trekking destinations in Washington. Luckily, on a trip to California for a travel conference that I attended as part of my social enterprise, I managed to squeeze in a side solo trip to Seattle and do some hiking. For this adventure, I chose the Mt. Baker and North Cascades region.
It is quite easy to get to Mount Baker from Seattle as it is only a two hour drive north of the city. For this journey, I decided to stay at a couple of cottages through Glamping Hub. Glamping Hub provides numerous options for accommodations in mountain regions such as the towns of Glacier and Maple Falls, both of which are located in the foothills of Baker. For my first two nights in Glacier, I stayed at a cottage just a mile away from the town proper. The next two nights I spent at another cottage five miles outside Glacier. Both locations were ideal and served as a base for my exploration of Baker's mountain trails. What's great about staying via Glamping Hub is the variety of accommodations available through their website, the affordability of the cottages and the fact that this setup is appealing to those who are new to hiking and not quite ready yet to experience camping outdoors. I enjoyed the ability to cook, have hot showers and a warm bed - something that my hardcore backpacker side can always appreciate. Each cottage I stayed at had its own unique look and atmosphere which added more to the overall experience.
The town of Glacier itself is small. In its center, you'll find Graham - a grocery with a restaurant next to it. Chair 9 is another option for dining which serves pizza as its specialty. Both places offer wifi connection should you need to get connected at some point during your stay in the area. Staying in the cottages affords you with time to disconnect from the virtual world as most of the cottages in the area do not have wifi or have limited connection. Being disconnected, of course, is best when you hit some of the mountain trails in the area. There are a few exceptional trail options to choose from.
For my adventure, I hiked the Chain Lakes Loop and Lake Ann Trails.
Chain Lakes is a 7-8 mile loop that can start from three different places - Artist's point, Heather Meadows visitor center or via Bailey Lakes. I opted to start from the Artist's point which from the start afforded me views of both Baker and Shuksan. I started off by hiking down from the parking lot towards Bailey's Lake and from there I worked on the elevation heading up to the pass from which you see Shuksan on one side and Baker on the other.
From the pass, you then descend towards the direction of Baker and the Iceberg Lake. A few miles later, you'll be gaining back the elevation you initially lost in the beginning to be rewarded with spectacular ridge views of Baker and Shuksan. From the ridge, you will find yourself back to the parking lot at Artist's point.
The Lake Ann Trail is an 8.1 mile out and back hike and is equally worth visiting. It's a bit more strenuous as you'll be gaining 1900 feet in elevation but the endpoint makes the effort worthwhile. The first two miles start out by descending towards the valley and passing the junction to Swift Creek. Thereafter, you begin the last bit of climbing over the rockiest portion of the trail as you continuously enjoy the view of Baker. Two miles from the junction, you will then find yourself speechless at a much closer view of Shuksan and Lake Ann - the end point and reward you get for the hike.
For my Lake Ann trail hike, I started out solo but midway through the hike I met an established author who happens to live in Bellingham which is the nearby city to the Baker wilderness area. It was a thrill for me to chat with my new friend, Clyde Ford, about my prior and future hiking adventures, the mission of my social enterprise, Peak Explorations, and my newly launched life as a mountain nomad. I revealed to him that I recently quit my legal career to live a nomadic lifestyle and run my social enterprise on a full-time basis. It turns out he has quit his careers several times and therefore he encouraged me to continue on with my adventure despite how unconventional and unique of a path it may be. We also took time to discuss the idea of writing and how one starts the process as I recently gained interest in writing a memoir myself to document my hiking adventures and experience as a child abuse prosecutor for 15 years. I was grateful to have met a new friend who provided inspiration and encouragement at an opportune time. We bid farewell to each other but also promised to meet the next day for coffee before I drove back to Seattle.
Upon finishing the Lake Ann trail, I managed to slowly drive back to town. But, along the way, I took one last look at Shuksan at Picture Lake. Shuksan happens to be one of the most photographed peaks in the world. The reason, of course, is obvious, as depicted by the photos below.
On another day, I also managed to do the two hour drive to the North Cascades to visit Diablo Lake. The North Cascades offers another set of hiking options but due to limited time, I decided to take it easy and enjoy the view of Diablo Lake from the overlook by Highway 20.
Overall, an outdoorsy visit to Washington state isn't complete unless you get a chance to experience the Mount Baker Wilderness area and the North Cascades. As a solo trekker, it was an ideal location to hike well-maintained trails devoid of any safety concerns given that the trails are easy to follow and are well-marked. The added bonus in my case is the chance to enjoy a cozy and peaceful stay at the cottages via Glamping Hub. I loved the option to cook my meals or eat at the restaurants in Glacier. My stay for 4 nights and 5 days in Baker was a perfect solo getaway - by spoiling myself with the constant views of the alpine lakes and snowy peaks, the challenging trails and the comfort of staying at fully-equipped cottages nestled in the beauty of the Mt. Baker wilderness.
Be mindful of the drive to the end of the road, Artist's point, as the road can be windy and curvy along steep drop offs. Having said that, Artist's point is known for gorgeous sunsets - something to consider doing.
The visitor center can be found in Maple Falls which is about 8 miles from Glacier. The folks at the Visitor Center are knowledgeable and eager to help so make sure to drop by.
Need caffeine? Grab your cup at Wake N Bakery in Glacier.
Some of the hikes require driving on gravel or unpaved roads known to have killer potholes to get to the trail heads. Know the road condition before driving out. Lake Ann, Chain Lakes and Excelsior hikes do not require driving on unpaved roads.
There are plenty of places to see en route to Seattle or Baker such as Bellingham, Whidbey Island, San Juan Islands etc. but be aware of the distance and time factor if you're limited in time.