Baker Lake

I deliver on my promises.

This weekend I went to go get a view of Mount Baker from Baker Lake.  My prior predictions of it being a straightforward or even boring trip were pretty wrong.

I had company this time: joined by my dog and the man who taught me all I know about backpacking (the dad guy).  Sparing you the majority of the details, dad guy doesn’t sleep before trips for whatever reason, and was feeling less than prime on the first day.  My dog Dixie on the other hand was fired up and ready to go.

The beast.

Despite pulling an all-nighter, my dad did well.  Even considering the trail conditions as well.  If anyone reading this is going to Baker Lake from the South trail, you’re walking along a sheer drop-off almost the entire way.  If this makes you uncomfortable, try the north trail (maybe, I don’t know what it’s like up there).  No one had mentioned this and my dad was suffering a bit of vertigo.  We took the trail slowly and ultimately decided to cut the trip a little shorter and check out the first camp site.

Sometimes with cool bridges, but mostly just the typical dirt trail with a sheer drop-off on the other side. 

Not even .3 miles away from the camping area, we cross a creek.  This creek has a bridge, but this bridge is a very sad thing.  Whoever built it clearly tried a little to make it a little more supportive, but it had rolled over a bit during its tenure as the bridge of Anderson Creek.  The support line on the bridge didn’t even extend the entire way.  We concluded it was easier to just walk across the water.

RIP that bridge

Being particular about water sources, I decided to hang back and filter some water.  Our goal was so close, I figured I could stand the weight of 6 liters of water until the end.  It was a short hike after all.  As I filtered water, my dad decided to go ahead.  Still feeling dizzy from all the high-trail hiking, he lost his footing and fell in the river.  It’s one of those moments where in hindsight you wish you had a picture, but all I heard was shouting and a splash, so I left the camera behind to go help him out.  Surprisingly enough, his gear didn’t get too wet despite falling in one of the deeper portions.  As I made my way back, I saw that my dog had freed herself from the tether I set up to keep her in place while I filtered water and was making her way across the river to help as well.

Always being herded.

After calming her down and getting her tether set back up, I filtered my water and crossed the river.  Dixie enjoyed prolonging this part of the process as she loves the water.

We finished our small trek on the trail and came to the camping area where we were greeted with a strange kind of class.  This place had fire pits, toilets, even bear vaults.  It was an interesting sight after doing nothing but back-country backpacking my whole life.  I didn’t know places like this existed, but it was actually kind of fun.  But there was a problem:  All the sites were full.

At least the view was nice.

We didn’t have our hearts set on established camping, but the terrain here is really rough.  There wasn’t really anywhere off trail for us to camp at either.  After meandering through the campgrounds for a while we found a small patch next to someone elses campsite and decided to stay there.  Maybe it was a mix of just being nice and slightly uncomfortable with having strangers next to them, but they said they had one of their tents set up at one of the other campsites and would take it down and let us have it.  Aw yeeeah.

Really though, these people were legitimately awesome and really helped us out the following day.  In any case, we ended up grabbing a really great spot, it had the best view of Mount Baker and was pretty spacious.

Like I said, high class camping here.

I was happy when I saw there were two trees at a perfect distance from each other that I could secure Dixie to.  Some people let their dogs roam around, I choose not to risk turning what’s supposed to be a nice trip into a dog rescue operation.  It gives your dog plenty of free space to roam – I generally cut enough rope to let her have access to the entire camp site – it’s a nice compromise between freedom and security.  And it’s an easy enough system:  One rope, one carabiner, and a leash.

We checked out our new weekend home and went down to the water.  Despite being unnerved by lakes, I did jump in and swim a little.  Dixie lost her mind with excitement at the prospect of another swim, jumped in, and promptly got out to roll around in the mud.  Dogs.

We got back to camp and I sat on the ledge overlooking the lake and watched the sun set.

While I did that, my dad was working on his new tent.  He’s become really enthusiastic about being ultra-light and set up this thing:

Tarp Tent: Literal Edition

It was pretty impressive and held up really well against the wind.  A viable alternative if you’re in a snag as long as you’re willing to compromise a couple of grommets.  The one supporting the poles ripped straight through, but it still worked.

A fire was lit.

The Corgis slept.

And before I knew it, morning arrived.  I usually get up with the sun when I go backpacking.  It’s not intentional, but it works out because I get to see the sun rise.

Is this thing ever going to rise?

I sat out there for a couple hours before the morning clouds dispersed and the sun rose.  Baker was encased in what looked like a storm for most of the day, but eventually cleared up in time for me to get one more look at it.

The people who were nice enough to give us a camp site were also offering to take my dad back to civilization via boat ride due to his balance issues on the trail.  He accepted and I hiked out with Dixie to go get the truck and pick him up.  People on the trail can be really awesome.

What if I want to do this too?

Go for it.  It’s an easier trail if you don’t mind sheer drop offs.  It does go downhill most of the way so make sure you have enough energy for the return trip, but it wasn’t too bad.  I was carrying more than I usually do and was able to sprint the last leg to get to the car.  The forest is beautiful, you had a nice variety of trees with some absolutely massive old growths in there.  Anderson Creek (or Anderson River, I don’t remember the specific name.  But it’s Anderson’s water outlet of an unspecified name, put it together when you get there) is a very nice area to relax, and the lake itself is really nice.  It’s a great place to swim, and this is coming from a guy who doesn’t like swimming.

Even if you’re not used to backpacking to established camp sites, it’s something that you can get used to.  The bear vaults were a pretty nice convenience in particular (I did see a bear by the way, but it ran away from us before we really understood what had happened).  It also made the lake all the more accessible.  Overall it makes for a very nice laid back kind of trip.

Downfalls?

If you’re going to go here with the intention of having an overnight trip, be open to going further down the trail to Maple Grove.  My dad and I stopped at Anderson Point with the inability to go in further.  Between people boat-camping and backpacking, the camp sites filled up pretty fast.  Maple Grove is allegedly less accessible via boat this year due to a lower water level, but I can’t say for sure if that’s true or not.  This cuts out a bit of competition.  People also use this trail as a ‘first backpacking trip with the kids’ kind of trip, and they mostly stop at Anderson Point as well to keep the walk shorter for their children’s sake.  So there’s more competition.  The views from Anderson Point are a little better as well.  There weren’t even 10 sites here, so securing a spot is blind luck.

If you don’t like the noise of boats and waverunners, you may not enjoy your time here.  At least not during the day.  It’s a very active lake with people swimming, fishing, etc.  I didn’t notice too much of it going on, but it’s still there.  Personally I found it kind of relaxing, I’m not sure why.

Overall

It wasn’t exactly a crazy outdoors experience, but it was a nice trip.  This is a very mellow place to either hike or camp out on for the weekend, and I’d do it again.  I really could sit out there and stare at the mountain all day, it was incredible.  It would also be a great introduction trip for anyone who’s new to backpacking.  It was working out well for people’s kids, and it worked out well for my dog.  If you’re interested in backpacking but aren’t sure about it (and live in Washington/have access to Washington), this is a pretty good place to start.

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