Full Immersion

Back to Baker (Again)


What: Baker Backcountry Basics

When: 6 pm Mon., Jan. 14

Where: REI, 400 36th St.

Cost: Free; register in advance

Info: 647-8955 or http://www.rei.com

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The three of us burly geezers were wound up tight and feeling squirrely as we nosed our big stiffy powder boards through thigh-deep freshies toward the drop-in point above the feeder gully leading into the basin for our long-overdue first backcountry run of the season.    

Van camping in the Heather Meadows parking lot had exacted a terrible toll. Contorting our galumphing, ape-shaped bodies into child-sized foldout recesses precipitated stiff necks, achy shoulders and pervasive lower-back discomfort that lingered in all occupants. Abominable outbursts of heavy snoring hounded us unabated through the dismal night—we could have caught more Z’s in a lumber mill for all the log-sawing that went on in that glorified tin can.

No surprise that we awoke feeling bleary-eyed and extra-creaky. Levering groggily out of our warm but musty sleeping bags we struggled mightily to maneuver through the bitter cold predawn, blundering around through icy conditions that conspired to topple us at every turn.

“Maybe next year we can buck tradition and rent a cabin for once,” I suggested as we lumbered up the cat track feeling uncharacteristically discombobulated. 

“Somebody told me the ramshackle old A-frame down in Glacier that we occupied back in the day has been extensively renovated and currently lists on Airbnb at $300 per night.” 

“Sweet!“ our bro Stackhouse chimed in. “If we piled up a few mounds of damp, festering socks and dripped a couple buckets of hot wax all over the furniture and floor we could make it feel like home again.”

Although this nostalgic reverie elicited a smattering of bemused chuckles, nobody in our posse felt compelled to reflect any further upon the grim, near-inhabitable snow-sports-induced squalor we cultivated throughout our formative North Fork residency. 

Instead, we turned our attention to indulging in one of our more redeemable inclinations—absorbing the corporeal shapes of the local terrain of Mt. Baker while navigating efficiently and with minimal exposure to our desired destination.

The radial arms and hulking shoulders of ridges. All those grinning untracked faces and corniced brows. Spines and saddles. Fingers and feet. Noses, knobs and myriad runouts.

In an era increasingly defined by crippling concentrations of wealth, high-tech chicanery and divisive power grabs, these are the abiding landmarks we cherish to share and shred.     

Within our established pecking order, Stackhouse was slated to drop into the chute first. But since he wound up spending approximately two hours trying to adjust his fancy new goggles, it soon became necessary for me to rear up and stomp out of the gate in front of him.

The crusty powder dragged at my knees but I crouched hard into my initial momentum and let the concave slope funnel me straight toward the gap. Stackhouse kept screaming as I careened between the rocks, but when I broke wide out into the open flank below there was nothing but fresh floaty turns to carry us forward through insular depths of crystalline silence. 

It felt just like the good old days.

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