Summer in Cascadia
Drink deep from the well
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Summer in Cascadia is as good as it gets.
It’s a magical season, enhanced by the ephemeral nature of fields of luscious flowers, warm nights and other delights that are defined (and enhanced) by their impermanence. A brief interlude of perfect satori, a momentary exception to the well-established status quo of long months of rain, darkness and glowering skies. It is the exception that proves the rule.
As each year passes, I find myself ever more aware of the preciousness of these golden days. The end of summer, never more than a handful of weeks away, sends us a message about the inexorable passing of time that gets more difficult to ignore with each rotation around the sun. Best to pay attention and make hay while the sun shines.
These days (and nights) are far too valuable to squander—we must be brave and deploy that “out of office” auto-response and get out there. It’s so easy to get caught up in being busy. Our lives are brimming with deadlines, tasks, rules and alerts.
Give yourself a midsummer’s eve gift and turn everything off. Shuck the routine, if only for a few hours. It is summer in Cascadia. We must drink deep from the well.
Grab what we used to call a rucksack, stuff it with some essentials: water, sunscreen, reading material, art supplies. Take the road less travelled. If you can’t find that with your GPS, take the Mt. Baker Highway and look for dirt roads. The more potholes, the better. Get lost (but make sure that you can find yourself again).
Prioritize visits to the delicate and special places that see only the briefest flicker of summer in the high country of our mothering North Cascades. The shorter the season, the sweeter the nectar. Skyline Divide. Heliotrope Ridge, Chain Lakes, Ptarmigan Ridge. In this rarified alpine air, the season unfolds like a time-lapse video. Every day is different. Every day is beautiful.
The wildflower bloom, now upon us, is our Cascadia Mardi Gras, exhilarating and intoxicating. The glacier lily, lupine, paintbrush, phlox, penstemon and (my personal favorite) monkey flower join dozens of others in weaving a carpet of botanical luminescence beneath the black peaks and blue sky. Patches of snow lend a chiaroscuro to the high country and remind us of the winter, always waiting in the wings.
Don’t neglect the Salish Sea. The summer sun sparkles on its exuberant waters. The sandstone artistry of the San Juan Islands and the Chuckanut Coast are much better than anything on television
Want high definition? Check out the shadows on the cliffs at Clayton Beach on a languid summer evening.
And by all means, get wet. Lake Whatcom is a pleasing place to submerge yourself. The Nooksack River will carry you downstream in its own sweet time.
And, if you can finagle it, position yourself flat on your back in the deep hours of evening, away from the humming lights, beneath a tabernacle of stars that reveals a much bigger picture than the crisis of the day.
The best advice in human history: Be here now.
The birds of winter
Blue herons, bald eagles, cormorants, Harlequin ducks, Canada geese, Northern flickers and Anna’s hummingbirds were among the winged wonders I viewed in Whatcom County last weekend, and I wasn’t even on a dedicated birding expedition—unlike a friend who, while on a Sunday field trip to…
Back to Baker (Again)
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…
Deep forest experiences
In 1935, Sound Timber Company sold approximately 670 acres of old-growth forest to the state of Washington for the bargain price of one dollar. Then in 1961, Washington State Parks acquired the picturesque property at the foot of Sauk Mountain.
Now, nearly 85 years after Sound Timber…