Happy Campers

Summer at Baker Lake

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A splendid sunny weekend beckoned. The North Cascades were still buried in snow, so our original plan of a backpacking trip up high against the sky needed some inspired revision.

Christopher solved the problem: Paddling up Baker Lake and camping on the wild east bank was just the thing. So we strapped the venerable Queen Edna—my freighter of a canoe—atop the Subaru and hit the road, Pato Banton turned up loud on the sound system.

Around 6:30pm, we loaded our camping gear into the canoe at the Panorama Point boat launch. Ah, summertime and its sweet lingering light. Not a cloud in the sky.

Paddling easily, we admired the eminence of Koma Kulshan, seemingly rising higher as we moved away from the west shore, across the green lake. On a weekend like this, the west side of the lake was predictably abuzz with activity. Lots of happy campers. The east side of the lake—accessible only by boat or boots—was a much quieter place.

We made our way north along the shoreline through baroque reflections. The water level was as high as I’ve ever seen it, literally lapping at the trees. The stump beaches, so aesthetically displeasing when the lake level is low, were all submerged. While this was a treat visually, it meant that there were very few places to pull up the Queen Edna. We paddled on.

Near the flashing mouth of the aptly named Silver Creek we nosed into a little back-eddy inlet and found a rocky shelf that we could stash the canoe on, out of the water. A grassy promontory provided a view of both Baker and Shuksan and a small clearing among the trees offered a perfect spot to nestle the tent. We relaxed in our camp chairs on the promontory and watched the sun slip behind Baker’s icy cone.

A campfire was kindled and dinner eaten beside it in the soft flickering glow encircled by the dark forest. Somewhere up the lake, a loon sang its beguiling Carnatic song, a sound that always encapsulates the allure of the north woods for me.

In the morning we launched the canoe and continued up the lake, slipping between elegant 20-foot-long tendrils of old man’s beard draped from the overhanging trees, each strand as thin as a braid of hair. At the mouth of Noisy Creek, we landed the canoe on a little island, below the melodious cascade. Apparently this was a popular place with birds (or bird-eaters). The island was covered with

“Feather Island” made for a perfect place to swim and bask, both of which I recommend without hesitation. The icy waters of the creek made for highly refreshing submersions, an idyllic contrast between frigid water and hot sun.

We continued to the head of the lake near the Baker River, stopping for another dip along the way before turning back toward camp. Hugging the shoreline, taking our time: examining the moss tapestries, fern gardens and fluted rocks, the reflected light dancing in the shadows. Watching eagles soar overhead. Counting our blessings.

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