on January 14, 2017
Early last year Peter and I hiked to Artist Point off the Mt. Baker Ski Area, and it was cloud covered, windy, and above all, cold. This time I came prepared with one more fleece layer than I usually bring snowshoeing.
We got to the trailhead right off the parking lot right at 12 pm. We normally arrive at trailheads long before noon, but we made some work-related stops along the way. On top of that, the drive is simply a long one.
This is the third time I’ve snowshoed up to Artist Point. The trail starts just to the right of the ski chute that ends at the southern parking lot of the Mt. Baker ski area. There is a slight ascent along the ski chute, and you pass a boarded up green building. Then, you continue following the chute up a relatively steep hill until you get to a flat area when you turn off from the ski chute. From here there are multiple options to get to Artist Point, but you have keep going up to get there, although it’s less steep from here. You pass through rolling white hills, and soon you can see the point, a straight shot ahead.
There were a lot of people in the lower regions at the beginning of the trail. At the section where the trail follows the ski resort chute, we got stuck behind a line of people. I was worried the whole trail would be that busy, but once we got over the first ascent that turns off the ski chute, the groups of people thinned out. I suppose the crowds are to be expected on a clear weekend day. Still, the views were awesome.
It wasn’t long into the trail before we started shedding layers. I left my shell layer unzipped, something I rarely do. This was probably the warmest I’ve ever been snowshoeing! It must have been the wind chill that got to me last year.
The snow wasn’t fresh, and it was clear some hilltops got a lot of wind at some point since the previous snow because the snow was compact and looked like miniature sand dunes. The many tracks through the snow confirmed this trail is well trodden. Once we could see Artist Point, we could also see the small, consistent crowd stationed up there. As the views about 1/4 mile from the point were just as good, this time we opted to find a quiet, Mt. Baker facing perch to look out over the valley.
Later we wandered around a bit and forged new tracks in the snow, one very satisfying aspect of snowshoeing. We saw some people ski down one of the mountain faces, but we saw more people hiking up the valley on skis with skins. The hike up takes a lot longer than the ski down, that is for sure. On our way back to the car, we slid down some of the steeper hills on our bums. This too is one of the finer pleasures of snowshoeing.
It was a beautiful day and well worth the visit, but the length of the drive was much more apparent on the way back home when we were hungry and tired.