From the Field – UnCruising with Mount Baker
By Bobby DeMarinis – Expedition Leader, Safari Quest
As the Safari Quest sails North, carving its way into the polished waters of Possession Sound, the horizon gleams with the sudden advent of Mount Baker. Nearly 60 miles to our North, the dramatic snowcapped fixture of the North Cascades looms in stark relief over the flush foreground.
This mountain is an active, glacier encrusted stratovolcano where hundreds of fumaroles vent billowing clouds of gases like caron dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. A relatively young mountain, perhaps less than 100,000 years old, the present-day summit of Baker conceals a long and violent history of past volcanic tales. The towering peak sits atop the lava that emanated from an ancient volcanic giant, the Black Buttes. Ending its active reign nearly half a million years ago, the geologic record of the Black Buttes was all but erased by the glacial torrent of the last great ice age.
What remains are three dark, spire peaks on the western ridge of the modern mountain named Colfax, Lincoln and Seward. The summit of Mount Baker still grips the remnants of the Pleistocene era, blanketed in more glacial ice than all the Cascade Range volcanoes, aside from Rainier, combined. In the winter months, the mountain is shroud with precipitation streaming from the Pacific, making it one of the snowiest places on Earth. This snow feeds the wild and scenic Nooksack River, which feeds into the depths of the Salish Sea.
Mount Baker stands tall like a proud sentinel, casting its ubiquitous gaze and watching over the land and sea. Throughout our voyage, we are reminded of its presence as we scan the horizon and see the familiar pinnacle. The ethereal, pastel alpenglow of the mountain from the top deck as we are anchored at Sucia Island. It’s poise under soft streaming clouds from the summit of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. It’s shrewd stature amongst the small islets of Lopez Pass. Day after day, we are greeted by the many faces of the mountain. Even when the familiar curtain of fog and mist descends on the rainforests of the Northwest’ wilderness, the mountain always remains forthcoming.