Rick Dubrow’s “On The Level” Column in the Cascadia Weekly; Published 9-5-07
Our optimal window of opportunity to enjoy the high country wilderness to our east is upon us, so I implore you to get up there!
Labor Day just passed, which is when so many folks pack away their hiking boots and tents, leaving the high country even more peaceful and quiet. Gone are most hikers and the insects that enjoy our bodies. Kids are back to school; temperatures are cooler; wild huckleberries are ripe; daylight remains long.
The calendar window is short, though. Sometime between mid-October and November 1st, snowfall will close off your vehicular access to Artist Point, the parking lot at the very end of Mt. Baker Highway. At 5,140 feet, the point itself offers one of the most scenic viewpoints anywhere on the planet! Unobstructed views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, Table Mountain, North Cascades National Park. (On tourism and state highway websites, which adorn ‘roads’ with synonyms such as ‘rainbows’, Artist Point is often referred to as the gold at the end of a rainbow.)
That said, my goal is to get you onto the trails, not simply to go for a drive to an asphalt parking lot. My personal gold is what I feel, smell, see and hear after I leave the parking lot. My rainbow is the trail that gets me high and outside. My gold at the end of the rainbow is the wildflower field I reach after hiking for a few hours; like taking a nap atCampKaiser after a spectacular journey along Ptarmigan Ridge.
I want wilderness to infuse your being; to cleanse the urban or suburban cobwebs that may clog your pipes; to breathe some of the cleanest air in the world; to glimpse the largest population of mountain goats in our state; to energize you to come back down to earth at day’s end and fight to protect wilderness and clean air and biking and whatever else lights you up.
So you have six to eight weeks from now to get to the snow-free trailheads at, or near, Artist Point. Trails like Lake Ann, Ptarmigan Ridge, Table Mountain, Chain Lakes. You owe it to yourself to get up there before the snows fall.
I, for one, find that when I spend too much time low and inside a hunger for wilderness takes root. Like Edward Abbey, I find that my “…love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see…. No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, as vital to our lives as water and good bread.”