Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mountain to Ocean, Peak to Bay, Skiing to Swimming

22 September 2016

“Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he had felt most at home.”

― Paul Bowles, The Sheltering

I found this quotation on a travel website, and really liked it. Sort of describes our life at the moment.
We travel, we hang out, we live wherever we are. People ask, don’t you have a base? Our reply is that we have a storage unit.

For the moment, Bellingham is
home. Where we are for now. Our time here is lingering longer than we had hoped. Doctors are baffled over Richard’s hitchhikers, who have been around so long, they’ve become trespassers. Other doctors keep finding new things to check out for me, despite the fact that everything has been normal thus far. Such is aging, or something like that.

Of course, life isn’t all doctor visits. We waited until we had a clear sunny day
and headed up to Mount Baker, hiked around and admired the views.  The scenery is so incredibly beautiful, it almost looks like a movie set in all directions.  As if it isn't real.  It's too perfect and beautiful and scenic to be real. 

Okay, really, we went up to the Mt Baker ski area, where people take the ski lift to ski on Mt Shuksan. Makes perfect sense, right?

In the photos, the rocky pointed mountain is Mt Shuksan.  The snowy white dome that looks like ice cream, hiding behind the clouds, is Mt Baker.  Some days Baker is visible, but this day the peak was hiding.  Scenic and beautiful, but hiding.

Mt Baker is a sort of active volcano. Not active enough to
threaten the neighboring towns at the base. Not active enough to rumble, or leak lava, or shoot out anything more than the occasional puff of steam. But that little puff of steam keeps it alive and not asleep or dead. According to what I’ve read online, Mt Baker isn’t the kind of volcano that erupts violently. Something about the geologic evidence shows that, at least in the last 14,000 years, it hasn’t had an explosive eruption.
Baker is the baby volcano of the Baker volcanic field, being only about 80,000 to 140,000 years old. (The volcanic activity here has been going on for 1.5 million years, for comparison.)

The Native American name for Mt Baker is
Koma Kulshan, meaning “white sentinel with a puncture wound” – the puncture wound being most likely the crater, although during the warmer months some of the rocks show through the glacier and that could be it too. The name Baker came from the British sailor Joseph Baker, third lieutenant on the ship of explorer George Vancouver; Joe B saw Baker on 1792, and Vancouver renamed the mountain and recorded it in his journal, which was later published. Thus the name Baker became official.

Mt Baker is 10,781 feet high (3,286 meters), making it the third tallest mountain in Washington state. After Rainier, Baker is the second-most glaciated volcano in the Cascade range.

Baker is pretty much in Bellingham’s back yard. People here grow up skiing on Baker (or Shuksan). We know it’s a clear day when we can see Baker in the distance.

And then there’s the Ski to Sea event. This is a 93.5 mile (150 km) long team relay race with seven legs, each one being a different sport. The race begins at the ski area where we were today, at 7:30 AM. (The “racing pistol” is a blast of dynamite.) The first leg is 4 miles of cross-country skiing; next is 2.5 miles of downhill skiing (although snowboarding has recently been accepted as an alternative). Then a 2.5 miles downhill run, where participants lose about 2,200 feet in elevation. The fourth leg is a 42 mile road bike race, followed by a two-person canoe trip of 18.5 miles on the Nooksack River. (There are the occasional log jams or submerged trees along the way.) The sixth relay is cyclocross biking on 20-plus miles of trails, fields, and “some street sections thrown in,” according to the Ski to Sea website. Finally, the last leg is sea kayaking 5 miles across Bellingham Bay to the finish line.

So each team needs eight team members. And then there’s a huge party, with all the exhausted team participants and their supporters.

The entire race takes about six to eight hours for the typical team. Not a race for the faint of heart. Nor the couch potato.

But the Ski to Sea is a huge deal around here, with something like 300-350 teams competing. Spectators line the route, cheering on friends, acquaintances, or just cheering because it’s a pretty exciting event. I’ve had friends in Seattle come up to compete, it’s that big a deal. 

Local business sometimes put together a team to compete in the Ski to Sea (no swimming though).  Our favorite breakfast spot, the Bagelry, placed in the Ski to Sea race for something like ten years in a row, starting by coming in third place and working their way up to first place for several years.  

And no, we've never participated.  Richard and I aren't fans of snow, or cold water, or even racing.  We haven't been in Bellingham for the event, which happens over the Memorial Day weekend.  But, maybe next year.  

Since I need this knee replacement surgery, we'll schedule it and come back in time for whatever prep stuff.  We're thinking June.  But maybe we should get back to Bellingham for the Ski to Sea.  It sounds like a blog-worthy event, right?

The gorgeous dahlias are from the Bagelry.  The guy who started this bakery/café also grows beautiful dahlias.  Even though he sold the business and is now retired, he still brings in his dahlias to decorate the place.  (Best bagels in the state!)

That's about it for the excitement here.  There are always more photos than the narrative, so enjoy the views!

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