Story and photos by Alicia Lycan
From the top of Mt. Baker to the shores of the Salish Sea, our Cascadian paradise holds endless possibilities. No matter what recreational activity you enjoy, you can probably do it here. And most likely, you can do it year-round.
Even better, with the long days of spring and summer, it’s possible to do all your favorite activities in one day. You could snowboard, skateboard and then paddle board. Or ski, mountain bike and kite surf. Any combination of sports at various elevations in our world-class backyard will leave you tired and fulfilled. One day last spring, I took on a trifecta of skiing, paddling and mountain biking. Here’s how it went:
6:30 a.m.: Wake up! Coffee and breakfast, then it’s off to Mt. Baker Ski Area for 10 inches of powder. Last night we packed our gear for the day and charged our camera batteries – it’s hard to remember everything so early in the morning and before the first cup of coffee. Kayaks and skis are strapped down on top of the car, bikes on the rear rack, fresh layers, and gear are ready to be loaded. I have a bag of mountain biking gear, a bin of whitewater gear and a backpack of ski gear, which helps simplify the preparation.
Noon: Tired and hungry! We haven’t stopped all morning; the snow in and out of bounds has just been too good. When the snow is fluffy and avalanche conditions are stable, we tend to stick to our favorite spot: the Shuksan Arm. We ski as many laps as we can fit into our morning. If conditions are less stable, we like to ski after each other around the ski area to all our favorite spots. Back at the car, we load up and pull out our lunches because we’ll be eating on the go on the way down to the Nooksack River put-in.
1 p.m.: Time to get on the river! We have two options as we follow the Nooksack River west on Highway 542: the north fork or the middle fork. Before we leave the mountain we check river flows to make our final decision. We’re in luck, the middle fork is running at a great flow and within our group’s comfort zone. If you have the class 5 chops, the middle fork is a real treat. This three-mile section of river, starting at the middle fork diversion dam, begins with a 90-foot-deep canyon and is non-stop fun until you reach the end of the canyon at Mosquito Lake Road.
If you prefer easier whitewater with breathtaking views, the Horseshoe Bend Trail just east of Glacier on Highway 542 is easily accessible and rewarding. Follow the trail upstream for a more difficult section of whitewater or put in at the bridge for a Class 3 paddle ending just south of Glacier. New to whitewater? Consider a guided rafting trip on this section.
4 p.m.: Next stop: Galbraith Mountain. We are taking off the river and changing into our mountain bike gear. We eat more food to recharge for the last leg of our triple shred adventure.
6 p.m.: We park across from Galbraith Lane Road and begin climbing the forested mountain. As we pedal, we try to decide which sequence of trails to ride down. I vote for my favorite combo: Evolution, U-Line and Atomic Dog. I love the flow of the trails and the views, but most of all the last light settling through the trees as we reach the U-Line viewpoint over Lake Padden and Bellingham Bay just in time to enjoy the sunset.
All that’s left is deciding between heading to our favorite brewery or firing up the grill to finish off another incredible day in our backyard.
Alicia Lycan’s passion for creative storytelling is rooted in her love for whitewater kayaking and outdoor adventure. She has kayaked and competed on rivers around the world. shegoesinc.com