If you can see Mt. Baker, you are part of The Experience

Spring 2024 Newsroom

Outdoor news and happenings from around the PNW


Mt. Rainier National Park to pilot timed entry system

In response to a drastic increase in popularity over the past decade, the National Park Service   announced Mt. Rainier National Park will implement a pilot timed entry system for the 2024 peak season.

Beginning May 24, timed entry reservations are required to enter the southern Paradise Corridor from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. On July 3, the eastern Sunrise Corridor will also require timed entry reservations, and both entrances will keep the reservation system through September 2. 

Timed entry systems are put in place during peak hours in peak seasons when fragile park ecosystems are often overburdened - hugged to death - by throngs of eager visitors. The system is intended to reduce wait times, congestion and impacts on trails caused by overcrowding, according to NPS.

Northwest Tune-Up set for July 12-14

Bellingham’s bike, beer and music festival is ramping up for another classic summer weekend, with Northwest Tune-Up (NWTU) set to take over the town’s waterfront July 12-14. NWTU announced on February 20 it already opened up its early bird ticket sales, limited van camping spots and discounted hotel rates for this year’s festival.

Admission to the event gets you not only a chance to see great artists, but also includes unlimited access to demo some of the industry’s cutting edge mountain, gravel, commuter and electric bikes. Everyone is invited to test out their dream bike at the Demo and Expo Village on the waterfront. NWTU also offers free shuttles to and from downtown Bellingham to nearby Galbraith Mountain for more extensive testing and access to a weekend of race events. Anyone arriving at the festival with their own bike can also enjoy a free bike valet.

For the thrill-seekers, a ticket to NWTU also allows access to a host of races and workshops, including the two-day Galbraith Mountain Enduro (part of the Cascadia Dirt Cup) the popular pump track race, jump and cornering clinics with guided teaching, the waterfront jump jam, and the zero gravity bike show.

If you like bikes, or beer, or just being out in the sun with good live music, Northwest Tune-Up might be a decent way to spend a weekend, or just an afternoon.

Three-day early bird passes are $135 for adults aged 18 and up, and $50 for kids aged 13-17. Early bird tickets will end on Tuesday, May 14, when prices rise to $165 for adults and $60 for youth. Kids under 12 get in free with a paying adult.

Single day passes are $80 for adults and $35 for youth, and additional, music-only ticket tiers will be released in the coming months on www.nwtuneup.com.

Headline artists have yet to be announced, but NWTU is excited to continue working with Hunter Motto, talent buyer at Seattle’s Crocodile music venue, who brought past headliners like Wolf Parade, STRFKR, and Travis Thompson to past Tune-Ups.

“Ski” portion of Ski to Sea up in the air due to low snowfall

Whatcom County’s iconic Ski to Sea relay race could be forced to forgo its cross-country ski and downhill ski/snowboard sections of the race due to extremely low snow accumulation on Mt. Baker.

In a February 13 press release, event organizers said while it is still too early in the season to make a decision, the two snow-dependent events could be replaced with an alpine run replacing the cross-country ski leg, and a mountain bike portion at Marine Park replacing the downhill ski/snowboard leg.

A March 7 committee meeting will evaluate where current snow levels are, and if any new snow is expected through the late winter months.

“As of today, we are looking at a model that mirrors 2015, the last time snow levels were this low,” stated the February 13 press release. The 2015 race was kicked off with a mass-start alpine run at the top of Mt. Baker Highway.

“While we are looking into this plan, please note that it is in no way confirmed at this time,” organizers emphasized. “We simply want to share with you any and all updates we are considering as we know it will affect your team and who does what leg.”

As of February 23, 264 teams had registered for the relay race, with a team cap at 500. Early bird specials ended on February 29, but new teams can still join until registration closes at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22. The race will be held on Sunday, May 26.

For more information about participating, volunteering, or anything else, visit

New Galbraith Mountain bike race set for June

Local event organizers Quest Races announced on February 12 it is in the final stages of securing permits for Galbraith Supreme, a massive, 33-mile mountain bike race through dozens of trails in the legendary Galbraith Mountain recreation area.

Seasoned mountain bike veterans will have a chance to truly challenge themselves with this race, boasting a lung-busting, 33-mile course with over 5,200 feet of elevation change. For those who want to experience the best Galbraith has to offer, but aren’t up for nearly three dozen miles of cycling in one day, the race offers two- and three-person relay races, with legs as short as eight miles with just 850 feet of vert.

Quest Races organizer Brent Molsberry said his team spent weeks putting together what they believe to be the perfect showcase of all Galbraith Mountain has to offer.

“Even if people have ridden it a number of times before, there’s probably chunks of trail that you’ll go on this race that you’ve never been on,” Molsberry said. “It’s really cool to showcase the diversity of great riding that we have at our fingertips here in Bellingham.”

“The ultimate Galbraith Mountain bike race,” as Quest Races’ website puts it, is scheduled for Saturday, June 1. Quest Races specializes in swimruns, an amphibious sport that combines – you guessed it – swimming and running, and long distance adventure races.

“Galbraith is world class mountain biking,” Molsberry said. “A lot of people come up and ride portions of it. But this is really the grand tour of Galbraith.” 

Signups have not yet been released as of press time, but Molsberry encourages anyone interested in Galbraith Supreme to join the Quest Races newsletter to get new information as soon as its out, or to visit www.questraces.com.

Cougar attacks cyclists near Snoqualmie Falls

A group of cyclists were attacked by a wild cougar on a trail northeast of Fall City, Washington on February 17, with one woman sustaining neck and face injuries from the attack, resulting in an extended hospital stay.

According to a press release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), officers responded to a report of a cougar attack, capturing and euthanizing the 75-pound, young male cougar at the scene.

“We are thankful that the victim is stable after the incident,” said WDFW lieutenant Erik Olson. “The people on scene took immediate action to render aide, and one of our officers was able to arrive within minutes to continue medical aid and coordinate transport. We may have had a very different outcome without their heroic efforts.”

According to the press release, eyewitnesses reported a second cougar on the scene, but officers were unable to locate the second animal.

In 2022, WDFW estimated roughly 3,600 cougars residing in Washington, but said attacks on humans are “extremely rare.”

In the past century, Washington has seen only two fatal cougar attacks, and approximately 20 encounters that resulted in human injury, according to WDFW.

WDFW submitted the cougar for examination at Washington State University, and will release more information on the exact age and condition of the big cat when tests are complete.

In the extremely unlikely case that you encounter an attacking cougar, WDFW suggests fighting back, as cougars are known to flee when encountering aggressive human behavior.

“Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back using anything within reach,” WDFW’s website says. “If you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake.”

For more information on how to respond to cougar encounters, how to protect property and livestock from predators, and hunting information, visit WDFW’s cougar webpage at bit.ly/3OZ42YH.

Mt. Baker Hill Climb awarded ninth best North American gran fondo

To ring in the New Year, Gran Fondo Guides, the pro cycling news site, named Mt. Baker Hill Climb as North America’s 9th-best race on January 1.

In just its sixth year, the Mt. Baker Hill Climb brought 450 riders from around the world to compete in a daunting 22-mile, 4,440-foot climb up Mt. Baker Highway (SR542) from Glacier to Artist Point.

Former professional cyclist Phil Gaimon competed in the 2023 hill climb, and took nearly six minutes off the previous best with a time of 1:14:42.

Gaimon, who authored multiple books on the professional cycling world and now runs the popular cycling YouTube channel “Worst Retirement Ever” said closing off to car traffic was crucial for the safety and enjoyment of all riders.

“It went better than I thought, to be honest,” Gaimon said. “The pack part was super safe, I was nervous about the beginning in the flat part, but a couple of guys set a really good pace and once we hit the switchbacks, it was every man doing their own pace.”

A gran fondo – Italian for “big ride” – is a long-distance cycling race that usually incorporates a mass start for both amateurs and professionals to compete, similar to a marathon.

Touted by Gran Fondo Guides as one of the most scenic and geographically isolated races on the continent, the 2024 Mt. Baker Hill Climb is set for Sunday, September 15.

Riders can save $10 off registration fees by signing up before May 31st, but the event is capped at 450 riders across three divisions, and the race fills up quickly, according to Whatcom Events, the race organizer.

For more information on the race, visit www.bakerhillclimb.com.

FjallRaven retail store coming to downtown Bellingham

Swedish outdoor apparel and equipment company Fjallraven is set to open a new retail location in downtown Bellingham at 128 W. Holly Street, directly on the busy corner of W. Holly Street and Cornwall Avenue.

The store is expected to open sometime during Spring 2024, and will hiring around eight positions, according to Brandon Smith, a spokesperson working on behalf of Fjallraven. Store hours have not yet been set.

"We chose to open a store in Bellingham because we know the outdoor community there aligns closely with Fjallraven's mission," Smith said. "We've seen success at our other store locations in the Pacific Northwest so it made sense for us to expand across Washington and further engage with the outdoor community in the PNW."

The store, which specializes in high end outdoor apparel, especially its popular “Kånken” backpacks, will be just the latest around the region, with stores already established in Seattle, Portland, Marysville, Vancouver and Victoria.

Boundary Bay Brewery’s Wave Breaker commemorates late paddler, raises money for local youth watersports

Local Bellingham beer manufacturer Boundary Bay Brewery announced a new, limited-edition brew to commemorate the life and legacy of Peter Marcus a year after his passing from cancer.

Wave Breaker Pale Ale will help the community raise money for the sport Marcus loved, and keep contributing to the charitable endeavors that he worked so hard for.

Marcus was a popular leader in Bellingham’s paddling community, and the town’s outdoor community generally, and is credited with starting the Paddle4Food Relay, which raised money for the Bellingham Food Bank, the Bellingham Rough Water Race (now dubbed the Peter Marcus Rough Water Race), the Paddler’s Film Festival, chairing the sea kayak leg of Ski to Sea, coaching countless youth sports and volunteering with local nonprofit Bellingham Youth Paddlesports.

Longtime friend and local paddler Brandon Nelson said Marcus was a natural leader for Bellingham’s paddling community.

“He filled his tank so full that it was spilling over and then he said, ‘Okay, I’m full now, how can I give to the community? What can I give to the community? What can I give to my friends to make this area even more special?’ And then he did it.”

A portion of the proceeds generated by Wave Breaker Pale Ale will be donated to Bellingham Youth Paddlesports, which encourages the next generation of paddlers to get out on the water and lowers barriers to the often-expensive world of watersports.

Boundary Bay Brewery general manager Janet Lightner saw the impact Marcus had on the community, and hopes the commemorative brew can sustain that charitable energy.

“The Boundary team is honored to play a role in keeping Peter’s memory and philanthropic spirit alive.” Lightner said. “Wave Breaker is a tribute to the man who shined both on and off the water.”

Washington State Parks seeks to hire 300 aides

Washington’s 140 historic sites, trails, state and marine parks don’t just clean up after themselves. It takes the hard work and dedication of park aides to keep our beautiful state parks clean.

That’s why Washington State Parks (WSP) is seeking to hire 300 park aides for the upcoming spring, summer and fall busy seasons.

Park aides are tasked with registering campers, cleaning campgrounds and maintaining facilities, and many park aides go on to careers as park rangers, or to work in the environmental, outdoor and public lands industries, according to WSP.

Olyvia Buday began her career as a seasonal park aide before rising through the ranks to become area manager for all South Puget Sound parks. She said working in the great outdoors is a benefit unlike any other.

“Working for state parks is a great opportunity to have a career that eliminates the monotony of a desk job,” Buday said. “Every day is different.”

WSP said the job is perfect for recent high school and college graduates, retired workers looking for an encore, or military veterans transitioning to civilian employment.

Pay for a park aide ranges from $16.90 to $20.33 an hour, and senior park aides can earn between $19.40 and $23.40 an hour, depending on experience. Many different areas are hiring, and prospective aides can apply for positions across the state, or in specific areas at bit.ly/3UWB7IB.

State’s national parks receive $1.5 million in funding

Washington’s three national parks received a combined $1.5 million in funding from its official philanthropic partner, Washington’s National Park Fund (WNPF). The combined total is a record-breaking sum for the organization, according to a February 22 press release.

Over $987,000 in initial funding will be distributed to the parks, supporting 42 priority projects that park commissioners say they cannot complete due to budgetary restrictions. An additional $540,000 will be doled out to the parks later in 2024.

The 42 proposed projects fall into four main categories: science and research, visitor experience, volunteerism and stewardship, and inclusivity. WNPF raises the funds through individual and corporate donors, park lodge guest contributions, fundraisers, and the statewide national park license plate program, among other methods.

Mt. Rainier National Park received $552,034 to fund projects like online trail guides, trail improvements and maintenance and hiring bilingual rangers, among many others. An additional $43,621 will be awarded to the park later in the year.

North Cascades National Park received $161,925 to go towards wilderness internships, bear education programs, rare carnivore research, and support for incident responders, to name a few. The “American Alps” park will receive another $199,916 later in the year.

Lastly, Olympic National Park received $274,484 in funding for various youth programs, aviation training for park rangers, restoring webcams on Hurricane Ridge and elk monitoring projects, along with other ongoing projects. Olympic will receive an additional $296,385 “when the park is ready to receive it,” per the press release.

Alex Day, director of marketing and communications at WNPF, says the money raised didn’t just come out of thin air – but was because of the countless individuals who care about these wild gems in Washington’s backyard.

“This isn’t just a milestone,” Day said. “It’s a testament to the power of our supporters’ shared commitment to preserving Washington’s national parks for future generations. … Each of our supporters has helped leave an incredible impact on these beloved places.”

WNPF was cofounded by former governor and senator Dan Evans and mountaineer Lou Whittaker to support Washington’s national parks, and has awarded more than $7.5 million to the parks in the past decade.

To make a donation, or to find out more information about the funded projects, visit www.wnpf.org.

Fairhaven’s Hundred Acre Wood home to outdoor classroom

After a decade of work, Fairhaven’s Hundred Acre Wood is now home to a brand new outdoor classroom, thanks to Recreation Northwest.

In collaboration with Bellingham Parks and Recreation and funded by corporate and individual donors, Recreation Northwest completed the final phase of construction on the outdoor classroom in early 2024, and held a ribbon cutting ceremony with Bellingham mayor Kim Lund on February 21.

Recreation Northwest executive director Todd Elsworth said the urban forest in Fairhaven was already used informally as an outdoor education space for years, and this was a way to finally make that permanent, while highlighting the natural beauty of the area.

“There are many individuals and formal groups that use the Hundred Acre Wood urban forest for their outdoor activities and environmental education programs,” Elsworth said. “Having dedicated places for people to connect with one another and with nature is important for our community.”

The new classroom is the cherry on top of years of work spent upgrading a park that has served the people of Bellingham for over 100 years. A natural amphitheater carved into the slope of a former blackberry bramble accommodates 25 people on native wood benches, along with space for ADA seating in front of the stone stage. A covered pavilion provides shelter for the space, intended for environmental education and small public performances.

An adventure trail leads from the “back door” of the amphitheater to a dry creek bed, and will provide ample opportunity for young kids to get their energy out. A native plant garden will also give the public an opportunity to learn about invasive and native plant species in their backyards.

Recreation Northwest became Fairhaven Park’s official park stewards in 2014, and have been upgrading and maintaining trails, protecting wetlands, and hosting community work parties regularly ever since.

The new facility will be reservable through Bellingham Parks and Recreation for scheduled programs and events, and will be open to the public when not reserved. To make a reservation, visit www.cob.org/services/recreation.    X