It’s my second week in the beautiful city of Seattle. Recently, my life saw a total turn-over with me getting hitched, quitting my job and traveling all the way to the United States; I was still in this state of realizing all that was happening to me – which seemed more like a screenplay: right from the several months of wedding preparations, setting up baseline for myself in the US, handling last few months of my beloved job to finally getting married, being welcomed by a warm and huge new family, visiting relatives, packing for my big travel, leaving my homeland and landing in Washington. Indeed a lot to sync-in and much more coming up!
Saturday, 26th Jan 2019, our second weekend together and Nikhil had planned a surprise outing, a beginner’s hike close-by. All I knew was that we would be snowshoeing and I was pretty excited as well as nervous considering it was the first time I would be doing something like that. The preparations started few days before and this is when I saw how much passion my husband has towards these hikes. He ensured I had almost all the necessary gear – thanks to Decathlon and REI, we bought hiking shoes, snow-shoes, gaiters, hiking poles, beanie, gloves, sunglasses, jacket and a lot more! Of-course multiple layers of clothes have always been my companion if I have to venture out of our home here.
On that Saturday, we woke up at 5am, got ready, gathered all the hiking stuff we had set-up the previous night, along with the deliciously cooked pulao for lunch & the bread upma as breakfast on our drive to the destination. After ensuring we had all things ticked from my husband’s checklist for the outing, we headed out at 6:15am, drove to his friend Sai’s place, and left Seattle at 7am in his brand-new Jeep Cherokee. The drive was pleasant with lots of fun-talks, the filling breakfast and my power-nap before we reached close to our destination. We could see the lovely country-side all along, very soon the road-sides had snow and at 10 miles close to our destination we could witness the morning sun-rays and snow-covered mountain tops. This was a perfect pathway to welcome us on our hike to the Artist Point! Yes, we drove into the Mt Baker mountain area and I was revealed of what we would be up-to on this lovely day.
The trailhead to Artist Point is at the last parking area on the right at the end of the road, as we continue to drive on the Mount Baker Highway past the Picture Lake (which was frozen currently). This being my first hike with my hiker-husband, I was eager to see what it would be like. I had already had an aerial glimpse of these astonishing mountain ranges and the splendid Pacific North-west region while landing into Washington state (Nikhil says I was lucky to see such beautiful views and clear skies on my very first travel here). I gathered that this hike would be roughly a 3.5-mile round trip snowshoe with about 1000 ft elevation gain, and we dressed-up with all the appropriate gears and finally the snow-shoes. It was around 10:40am when we started and the trail was snow-covered right from the beginning. So, this would be my first proper hike on a snow after my two-and-half years earlier one to the Hamta Pass in the Himalayas where I did do roughly a 10km roundtrip on snow (with the hiking shoes and not the snowshoes). My liking towards snow had triggered then, and the very initial trail to Artist Point already seemed a perfect onset to that ignited spark. The weather was sunny with clear skies, perfect for a beginner like me, yet I was feeling a bit cold, especially my fingers. This being a popular destination, there were almost always clearly visible tracks to follow. I began walking, learning to snowshoe and handle the snow-poles. Initially there were various tracks in the open and a relatively flat terrain adjacent to the ski area. As we ascended, the trail got a bit steeper which followed exactly the ski area boundary that was clearly marked. There were already gorgeous views of snow-covered peaks and the north-face of Table-top Mountain, and we clicked a few pictures. Nikhil insisted we walk further and there would be much more to be amazed of, and we continued hiking. He kept capturing nice moments all-along using the Gopro.
As we marched further, I witnessed the sparkling snow all around – few portions converted into trails by the fellow hikers, and ample other portion untouched, glittering to the peak of its beauty, reflecting the warm sun-rays. The pine trees in between added to the picturesque scenes. I was getting slightly better with the snow-shoes, at the same time my body started warming up. Soon I wanted to remove a layer of clothing and my fingers got better. We continued walking; there were few steep ascents and I skid on the ground unable to find firm foot on the fresh steep snow. Nikhil came to my rescue, and taught me the technique to better utilize spikes on my snowshoe. I was enjoying it but wanted to take breaks since the ascent was a bit tiring till now. We reached a point where there were awesome views all-around and I was left spellbound already! It was a rewarding experience to ascend further into the wide open terrain. There were many routes to reach the Artist Point – few easier trails and a couple of steep climbs which we didn’t take. I heard from Nikhil that this area typically gets lots of snow: it even holds the world record for total amount of snowfall within a season. These snow-covered mountains and the white valleys were no less a proof to this fact! We clicked more pictures and continued our journey.
The final climb to Artist Point was a bit steeper again and flattened out into a beautiful slightly hilly area, with the mighty Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan visible on either sides. There were also the Huntoon point and the Table-top mountain among several other peaks which exemplified the beauty. All this was heavenly and words would fall short to describe the views all-around! I was exhausted, yet the beauty struck deep to me. We finally reached the place with a couple of pine trees standing tall on the snow-laden floor and this was Artist Point! It was around 1pm, the whole ascend was rewarding and I was glad that I had finally made it. Nikhil and Sai went in search of a place to rest and have lunch, while I was still rejoicing and assimilating such beauty all-around. They soon found one and I followed. We made a flat surface amidst the snow to sit back and relax. Nikhil had tips for almost everything we ventured upon, right from the way of dumping backpacks on snow to the final scanning before leaving a place we took halts at! We opened up our lunch that was a mixture of sweets and savouries with the yummy pulao cooked by my husband. I usually used to see pictures of him having royal lunches like these amidst the mountains and today I was with him too! Felt amazing! The eat energized us, and the serene view soothed our eyes. It was windy and I started having trouble with my fingers again trying to get them warm; also juggling with my smuff, beanie and the goggles. Nikhil was suggesting that I explore around and kept insisting on how I should handle my trouble and this got me irritated for a while. Anyways, after few moments of these rectification, I was fine and stood still witnessing the majestic glory; there was silence around, with only the sound of wind – all of these calming the mind. Peace!
After lunch, we started taking a lot pictures, experimenting with the Gopro, DSLR lens and our phone cameras. Many funny ones, few candid and few poses – lovely clicks and lovelier memories with them! Capturing Mt Baker, Mt Shuksan and several others in the background, it felt like me and Nikhil were having a mini post-wedding photo shoot at the Artist Point! What more could we have asked for; it was an amazing and an enriching hike all this while.
My very informative husband who was on this hike for the third time went on to describe further: a short 1.5 miles round trip to Huntoon Point is a great way of taking in more of the scenery; people also tend to extend their hike to eight miles by circumnavigating the Table-top mountain. He also added that Mt. Shuksan has always amazed him on his yearly hikes here and is a steep difficult summit point. Overall, it was well spent two hours at the Artist Point, with lots of clicks, snow-fights, panoramic capture experiment, photosphere click and we finally decided to head back so that we reach the parking area well before sunset. It was around 2:45pm and we started the descend. I loved walking on fresh snow ignoring the trails and my legs would go deep into the snow, at times till my knee! We kept walking down and my skids continued; again Nikhil to my rescue! I imitated a Snow-fairy motion and he captured those silly moments for me. We decided to take the steep section which we had skipped on our onward journey and I had another fun experience there. We saw a fellow-hiker glissading down this section and Nikhil asked if I wanted to try; we then decided that I would do it at half the height. Eventually, I glissaded down the fresh snow, and it was a thrilling 10+ second slide which I enjoyed a lot. While glissading, I was also busy trying to keep my feet up and not touching the snow, and handling my beanie & smuff which almost came off by the time I finished. There was considerable snow collected in my clothes that I had to put-off, after which I was fine to proceed 😛 Sai, Nikhil and my talks continued all-along as we recollected our journey till now. We had started back pretty late and headed down slowly, and there were very few fellow-hikers around. I kept looking back regularly to get a glimpse of where we had been, and the views kind-of kept calling me back each time! I was overwhelmed by the whole experience and a sense of deep satisfaction and sheer joy encircled me 🙂
It was 4:30pm when we reached the parking area to see it empty except for few cars, probably of people whom we saw camping on the hills overnight. We removed our gears, got back to normal attire and got back into the car, all set to drive back. The frozen Picture Lake was the last thing we saw, and it probably is much more beautiful when it is not frozen 😀 The drive back was the same highway with the mountain peaks visible all-along and my mind was still lingering amidst them, somewhere in the magical Artist Point! This was my first snowshoeing experience, an activity I certainly would like to re-do over and over again 🙂 With my hiker husband along, I am assured I surely will! Loads of love to him for making this superb trip happen!