This story was published in a different form as an assignment for the MatadorU Travel Writing program.

Mount Baker, in the Northern Cascades, is one of the snowiest places in the world. In 1999, Baker’s ski area set the world record for recorded snowfall in a single season: 1,140 inches. In early February 2013, my boyfriend Dane and I set out for Mt. Baker with our camper and good friend Chad in tow. The Airstream was loaded with food, beer, and snowboarding gear, fueling our mission of exploration and potentially making this our “local mountain.” It resulted in my favorite ski experience thus far, and a sense of truly getting to know Mount Baker.

1

Setting up camp

We ferried and then drove from the Olympic Peninsula to reach Mt. Baker. Silver Lake Park is a county park 3 miles off Highway 547 in Maple Falls. Loop 6 has power and water in the winter, and rangers are happy to see winter campers. The camp was completely dark and empty when we arrived, but we slid into a comfortable spot and within minutes were leveled and hooked up, joking and warming our bellies over beers and a bonfire. Our ski shack for the next 4 days consisted of this 2003 28′ Airstream. Until recently, we'd also been living in the rig for over two years. Baker’s accommodations -- inns and cabins somewhere down the mountain -- range from $150 up to a few hundred / night. Most people looking to ski and stay cheap will stay in Bellingham and make the hour drive up. The camper let us stay in closer proximity at $27 / night, deep in nature and away from city lights and noise.

2

The Hairstream

The road to Baker has several points of interest worth checking out: the Wake and Bakery, Chair 9 Woodstone Pizza and Bar, and many small local farms. On the way up to ski Baker, we spotted the "Hairstream" salon and of course had to stop for the photo op.

3

Mount Baker

Mount Baker has been described as a snowboarder’s mountain. Whatever that means, I’m quickly falling in love with the place. I’m new to snowboarding and have only been to a few resorts throughout my learning process, but there's something appealing about this "locals'" mountain.

4

Mount Baker

There’s no resort, just a couple of small "lodges" that offer food and beverages, ski rentals, and lessons. Lift tickets are cheap and it’s pretty rare that you have to wait in a lift line of more than a couple fellow skiers. Also, several trails accessed from the lifts are left ungroomed, and backcountry skiing is easily accessible.

5

Mount Baker

Photographs attempt to describe the beauty of the place, but still not enough justice is given. Upon arrival I almost forgot what we'd come to do. The guys quickly reminded me though…within minutes we were on the slow-moving lift. On the hill, they took turns screaming by me, yelling "point!, heel, heel, heel!, lean forward!". We only broke for lunch, to eat sandwiches out of the cooler in the back of the truck, which sat lonely in the parking lot. Around 3:30pm, when we were all exhausted (especially me), we headed back to camp, cleaned ourselves up, and set out for the North Fork Beer Shrine.

6

North Fork Beer Shrine

The North Fork Beer Shrine in Deming, Washington is almost always busy with locals and skiers coming off the hill. It’s a locally owned and operated brewery, pizzeria, and wedding chapel. We lucked up and got three seats at the end of the bar, then started with a round of in-house brews. My favorites were the Bavarian-style Hefeweizen and the IPA (taps change depending on the season). Spicy Ale Steamers came next. All of North Fork’s seafood and other food items are fresh and locally sourced. If you’re dining for two, slices make a nice choice for an entrée. The (giant) pepperoni and cheese slices sell for $3.50.

7

North Fork Beer Shrine

We must have stayed for close to three hours, laughing about the events of the day and planning the runs for the next. We scarfed down nearly everything put in front of us, being sure to soak our last bits of bread in garlicky clam broth leftover from the steamers, and washed it all down with another round of pints. We left with full bellies and growlers to go.

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