Drive about 50 miles east from Bellingham, Washington, along a beautiful mountain road, and you come to Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. You occasionally glimpse Mount Baker from the highway.
At one or two points you see a mountain which you think doesn't look like Baker. Then you come to a sign that says Picture Lake. You walk down the short trail which goes around the lake. Suddenly, before you, reflected in the lake, is Mount Shuksan.
You continue on the road to Austin Pass, climbing and winding up the side of the mountain, unaware of the treat awaiting you. Then before your eyes, on the right looms Mount Baker, ascending 6,000 feet above you.
And on your left, Mount Shuksan, looking so close you feel you could reach out and touch it.
Mount Baker reaches an altitude of 10,775 feet; it was the most recently active volcano in the Cascades until Mount St. Helens erupted. Mount Baker was active in the 1970's, spectacularly but not explosively.
Several previous names for this mountain survive: La Gran Montana del Carmelo (The Great Mountain of the Carmelite) was the name given it by the first Europeans to visit the area. However, the Indians were there first, and the Nooksak had already named it Quck-Sam-ik (White Rock Mountain). To the Lummi Indians, it was Komo Kulshan (Shot at the Point), referring to an Indian legend. The name Baker comes from the third lieutenant on Captain Vancouver's ship.
Mount Shuksan is, at 9,127 feet, one of the highest non-volcanic peaks in the Cascades. Its name is a Skagit Indian word meaning "roaring mountain," from the noise of its waterfalls and many landslides.
©D.L. Mark 1997
If you arrived here from Acadia to Zion: America's National Parks, return to North Cascades National Park.
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