USA!(?) USA!(?) USA!(?)
April 6-19 (Mt Baker, Skagit Valley, and Seattle, WA) —
At the border, we sadly felt right at home. There was random racism from those in authority – I’m sure the 85-year-old Sikhs with walkers deserved the full body cavity searches they were getting and it had nothing to do with the fact that they were the only people wearing turbans at the border crossing. There was also inexplicable bureaucracy. The Chilean blueberries that we purchased in Canada – which are identical in brand and packaging to the Chilean blueberries one purchases in the States – are forbidden fruit. Or, at least one of our three packages was illegal but the other two were not confiscated. V is convinced that the border agent’s wife told him to “pick up some blueberries on the way home” and he just figured it was easier to get them from us. We absolutely, positively could not have any citrus. But then he thought it was fine that V kept the limes that she needed for her G&T’s.
When the welcome committee finally let us back in, we headed to Mt. Baker Ski Area. Within five minutes of the border, we had a bald eagle land right in front of us on a tree and saw a huge “God Bless America and Sarah Palin” yard sign. It felt like home – or at least home circa 2008.
Neither of us had ever skied the PNW, so we did not know what to expect other than knowing that Mt. Baker annually gets the most snow in the US. As we drove up to Baker, the rain turned to snow and by the time we neared the resort, it was dumping.
We knew we could stay in the parking lot overnight but it was dumping so hard that we couldn’t find the parking lot. We found one of the heads of ski patrol – we had to inform him of a bunch of guys who had flipped their Range Rover on the way down (they were fine) – and he told us where we could overnight park for as long as we’d like. We woke up to 18” on the ground. Winter was back!
We skied in-bounds because that much snow makes the backcountry treacherous. Mt. Baker ski area is a great little mountain, but it was a new type of skiing for me. I’m used to heavy snow – 3L year skiing Sierra cement took care of that – but the conditions were total white out. Which I’ve also had plenty of and know to stick to the trees, but everyone around seemed not to care and kept ripping open faces despite the flat light. So we skied by Braille until our legs gave out.
We found out that Baker would be closing the lifts Mon-Thurs (it was a Sunday) AND that Baker allows people to skin up and ski “in bounds” when the lifts are closed. Given the avy conditions in the backcountry, this provided us with a relatively safe option to get some more turns in. We spent Monday skinning and skiing and then, once the backcountry settled down, we explored the Baker backcountry for few days.
We needed supplies as well as a little regular maintenance on Tigger, so we headed back down to civilization. After a fantastic plate of carne asada in Bellingham at La Gloria, we went to Camping World in Burlington, WA, in the Skagit Valley halfway between Bellingham and Seattle. We didn’t have an appointment (“damn hippies in the RV with no sense of time”), so CW said that they would slot us in when they could. It took a couple of days to get it done. We were fine with that as the Skagit Valley has a great bus system ($2 for a day pass) that allowed us to explore the area while Tigs was getting worked on. And the workers loved Pancha so they walked her while we were out.
In addition to hitting hot yoga a few times, we got to see the world famous (?) tulip festival:
And go for a run along Padilla Bay.
And eat a terrific country fried steak at the Island Cafe in Anacortes after the run. (Well, actually, V ate it. I opted for the marginally healthier plate of eggs, hashbrowns and, er, um, a belgian waffle).
Tigger got fixed, and after some more skiing in the Baker backcountry, we headed to Seattle to see our friend Jayashree. J is one of the most amazing women we know – she’s a neurosurgeon as well as a tremendous athlete and outdoor enthusiast. Given that J’s house is work of art, we warned her that we were pretty gross from all the skiing. She reminded us that she is a climber and that we were fine so long as we had showered within the last two weeks (phew, made the cut off. barely). On the way, we stopped off in Bellevue to eat seriously amazing pork dumplings at Din Tai Fung. We first discovered Din Tai Fung during a work trip to Seoul, South Korea. There are something like 5 locations worldwide and we have now been to 3 of them. DTF is just that good. You must go.
As mentioned, J’s house is amazing with views of Rainier across Lake Washington.
J had an old college friend visiting, so she busted open the cellar and brought out some of her best stuff. V cooked an amazing dinner for everyone, and copious amounts of wine were drunk. We spent the next few days chilling with J, eating well, and laughing. We even got to hit the climbing gym. V is hooked.
We didn’t get to see anyone from SG because it happened to be the week of the firm meeting in Houston (and then the MS 150), but we’ll catch them the next time we roll through Seattle.
J hooked us up with some of her friends to climb & ski Mount St. Helens and gave us beta on skiing Mt. Rainier, so V and I decided to fit in a crevasse rescue class before we headed down that way. After thanking J profusely for her hospitality, back to Baker we went.