Hwy 542 to Mount Baker has got to be the best way to travel into the North Cascades. From here you can drive all the way up to Artist Point, where you’re already near 8,000 feet and can have excellent views right from the get-go. It really seems almost too easy to park your car, take your backpack and go climb Mt. Baker at 10,778 feet, but looks of course are deceiving.
Even without taking a step, the view from the parking lot is dramatic and alpine. And taking a little loop trail, after a couple minutes the parking lot is obscured and the thin air has blocked out what little noise there was. And you‘re all alone with the silence and the bright sunlight, as you gaze off into the hazy distance.
On the way down I stop at Nooksack falls. On the one side the falls cascade off the rocky precipice and on the other side a rushing torrent of a river comes down the mountain. They churn together in the middle in a deep pool of granite grey opaque water before continuing down the mountain. The sound is always the best part. It blocks out everything else.