Off Season

Words and Photos by Brandon Scott Herrell

“Off season” is a funny time in the mountains. Washington can be kind of a funny place though, even mid-spring. Ascending the scenic highway past empty ski lodges in 8ft snow, we wondered - “where is everyone?”. The truth in Washington in the Spring time is that on any given morning there’s no way to tell what the sky will do that same afternoon. This coupled with a four hour drive from the city can buy you a mountain largely to yourself on a Wednesday afternoon warm enough to snowshoe in a t-shirt under motionless chairlifts.

Artist’s Point is only a couple steep miles up from the parking lot of one of those empty lodges. The trail earns its name by the 360 degree alpine panorama at the top showing Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, and Baker Lake to name a few. On our lucky Wednesday afternoon the two miles and 1,000 ft elevation rushed by under our feet. We won’t tell the camera rental place about tripping on my showshoes and plowing lens-first into the snow. Twice. 

A lot of people may not know this, but if you forget your wine key you can open your bottle with a titanium spork in a pinch. You may need our friend Ellis for this technique. He’s available upon request. A while back I discovered that ham and gruyere on baguette is the ideal hike meal and you can’t tell me anything different. If you plan to snowshoe in the sun and eat lunch at your destination - get yourself some gaiters. We half-jogged-half-glissaded back to the car to outrace our soggy, rapidly freezing feet. Goretex is great for keeping water out, but it can’t stop snow from getting packed into your socks. 

“Off season”, is from a mountain town dialect and translates loosely to “all restaurants are closed”. Thankfully there are worse fates than cooking all your meals outside. If you can get yourself a job taking photos, you’ll have the benefit of leaving the cooking to your friends while you take the pictures. No one wants me in charge of the pancakes anyway. After three rounds of coffee it was time to pack for lunch at the waterfall. Liz took extra care to bring the wine key.

There’s another benefit to taking photos if you don’t particularly enjoy playing cards. Forest has been playing a lot of Gin Rummy lately and spent an hour or so dominating the game while the risotto cooked. Nooksack Falls roared through the forest just beyond our lunch site, and we spent the golden hours of the early evening near the waterfall’s edge (not without coffee and more wine).

 

So maybe the dog went missing for an hour or so, and maybe we had to make a last minute run to the gas station for chicken noodle soup (off season), but so long as someone’s there to keep the fire going - things can’t be all that bad.

The last advantage to taking photos that I’ll mention here is that after two days of hauling your gear up and down a snowy mountain and around a waterfall - you’re not likely to have any trouble getting to sleep. It was finally in the morning on the way back to the city that we found the ideal tiny mountain town cafe - open for breakfast even in the off season.

For more, take a look at all the items from Off-Season