Ocean to Snow Road

Home Inspector with Helm Home Inspections

I had the occasion to work in the village of Glacier yesterday.  It was a grey rainy day but thought I might take a few pictures of the diversity we find on State Route 542, more commonly known as the Mt. Baker Highway.  This road travels from near the water in Bellingham, through small towns and villages and ends up at the Mt Baker ski area.  Glacier is the last town before climbing in switchbacks to the 4500 foot base of the ski area.  While the ski area isn't high altitude compared to areas in California or Colorado, it consistently gets more snow than any where else in the country.  In fact, a few years ago, this area got a world record snow fall for the season.  Snow is measured by feet instead of inches, with 20 feet being common.

I started my drive in Bellingham (it takes about an hour to go from salt water to snow).  On the way there are many interesting things to see.  The first is the Mt. Bakery Winery near the town of Deming.

Vinyard at Mt Baker Winery

Also in the town of Deming is the Nooksack Tribal Casino.  The Nooksack tribe is a very small tribe that derives most of its income from the small casino it owns.  The Nooksack also give their name to the river that runs from the mountains to the sea in Whatcom County.  The tribal name for Mt. Baker (Komo Kulshan), which means the great white watcher is a Nooksack word.

Nooksack Tribal Casino

Also in Deming is a log home building company.  The logs are brought to the yard, stripped of their bark and assembled into a home.  Everything is numbered, the home is dismantled and loaded on trucks to be taken to the building site where it is reassembled.

Log home building

Along the lower reaches of the highway are many christmas tree farms.  More christmas trees are shipped around the country from Whatcom County than from anywhere else in the country.  Most of these farms also allow people to come and cut their own.

Christmas tree farm

Near the unincorporated village of Welcome, we find a micro-brewery and a mile or so later a state fish hatchery, producing salmon smolts for release in the river.

State fish hatchery

After leaving Deming, the road parallels the North Fork of the Nooksack River.  This fork originates in a steep glacial cirque appropriately named Nooksack Cirque.  The North Fork, as well as the Middle Fork are both Glacier fed streams, running high in the Spring when melt begins.  The next community we encounter is the town of Maple Falls,  the only Post Office location this close to the mountains.

Entering the town of Maple Falls

Between Maple Falls and Glacier, the road takes on more characteristics of a mountain road.  We are now definitely in the foothills and, on a clear day, snow will become visible in the mountains. Soon we reach the village of Glacier, known for its restaurants, ski outfitters, and river guides.  It is the jumping off point for going into the North Cascades.

Entering Glacier

A Glacier, Wa. scene

Just outside Glacier we encounter the Ranger Station for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and information center for the Nat'l Forest, the Mt. Baker National Recreation Area and the North Cascades National Park.  This is the place one registers for back country permits, gets weather and trail information, and any other mountain info.  There are many trailheads up the highway from here and one can get deep into the wildest mountain range, see the most glaciers of anywhere in the lower forty-eight.  While the mountains here aren't as high as in Colorado or California, the vertical relief is as great or greater.  A 9000 foot peak here rises from sea level so has a full 9000 feet of vertical relief.  The Picket Range in the North Cascades is probably the most challenging mountaineering in this country. The North Cascades National Park is, I believe, the only national park with a complete Wilderness rating.

Ranger Station

View up the highway

Since the weather was bad, and it was a work day, I didn't go further up the road.  Sometime soon I'll go up on a clear day and get some mountain pictures.  I hope you enjoyed this little travelogue.  The main reason I came here to live 35 years ago was the close proximity between salt water and mountains.

Thanks for looking.

David Helm


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David Helm, Inspector, Helm Home  Inspections Bellingham, Washington  Licensed Home  Inspector #272                                                       WSDA  Licensed Structural Pest Inspector  #69844              http://www.helmhomeinspections.com           HelmHomeInspections@yahoo.com                                                                               


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Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector
I always like that drive, as long as it is not dark or icy. It can be treacherous.
Jun 16, 2007 06:01 AM #1
Joan Snodgrass
Midamerica Referral Network - Kimberling City, MO
Thanks Dave.  Very interesting.  Loved your pictures.  Reminds me a bit of NW Oregon.
Jun 16, 2007 06:10 AM #2
Danny Smith
I liked this post Dave! You certainly live and work in a beautiful place! I'm envious!
Jun 17, 2007 03:54 PM #3
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp

Thanks Steve, While it can be ice, the highway department keeps it clear all winter so skiers can get to the mountains.  Onc snowline is reached, the walls of snow on either side of the road begin to feel like driving in a tunnel.

A little like NW Oregon except that in Washington the mountains are more than volcanoes.  There are 5 major volcanoes, but the North Cascades are young tectonic uplift mountains; very steep and craggy.

Thanks for stopping by Danny.  To me, this is the only place to live.

Jun 18, 2007 02:43 AM #4
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor
That is what I would call being in the country ok!
Aug 24, 2007 12:32 PM #5
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David Helm

Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp
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