A Night to Remember
I am writing this post on day 5 after a long weekend of travel chasing night skies and i may be slightly incoherent with my words here because of lack of sleep. The trip before this was somewhat unsuccessful due to bad weather especially thick fog . I barely came back into town after that trip when i had realized i had committed to another friend of mine Sanjeev about driving up to Mt. Shuksan to shoot the night skies. Although i was not in a great condition to travel again 3 hours and spent another night shooting night skies, my thirst for night skies put me under pressure to say yes.
We started early so that we could beat the ridiculous Seattle traffic to get out of town. As we were heading north, beating the traffic that was slowly building up to rush hour, all i could think of was how to take a nap now and later that night, from the lack of sleep for past few days. Mt. Shuksan is located in the Mt. Baker Ski area which is almost at the northern part of Washington close to Canada. The road to get here is pretty far and tucked in past the little town of Deming, WA which looked pretty abandoned on a weekday. We saw very little traffic on the road and even most houses were either abandoned or looked abandoned. Occasionally you would pass these random grocery stores and gas stations that served the town and i am sure they would probably shut down by 9 pm. Along the way we also did run into a nice view of Twin Mountain range (south and north twins) along with Mount Baker.
Prior to reaching Deming WA, we also tried to take a pitstop at Mosquito Lake (yes the name sounds very exciting) but did not end up finding a trail that was open to get there, so we eventually had to drop plans to go check out this lake. We were simply trying to find a spot where we could get a reflection of Twin Sister ranges and Mt. Baker but that was a no go and the thought of mosquito bites did not sound very appealing.
Yet another stop we made for a break was Horse Bend Trail that led to some of the finest waterfalls with a lot of water flow especially with all the snow melting up on the mountains. These glacial waters were hugged by tons of ferns as you walk along the trail that made me remind of Olympic National Forest.
As we were rolling into the Mt. Baker ski area the first stop you run into is Picture lake which appears to be massive in most photographs that is available online (speaking of which Picture Lake is one of the most photographed lakes due to the pristine reflection of Mt. Shuksan ). We were at first a little disappointed with the size of the lake as we expected a lot more from it. Regardless to add to our disappointment further there was a light breeze that added to ripples on the lake. We had no choice but to wait out the wind but we also had plenty of time in our hands to kill.
Around 830 pm the breeze died down as the sun started setting casting a beautiful shade of gold on the peak and pristinely reflecting on Picture lake. This was the moment i was waiting for and its been 4 years since i moved to Seattle i never did find time to drive up here to catch this wonderful view. Honestly this picture below has not been edited much, and what you really see here is what i saw. You do want to bring a ton of bug spray , especially the mosquitoes here are insane. They will eat you up. The bug spray didn't even help in my case. They say if you are super sweet, they bite you more..:)
As the night crawled in it was time to shoot the milky way. The position of Milky Way here is somewhat away from the summit itself as its July and we have very long summers and its still not dark enough until 11.00 in the night. By that time the Milky Way is almost totally above your head. I did attempt a mega single-row Panorama of the Milky Way but had to give up on the reflection on the lake. The following picture is a 16-shot panorama of the Milky Way towering over Mt. Shuksan. I wish i had the patience to do a 32-shot multi row panorama.
Pointing to the north i was able to capture even some color from the northern lights show. The Kp index this night was roughly around 3 although the colors were not visible to the naked eye, the camera caught it. This month, Mars is the closest to earth and as it rises (the big orange spot) you can see how big it appears in the sky. Its so bright that it almost looks like a bulb lit up in the sky.
We continued shooting through the night till 1.30 am before it started getting really cold. It was a nice night at 56 F but the temps were constantly dropping as the night crawled in. It was time to call it a night, catch up on 3 hours of sleep and wake up by 4.45 am to get ready for sunrise.
At the end of the day i had debated driving over here with my friend as i had come back from a 3 day trip chasing night skies and had very little sleep for the last 3 days. I really think it was totally worth the time we spent here. The icing on the cake was a story my friend told me. His dad had purchased a poster of Mt. Shuksan on Picture lake 30 + years ago and that has been in his house all this time only until later in life he realized that Mt. Shuksan is that mountain. So that was a thrilling moment for my friend to capture the same photo as in the poster in real life. And i was able to rejoice and enjoy that moment with him.
Priceless moments, although too bad his dad did not survive to cherish this moment with him.