Mt. Baker and the elusive aurora

Anne and I headed out of work as quickly as we could Friday to try and make the best out of one of the best aurora forecasts (see my other post on photographing the Aurora Borealis) in a long time. As we left Redmond, the estimated planetary Kp index was already topping 7, promising strong aurora displays overhead. Our destination, Mt. Baker. We knew that we could hit Artists Point by car, which would give us both high elevation as well as unobstructed views and dark skies.


While we’d hoped to grab a campsite in either Douglas Fir or Silver Fir campgrounds, we found quickly that we were out of luck and that all camp sites were full. Undaunted, we continued to the top of the Mt Baker Highway to the Artists Point parking area where we found a party like atmosphere. The parking lot was full, the camper behind us had a fire pit going, and music was playing loudly. In 360 degrees around us, people had taken up residence on virtually every promontory and cars were coming and going by the minute.


Anne and I quickly decided that in order to both have the best chance of catching the aurora as well as sleeping for the night, we’d be best to backpack out past Table Mountain and grab a campsite where we would be away from the crowds and have a place to sleep. We packed up our car camping tent, cameras, clothes, minimal food, and tripods and left as quickly as we could. The 1.1 miles to the Chain Lakes/Ptarmigan Ridge junction passed quickly and under glorious conditions and we found ourselves a camp site overlooking the chain lakes, Mt. Baker, Mt. Skuksan, and the rest of the splendor of the Mt. Baker wilderness.

We made camp and stayed up till midnight, but no aurora presented itself. Just to make sure, I left my camera out overnight to capture a time lapse, which also proved that the aurora was not to be found. Regardless, we had an absolutely wonderful night out under the stars in some of the most spectacular landscape one could wish for.