Happy New Year!

Snow-crusted Mountain Hemlocks overlooking Swift Creek valley
View from Artist Ridge to the Swift Creek valley and Baker Lake

I’ve long felt that what I choose to do on New Year’s Day will set the tone for the year to come.

This year Brian and I checked the weather forecast the decided it would be a great day for a snowshoe hike up to Artist Point. I’ve been going up there every winter since 1990-1991 and I never get tired of it. As Brian reminded me yesterday while we were hiking, it’s different every time.

Snow-crusted Mountain Hemlocks overlooking view to Table Mountain
Table Mountain

The sky was a thick overcast, not at all like the forecast we’d read the night before. But the snow was beautiful and we were able to follow a well-trodden snowshoe track all the way from the Mt. Baker Ski Area upper parking lot to the end of Artist Ridge on Huntoon Point some 1,100 feet up. That made the hiking easy. I’ve been up there breaking trail in deep snow, so I was happy for an easy hike.

Snow-crusted Mountain Hemlocks
Snow-crusted Mountain Hemlocks

Artist Point gets blasted by winter storms. The Mountain Hemlocks [Tsuga mertensiana] are well adapted to this harsh environment. They often become crusted with rime ice and a thick layer of snow which hangs onto the branches for many days following a storm. I think they take on a bit of a sculptural look.

Brian Small. Mt. Baker-Snoqualmic NF Artist Point, WA, USA. © Mark Turner [1900084]
Brian Small, natural-light portrait

While Brian and I often seek solitude on our outdoor adventures, this was not one of those days. We met several parties that had spent New Year’s Eve camping in the snow. One of those folks estimated 20-30 people celebrated the arrival of 2019 that way. I’ve done the same a few previous years, but this year I was happy to be day tripping. I didn’t count the people we saw, but there were a LOT of folks on snowshoes enjoying a day in the mountains. I was surprised at how few backcountry skiers we saw among all the snowshoes.

Snow-covered Shuksan Arm
Shuksan Arm

We were back to the car about five hours after we headed out. Modern tracking devices (a dedicated GPS and the health app on our iPhones) reported we’d hiked about 6 miles, climbed 82 floors, and took over 13,000 steps. Our bodies were a bit tired when we got home to dinner of Kulshan Kitten Mittens, leftover duck soup and homemade bread. But a little tired is a good thing when we’ve been out to play and the next morning we were fully recovered.

Mountain Hemlocks and Subalpine Firs on snow-covered Mt. Herman slope
Mountain Hemlocks and Subalpine Firs on snow-covered Mt. Herman slope

So why is it important for us to get out in nature and exercise to start the year? After all, New Year’s is just an arbitrary day. Many people use this time to take stock of where they are and to set goals for the coming months. One of ours is to spend at least as many nights backpacking in 2019 as we did in 2018 (17 nights).

Other goals are to be debt-free by the end of the year, increase the number of families and commercial clients choosing me as their photographer, exploring new-to-me lighting and posing concepts, and giving back to the community.

Playing in the snow won’t accomplish those business goals, but it keeps me healthy and happy. Those are the most important goals, for without health and happiness it’s difficult to accomplish anything else.

Mountain Hemlocks, Sub-alpine Firs on Snow-covered Ptarmigan Ridge
The sun poked through the clouds just enough to highlight the conifers on the slope below Ptarmigan Ridge.

Photo note:

The photos on this page were all made with my Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 24-105mm lens, hand held. They’ve had minimal processing in Adobe Lightroom before being uploaded to this page.

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