Moving With Your Mind In The Land

The author wading across a more tame section of the North Fork of the Nooksack River near its headwaters at Icy Peak (L) and Mt Shuksan (R) - Photo: iPhone 11 Pro camera triggered remotely by an Apple Watch

All humans evolved within complex land based cultures over deep time to develop a brain with a capacity for over 100 trillion neural connections of which we now only use a tiny fraction. Most of us have been displaced from those cultures of origin, a global diaspora of refugees severed not only from land but from the sheer genius that comes from belonging in symbiotic relation to it. In Aboriginal Australia, our elders tell us stories, ancient narratives to show us that if you don’t move with the land, the land will move you.
~ Tyson Yunkaporta, Sand Talk

Beginning well before 1600, the North American fur trade was the earliest global economic enterprise. Europeans and, later, Canadians and Americans, hunted and trapped furs; but success mandated that traders cultivate and maintain dense trade and alliance networks with Native nations. Native people provided furs and hides as well as food, equipment, interpreters, guides, and protection in exchange for European, Asian, and American manufactures.

Indicative of its deep time span and remarkable continuity, the North American fur trade and the Indian trade were essentially indivisible from roughly 1540 until 1865. A primary object of the terrestrial fur trade was beaver, the soft underfur of which was turned into expensive and sought-after beaver hats.

Tubbs Hill on Lake Coeur d’Alene, North Idaho

Huge wilderness of mountains, glaciers & ancient forest, undeveloped but for backpacking trails.

Follow this primitive trail of the North Fork of the Nooksack River to its headwaters in a steep-walled cirque at the base of Mount Shuksan. It’s beautiful, but not without it’s challenges, the first of which is at the trailhead: Ruth Creek has no bridge.

Wade the creek, or cross on a log if one is available. Keep in mind that due to quickly rising water, a log that is crossable in the morning may be under water in the afternoon. In early summer Ruth Creek waters may be too high to wade.

Once across the creek, follow the old roadbed for two miles to what was the original trailhead. Another mile through second-growth trees will take you to the Mt. Baker Wilderness boundary, then you will wind through old-growth forest for about a half mile and emerge on the bank of the North Fork of the Nooksack River at the end of this well-defined trail.

After crossing a tributary stream, the route continues by way of either gravel bars during periods of low water or bushwhacking through riparian vegetation alongside the river.

The North Cascades National Park boundary is about a mile away. Past the park boundary, you can continue through fierce brush as far toward the cirque as your cross-country travel skills allow. Pushing past the boundary to 2950 feet of elevation at 5.1 miles from the trailhead is a sight to behold — Ruth Mountain, Icy Peak, Seahpo Peak, Jagged Ridge, and Mount Shuksan spread out for you to enjoy.

The best time to hike the Nooksack Cirque Trail is in the fall. During cool weather the water levels are low, allowing easier travel on gravel bars. If it’s not readily apparent, this trail receives limited maintenance.

an early June crossing of the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River to access camping at Elbow Lake

Built in 1961, the Middle Fork Nooksack Dam helped supply drinking water to the City of Bellingham. However, the 24-foot tall dam was built without a fish ladder or other fish passage structures that would allow migrating fish to pass by it. Threatened spring Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout were left unable to access the vital habitat behind the dam. They rely on that habitat for spawning and rearing.

The Nooksack River and the salmon it supports also serve as important spiritual and cultural resources for the Nooksack Indian Tribe and the Lummi Nation. Removal of the dam is an important step in restoring these culturally significant resources.

The second-to-last crossing of the North Fork before reaching the top of the cirque at the base of Mt Shuksan (with impossible shorelines visible)

Slow is Smooth. Smooth is Fast.

ascending a snowfield on a WSW aspect of Icy Peak, high above the Nooksack Cirque. Part of the East Nooksack Glacer on Mt Shuksan is visible below

Mind over matter. The land is my mind. My mind is in the land.

severed not only from land but from the sheer genius that comes from belonging in symbiotic relation to it… if you don’t move with the land, the land will move you.

Hurricane Laura is expected to become a Category 4 storm and slam into the Louisiana and Texas coasts as a major hurricane Wednesday evening. At least 20 million people are in the storm’s path and over half a million have been ordered to evacuate.

The hurricane, currently a Category 3, was “rapidly intensifying” over the Gulf of Mexico early Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said. It warned of potentially catastrophic and life-threatening storm surge, extreme winds, and flash flooding Wednesday night along the northwest Gulf Coast

“Steps to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the next few hours,” it said early Wednesday morning.

ascending the ridgeline to Icy Peak’s summit (which I bypassed) looking back at Seahpo Peak (L), E Nooksack Glacier (center) and Nooksack Tower (R) on Mt Shuksan. Nearly all the glacier and snow visible here drains into the North Fork of the Nooksack River.
looking back at Icy Peak en route to Ruth Mountain. My path traversed in the snow from the saddle right of the summit pyramids and above the one crevasse visible
the steepest sections of the southern aspect of Ruth Mountain do not have an obvious ‘easy’ path when approached from Icy Peak
attaining the safer ground on Ruth Mountain, looking back at the route so far - Icy Peak (L), the E Nooksack Glacier on Mt Shuksan (R), and the cirque below
Copper Ridge (R) from the summit of Ruth Mountain, looking due north. Hannegan Pass is to the lower left of the orange-ish rock hillside on Hannegan Peak (L)
the heavily suncupped slip-and-slide foot path down Ruth Mountain’s north face
approaching the well-trodden Hannegan Pass area and my exit via the Ruth Creek valley. Campers trails braid the delicate meadows below.

Banning Austin and R.M. Lyle made the first ascent of Hannegan Peak in 1893 while surveying for a possible road across the Cascades over Hannegan Pass to Whatcom Pass. This peak was named in association with Hannegan Pass, which in turn was named for Tom Hannegan, State Road Commissioner at that time.
~ Fred Beckey, Cascade Alpine Guide

at the Hannegan Pass TH, with all my gear loaded up on my pack for the descent via mountain bike back to the Nooksack Cirque TH via approx. 2 miles of logging roads
basecamp for the one day expedition, where the Nooksack Cirque trail ends in the North Fork river bed

When I think of healing a landscape, I think that it needs solitude. We can name monuments, we can name parks, but what it really needs is nothing. It needs nothing. It needs to be able to grow its plants, let the sun hit it, and let the water trickle down through it and not be disturbed, and we’re disturbing it.
~ Heidi Redd, Indian Creek, UT

a quick, refreshing dip in the North Fork of the Nooksack River descending towards one of its major mountain tributaries, Ruth Creek

End Notes



climbing my way to higher states of consciousness.

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