mount baker

October Photo of the Month: A Spectacular Night Sky

Photo taken from Table Mountain, Artist's Point, Mt Baker, WA Canon 70D with Canon 10-22mm lens F/3.5 ,  30 sec,  ISO 2000

Photo taken from Table Mountain, Artist's Point, Mt Baker, WA
Canon 70D with Canon 10-22mm lens
F/3.5 ,  30 sec,  ISO 2000

Written and Photographed by Erin Cunningham, Northwest Photographer

As a young child, I was always fascinated by the night sky and went to sleep every night under a blanket of neon green glow in the dark stars on my ceiling. Growing older, my curiosity heightened and I spent warm summer Minnesota nights laying on the wooden dock watching twinkling stars, pointing out constellations and waking up at odd hours to watch meteor showers and lunar eclipses. In high school, a friend's Dad had a telescope and would set up viewing sessions at a local park for us to identify stars, constellations and planets. Luckily, growing up in a small suburban town in Minnesota, I was able to enjoy the vast mystery of the night sky by escaping any light pollution.

When I was about 12 years old, I saw the bright neon green of northern lights for the first time, illuminating rows of corn in a neighboring farmer's field. Little did I know, years later, I would be watching a ribbons of green and purple dance across the sky over layers of mountains in Washington state.

Life changes brought me to beautiful Washington state where I have since been in a love affair with the mountains. They have drawn me to them and I enjoy hiking and climbing their peaks, jumping in alpine lakes, and capturing as much of their beauty as I can through my love of photography. It has been so refreshing to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and light pollution to explore the beauty of varying landscapes of this unique state.

The recent purchase of an updated DSLR camera, specifically the Canon 70D with a wide angle 10-22mm lens has broadened the scope of what I can capture of this incredible place I now call home. Linking up with a few adventurous photographer friends, I've gotten hooked on astrophotography and I'm learning how to timelapse the milky way in various places in the North Cascades. It is humbling to realize that no matter where we are in the world and how old we grow, the vast night sky is always present for generations to enjoy.

After hearing of the solar flare predicted on June 22nd with the possibility of seeing the northern lights as far south as Washington, a group of friends and I headed up to Artist's point near Mt. Baker and Shuksan. Remembering Table Mountain was an exceptional viewing point, I suggested set up there to get 360 degree views of the night sky. We set up our tents for a short nap later and had some dinner. Around 1am with multiple cameras set toward the northern sky, all of a sudden, beams of purple light started to shoot up from the tops of the mountains and soon after, ribbons of green light danced across the sky for over 2 hours. Our group was in complete awe, jaws to the ground, whooping and hollering at the light show before us. I think we all could agree we saw a piece of Heaven that night.

Memories like these are ones we will remember forever. I am so thankful to have witnessed the natural wonder of the northern lights in one of the most stunning venues in Washington.

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Scouts & Old Growth 

“With 13 boys along there was no shortage of energy and humor.”

BY BOB CAREY, NATURE CONSERVANCY SENIOR PARTNERSHIP DIRECTOR, PUGET SOUND PROGRAM

Thirteen boys. 600 acres. 800 year old trees. Those are the impressive numbers from a weekend backpacking trip to Noisy Creek, along the eastern shore of Baker Lake. Boy Scout troop 4100 camped in the shadows of old-growth forest protected by The Nature Conservancy in 1990.

The conservation of this forest turns out to be a gift that keeps on giving. Amidst spectacular views of Mount Baker and Baker Lake, we walked through trees up to 15 feet in diameter in an area known for prolific owl activity. An adrenaline-infused game of “wolves and rabbits” (a teen-appropriate combination of hide-and-seek and tag) among the towering trees and billowing mosses made these youngsters forget all about their day to day lives and fully enjoy this time away from it all. 

A weekend in the old-growth is a great respite from the drum of civilization and the pace of everyday lives packed to the brim with work, school, sports, music, homework. It was wonderful to see boys relax in an environment where they could be themselves. And it’s amazing how comfortable and completely un-bored they were in a place so far from their TV/video screens.

All of this was made possible through the conservation of an old growth forest, set aside for future generations before these boys were even born. What a great reminder of how critical it is that we save these very special natural places for generations to come.