Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mount Baker - Chilliwack's backyard volcano

Mount Baker © Stephen Mullock

This past week I had a chance for a return hike up Chilliwack's Elk Mountain and as always my attention was drawn to beauty of Mount Baker in nearby Washington State.  Climbing Elk, Mount Baker is at your right shoulder and it is not until you hit the alpine meadows. ablaze with flowers this time of year, do you see good views of the nearby volcano.

While Mount Baker is concealed from everyday enjoyment of most Chilliwack residents, by the Cheam Range, it still remains of local significance.  This article looks at the naming of the mountain and its' Chilliwack connections.

Mount Baker Name

Mount Baker was named on April 30, 1792 for British Third Lieutenant Joseph Baker, of the Captain George Vancouver HMS Discovery expedition. Baker's observation was recorded in Captain Vancouver's journal:

"... About this time a very high conspicuous craggy mountain ... presented itself, towering above the clouds: as low down as they allowed it to be visible it was covered with snow; and south of it, was a long ridge of very rugged snowy mountains, much less elevated, which seemed to stretch to a considerable distance ... the high distant land formed, as already observed, like detached islands, amongst which the lofty mountain, discovered in the afternoon by the third lieutenant, and in compliment to him called by me Mount Baker, rose a very conspicuous object ... apparently at a very remote distance."
[Captain George Vancouver, April 30, 1792]

I like to imagine the young Lieutenant's view might have been similar to this picture I took from a BC ferry; Mount Baker looming over the City of Vancouver in a most imposing way.

The Third Lieutenant Joseph Baker may have been surprised to discover that his namesake is a volcano. Mount Baker has the second most thermally active crater in the Cascade Range after that of Mount St. Helens. 

Chilliwack's Connection to Mount Baker

While Mount Baker remains a potent pillar of fire, eruptions, are rare. In December 1880, Will Branchflower of Chilliwack to a Sunday school group in Atchelitz and reported all the previous night "the sky was so bright that you could read a newspaper by it" and that the daylight was filled with bright red clouds of acrid smoke.  Since then the mountain has remained silent.

The Mount Baker - Mount Cheam Legend 

According to First Nation legend, Mount Baker is the husband of Mount Cheam, although it seems that they are having a separation of types. As recounted in one of my earlier articles Mount Cheam Local Legend  the story I like comes from “Five Corners the Story of Chilliwack” by Bruce Ramsey as set down by Oliver Wells it says that they had three sons, Mount Hood, Mount Shasta and Mount Shuksan and three daughters who are younger than the boys.

Cheam got tired of being away from her people and left so that she could look after the Sto: Lo people “I ‘ll stand and guard the Staw-loh, that no harm comes to my people and no harm comes to the fish that come up to feed them”. With her went her three girls and she holds the smallest one I-oh-wat in her hand. The family dog officially called “Lady” but known by the locals as “Dog Face” followed her back as well. A second child east of her is not getting enough attention and her tears form”Bridal Veil” falls; the 6th highest falls in Canada.  Mount Cheam can keep an eye on her husband; the picture below follows her gaze southward to Mount Baker.

Mount Cheam view of husband Mount Baker

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