Laughter Fills the Air | Mt Baker Backpacking Elopement
Laughter. It’s the one word that sums up this weekend. Tears of joy, when someone gives you their best blessings. The wholehearted laughter, when you share a running joke delivered just right. Sweet smiles, when you know you are loved from a bottomless well of love. Sure, the scenery was great, the food fantastic. But what easily eclipses all the details is the shared happiness. P and D, you’ve really got a great group of friends. And how lovely it was for you to share your elopement by the majestic Mount Baker.
I have only been friends with P for about a year but had the incredible honor of photographing their engagement while backcountry skiing. If one thing is clear, other than the love they have for each other, they love outdoor adventures. So how fitting was it that they decided to elope on an overnight mountain trip? The weather was in our favor for the weekend. Unfortunately the wilderness dictates a maximum group size of 12, limiting the number of people P and D could share their wedding day with in person. They graciously gave me one of ten guest spots to photograph the elopement.
From the start, P and D had everything carefully planned out and handled. I don’t think a backpacking elopement could have gone any smoother! All anyone else had to do was show up with their personal gear and a bit of space to take up group gear that they’d organize, mainly dinner and drinks. So we met up at the Easton Trailhead, where I was a couple weeks prior submitting Baker and photographing the women of color course. I was impressed by how well the whole group moved. Even if everyone is fit, giant groups are just hard to get going. And everyone was having such a good time getting to know one another or catching up with old friends. Before we knew it, we approached the tarns of Park Butte. There are signs everyone as you enter saying no camping and no campfires allowed. This was the perfect place to host P and D’s ceremony!
But before we set up for the ceremony, we had to stake our claim for campsites. Since we were a large group, we needed to make sure we found spots before other people came by. That’s the just how first-come, first-serve operates. It can feel cutthroat but it is what it is. Even though we started Friday morning, the Park Butte lookout was already claimed by two ladies. And two other ladies had to turn around to find another spot. It shows how popular it is! Near the ridge between the tarns and the lookout we found quite a few spots, some connected and one just beneath the lookout. The perfect amount of space for our group. I’m sure there’s more spots if you hiked down further on some of the other trails. Otherwise, one would have to hike back to below the tarns. And at that rate, you might as well hike to the Railroad Grade campsites. They’re bountiful there and have great shade and views.
Once we all settled down, everyone had some time to relax as P and D got ready. I think these were my favorite pictures. Everything about this elopement was candid. We didn’t even do posed couples pictures – we had done that for the engagement anyway. P did her own make up all with a tiny hand mirror. Her friend offered to help but turns out not only is P a badass adventurer but also amazing with the fancy side of things too!
With the gorgeous couple in their wedding clothes and the guests all dressed up, we started the ceremony with views from Mt Baker all the way to Baker Lake. The ceremony was made extra special with a close friend officiating and some of the best letters and blessings sent by family members who couldn’t make it. To me, this is probably the perfect way to include more of your loved ones without them being there in person. You could really feel all the love that they sent and to say no one was crying happy tears would be a lie.
And even as P and D said their vows, it was truly an overwhelming sense of love and support for each other. And the presence of their friends immeasurably spoke to the beauty of this elopement. Friends who would celebrate your love, spend a whole weekend with you, carry heavy packs to go backpacking, laugh and cry with you, those are true friends who value their friendship. After the short ceremony, we had cocktail hour, cocktails created courtesy of the groom. By this point, laughter filled this whole nook. Excitement for the newly weds and friends exchanging stories, I think that says it all.
The party continued as we moseyed on back to our campsites. P and D had thoughtfully chosen Indian food for dinner. And just like other weddings, they sampled food before choosing which to go with! Indian food was perfect to reheat over a WhisperLite stove and was also some of their favorite foods to eat. Typically, you wouldn’t carry such a meal on a backpacking trip, but this was well worth the weight, especially distributed amongst everyone. And instead of a wedding cake, they had three wedding pies! I was truly amazed by the thoughtfulness of everything. The pies were hand carried and stayed fresh without a cooler, and generally much easier to handle than a fragile cake. And there was no need to compensate for taste.
As the sun set, lighting up Mt Baker with that perfect alpenglow light, we all sat around (fires were not allowed) talking and laughing, having the best time. Seriously this had to be one of the best day ever! Not to mention it was going to continue the next day with some quality lake relaxation. I was completely blown away by P and D’s hospitality, their calmness, and how everything flowed so smoothly. Their elopement was 100% them, and the weekend was 100% about them, yet they found a way to still be humble, embraced by the warmth and love of their friends. Congrats you two!
- Photography: Cherlyn Eliza Photography
- Dress: BHLDN
- Rings: Valerie Madison
- Dinner: Mayuri Indian Cuisine
- Pies: A La Mode Pies
- Flowers: Pike Place Public Market
- Officiant: a friend
- HMU: the bride
- There are few campsites available near Park Butte. Make sure you find soil-based spots rather than vegetated land. You cannot camp within the tarns (people have been doing this against the rules). The signs will remind you as you enter, but that whole area is filled with heather and grass, which is unsustainable for camping.
- The tarns are your best bet for filtering water. Otherwise head down below to the streams. Early season you may find more snow to melt.
- The lookout is hard to get on a weekend. You probably need to get to the lookout at 7 or 8am to snag it. Sam from A Little Rainey has a great blog about staying there overnight!