Discovered in 1792 by Captain Vancouver’s  first mate, Joseph Baker, Mt. Baker  had been known for centuries to local Native Americans as Koma Kulshan (Broken One), a reference to an early eruption that blew out part of its summit. Like other Cascade volcanoes, Baker is asleep, but not dead. In 1843 it awoke from its slumber, spewing vast amounts of smoke and ash for the next 16 years and causing a major forest fire on the east shore of Baker Lake .
The mountain lay dormant from 1884 to 1975, when it again began to release steam, leading seismologists to believe it would erupt, but it was upstaged in a grand manner in 1980 by Mount St. Helens . Since that time, the mountain continues to vent steam periodically, with small clouds frequently visible over the summit. There is little evidence of a return to life—but this could change at any time.
Mt. Baker  has been a source for year-round recreation since 1868, when librarian-turned-mountaineer Edmund Coleman and his party climbed to the summit after two failed attempts. Either poor planners or extremely conscious of pack weight, the entire climbing party shared one plate and spoon and ate only bacon, bread, and tea during the 10-day ascent.
By 1911, the mountain had become an integral part of the Mt. Baker marathon, a 118-mile round-trip between Bellingham  and the summit using any mode of transportation in addition to at least 24 miles on foot. The marathons were discontinued two years later, after one competitor fell into a crevasse, though he lived to tell about it.
More recently the race has been revived as the 85-mile Ski to Sea Marathon , where teams begin by skiing down Mt. Baker, and relays of bike riders, paddlers in canoes, and runners complete the course to Puget Sound.