North Cascades National Park
Day Six found us cruising north again. Soon we changed to an easterly course and headed inland toward Sedro Woolley, Washington, and the jagged North Cascade Mountains rising just beyond. Our next overnight would be within spitting distance of Canada – North Cascades National Park.
We found a delightful little camp spot just up from the Skagit River and fairly close to Park Headquarters. Thus, a trip to the Park Bookstore was in order. I like Park bookstores because you can pick up on literature you don’t see at say, Barnes and Noble. Moreover, you may find local authors as well as scientific-based text of the area.
There’s a lot of magic floating around this place. To capture the magic would be to spend months here. There isn’t much car gawking; you need to get out on foot and experience it. Snowcatcher was enjoying the temperate rain forest and crochet until we went out exploring.
Still early in the day, we ventured into the Park for awhile, turning around at the Diablo Lake (actually a reservoir) overlook. The water is groovy green. I haven’t delved into the water chemistry yet. My guess would be travertine deposits mixed with glacial runoff. We know we’re surrounded by mountain peaks, but they’re shy, only opening their grandeur to those taking the time to penetrate the area non-mechanically. As Arny would say, “I’ll be back!”
There is a buffer zone on each side of State Highway 20, which splits the Park, called Ross Lake National Recreation Area. In other words, North Cascades National Park has two halves, one on each side of the Highway. Within this buffer are three hydroelectric dams, the George Lake Dam, the Diablo Lake Dam and the Ross Dam. The Ross Dam impounds huge Ross Lake back north into Canada. All three were part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, owned and operated by Seattle City and Light. The project began with George Dam in 1921 and ending with the Ross Dam in 1953.
Rant Alert: I’m kind of finicky on water project nomenclature. In my world, water impounded behind a dam is a reservoir. A lake is a natural occurrence of impounded water. Engineers design reservoirs not lakes. For a variety of reasons, I think John Wesley Powell would roll over in his grave knowing Lake Powell was named after him. Kind of off topic, but if you are interested in the water history of the American Southwest between the early and late 1900s, may I suggest reading Cadillac Desert by Mark Reisner. End rant.
We took the bikes out for an evening ride and found a campground service road which led to a water pumping station of some sort. From here a little trail dropped down to the river and a foot bridge. Crossing the bridge brought us into the hamlet of Newhalem. It appears some people associated with the hydroelectric projects may live here. Moreover, it appears former hydroelectric work teams may have been housed here.
The following morning had us traveling early for sunrise photos of the few peaks we could see.
Looking south at Early Winter Spires and Liberty Bell Mountain from Washington Pass.
Viewing southeast at a small length of Kangaroo Ridge, also from Washington Pass.
The Vasiliki Ridge and possibly Silver Star Mountain (foreground) greet the sun from Washington Pass.
In addition to thick forest, the Washington Pass area had numerous snags dotting the hillside. From Washington Pass we continued southeast until we hit the mighty Columbia River. We also cruised through the small towns of Pateros, Brewster and Bridgeport – apple farming country. From the Columbia, we headed east across the north central Washington desert. Our next stop? Here’s a hint, electrical power – lots of it!