Wednesday, September 10, 2014

North Cascades....The Final Wilderness

 I can feel the time virtually slipping away as we begin the final leg of our summer journey.  The North Cascade Highway is a wild wilderness promising great vistas and hikes to the hearty who are willing to leave the Highway and find the back country. Where has all the time gone?

 Highway 20 leads you from the Puget Sound, past Mt Baker through the jagged peaks of the North Cascades depositing you into the scrubs of Central Washington.  We savor these, our last days of mountains.

 I am again dumbfounded by the drive by tourists that click away on their cameras as they zoom down the highway and I know that they are missing the heart of the North Cascades and settle just for a glimpse.

The Picket Range

We are rewarded with some of the best views on a boardwalk a short distance from the visitor center near where we camped at Newhalem Creek Campground.   These last two pictures just require you to turn off the motor and walk out of the visitor center a bit.  
This short little trail is even wheel chair accessible.

 We again found Elvis and Sophie camped nearby.  (They let Jim and Gayle tag along.)

 There are not a lot of campgrounds in the North Cascades and during our visit to the North Cascades we check them out and like our choice the best.  It was the quiet and thanks to the little town of Newhalem, it had 4G  phone and internet service!!  While staying in the National Parks and Forrests in Washington State to date we have struggled to get enough sunlight to operate our solar, but have managed to keep the lights on and keep our electronics going. 

There are three dams along the rivers through the North Cascades that back up the waters into lakes and then allow the water to spill through a long tunnel through turbines, generating power that leads down the mountains to Seattle.  

The Three dams generating power.
Local Colorful Wildlife

Picture at visitor center showing the long drilled tunnel between the dam and the turbines.

I am impressed that the natural beauty is allowed to coexist with the power needs of the area and  efforts have been made to co-mingle the often conflicting needs.
(I must admit I worked hard to edit out power lines from the photo's) 

This is the turbine generating plant just east of our campground at The Gorge .  During early days of the 1900's train loads of tourists made the trip to this spot and viewed the gardens and waterfalls for afternoon outings. 

This photo has NO color or lighting enhancement.... the colors are truly remarkable.

During early days of the 1900's train loads of tourists made the trip to this spot and viewed the gardens and waterfalls for afternoon outings. 

Light shows at Ladder Creek Falls delighted the tourists after sundown and are still in operation.

(borrowed from the internet)

Newhalem is a unique little company town.  Only people who work for the damn operations are allowed to live there.  There is also a local sheriff.....of course!

A cute little town that provided all that we needed while here, but a bit too perfect for my tastes.
A creek hike from our campground did not provide sweeping alpine vistas but did shine with mountain trees and foliage and green, green moss that we have seen so much of this summer.

As we will be leaving the forest soon, I savor the moist green of this forest walk.

Moss is such a foreign object in the tinder dry forests of Eastern Washington.   
Soon I will return to the crunch of dry branches under foot.

 Yet even here, the coming of autumn is near, signaling subtle hints of the change to come.

Undeniably, Fall is in the air.

Newhalem Creek Campground is on the west side of the park.  The remaining campgrounds are at the middle section of Highway 20 about 25 miles East.  We take a day trip to explore more the beauty of the North Cascades.

Even here, technology guides our way.  After turning onto the road to our campground, we wait for the one and only traffic light out in the middle of a forest.  After the green light, we cross a narrow bridge  into the campground.  The bridge is wide enough for large motorhomes thanks to the light.

A day roadtrip takes us up into the center part of the North Cascade Highway on Highway 20.  Winding through the mountains we travel the portion of the road most recently built. 

Beyond the Gorge Dam the water is held back in the deep glacier-carved valley leading to Ross Lake and Diablo Lake.  

 We wind through the North Cascades looking up at splendid view of mountains made jagged by the glaciers of both past and present.  The carving continues  today in the ever changing landscape.


Liberty Bell Mountain

As we climb higher and higher, alpine meadows and views are visible from the road.


 September 2, 1972 the North Cascade Highway was completed, connecting for the first time in modern transportation the highway connecting Skagit County and the Methow Valley.  This Highway in our lifetime has become available to our nations wilderness travelers, yet it remains relatively unseen by most Americans.  It's beauty is unspoiled and waiting to be explored.

After a move to Early Winter Campground, we will take a hike to Blue Lake and explore more of this primitive wilderness up close.  A hike so beautiful it deserves it's own post.

~Happy Hiking Trails~



  1. I really like the fourth picture you posted. What a Back Porch View that is!

  2. I love the color of the water, mountain peaks and all the moss.

  3. Fantastic photos. You really captured the spirit of the North Cascades.
    I just wish those cats were as sweet as they look!

  4. Great pics! I really enjoyed that NP, despite the electrical company propaganda.

  5. We were there in mid-August. What a pleasant surprise North Cascades was.