Monday, June 30, 2014

North Cascades National Park

June 24 - 28, 2014:

The rain stopped about 8 AM, perfect timing for me to do the usual tank draining, kicking of the tires, checking of the oil and cleaning of the windshield without getting wet.  The ride was route 174 to 17 north to 97 south to 153 north to 20 west, about 170 miles and one of our longer moves.  We traveled through the Columbia river valley past some huge Cherry orchards which gave me a bad hankering for some cherry pie, but I resisted, maybe another day.  On route 20 the scenery started getting real interesting with the cloud shrouded Cascade mountains in the distance.  Route 20 is called the Cascade Loop scenic highway is rated as a top drives in the country and is also labelled as the "North American Alps".  The hardest part of the trip for me was keeping my eyes on the road and to keep moving, I wanted to stop at every photo Op along the way.

Along the way we passed the Chief Joseph Dam

A view along Route 20 in North Cascades National Park

Another view, the upper elevations were all clouds
We arrived at North Cascades National Park about 1 PM and found our site in the Newhalem Campground.  It is an almost rain forest setting with huge fir trees, moss, ferns, lichens and I must admit some mosquitos, bug spray is recommended.  It is beautiful, all I can hear is the birds and the sound of the Skajit River nearby.  No hookups, but convenient potable water and a dump station.  Amazingly, we have a real good phone signal here.  The campground is in the town of Newhalem which was and still appears to be a Seattle City Light company town for Dam and electrical workers.  

First stop, as usual, was the park visitors center to get some park information.  We watched the movie which was the weirdest one so far, very new age artistic, strange ?  The park service videos now all seem to have a native american perspective, but they put such a flutey musical, medicine man, spirit worldly spin on it that even I, a true indian supporter have to say Ok, enough already ! 

A beautifully clear sunny day on Wednesday which gets us out for a hike on the Thunder Knob trail with great views of surrounding mountains and Diablo Lake.  Afterwards we check out several other roadside view points along route 20.  The forest here is so lush with vegetation and the trees are covered with moss and lichens.  There are three Dams on the Skagit River, Gorge, Diablo and Ross, just to the east of the campground which supply over 90% of Seattle's power.  There are so many creeks flowing down into the Lakes and several waterfalls. The Lake water is the weirdest green color from "rock flour" or ultra fine grains of rock in suspension in the water that are washed down by the mountain streams from the glaciers above.  There are hundreds of glaciers in the high mountain wilderness regions of the park. 

This is Thunder Creek, the water was almost white

A pristine pond on the trail

View from Thunder Creek Knob looking at  Diablo Lake,
note this green coloration of the water, all natural
A peaceful rest at the Knob before heading down

View from the shore of Lake Diablo

Turk Cap Lilly's along a roadway

The weather here is strange, the Pacific coast weather systems as they move west to east get hung up in the mountains here on the west side of the park resulting in much clouds and rain.  The east side of the park, a few miles away, stays much clearer and dryer. Unfortunately, it seems to be wet period this week.

Thursday we go for another hike, this time on the Pyramid Lake Trail with a mix of sun and clouds.  It was a moderate rated trail, 2.2 miles with a 1,500 feet elevation rise and lots of steps, rocks and roots to get over.  Twinkles knee was hurting at about the 2 mile point so we turned around and went back.  There was a beautiful creek along the trail flowing over moss covered rocks and many old growth trees.  Also incredible views of the snow covered peaks in the distance from time to time through the trees. 

A Bunch Berry, Perfect !

Mountain stream along trail

Lots of colorful Mushrooms

The trees are covered with these lichens

A mountain view through the trees

Friday is intermittent periods of rain, sun and clouds all day.  I went to Newhalem to see the Seattle City Light visitors center which has lots of history of the company town and the Dam system.  This prompted me to do a walking tour of the town where I found the "Cedar Trail".  The trail is 1 mile, one of the best 1 mile flat trails ever !  You cross over the fast flowing Skagit River on a suspension bridge to get there and enter a virtual rain forest, the trees are covered with moss and lichens, the forest floor covered with ferns and there are massive old Cedar trees.  The town is very well maintained and is a registered National Historic site.

Logging truck on route 20

The Skajit River

Fox Gloves growing wild along roadway

Original steam locomotive that ran passenger trains into
town of Newhalem

The general store in Newhalem

Lush foliage on the Trail of the Cedars

This area had been logged, but many huge trees remain

Such as this huge western Red Cedar Tree

Some type of Hosta , liked the way the water beaded up on it

Also nearby is the Power House for the Gorge Dam with the Ladder Creek Falls and flower gardens behind it.  The man who masterminded this Dam complex, J.D. Ross, also had a love for horticulture and planted rare plants from around the world on the power house grounds.  He also installed multi-colored lights on the Falls and had music piped in.  The power house grounds became a tourist attraction with two day excursion tours run from Seattle.  The idea was to promote electricity and hydroelectric Dam systems. This Dam was built in the early 1900's when electricity was a fairly new commodity.  The Falls continue to be lighted today with more efficient bulbs, of course.

View of the Ladder Creek Falls

A high section of the Ladder Creek Falls

Following this I went to the next Dam upriver, the Diablo Dam, which you can drive across, park and then walk back over the Dam.  The quantity of water flowing at the Dam is staggering and a bit scary even though it's only normal at this time, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near there in high water periods.

The roadway over the Diablo Dam

The Lake level is not far below

View of Diablo Lake

The discharge from the Dam

Amazing shape of this Lichen

A view along the Seetattle Creek Trail

A Banana Slug

Beautiful blue wildflower
We slipped out on Saturday afternoon between rain storms to hike the flat but beautiful River Loop trail.

The Skajit River is nearly overflowing it's banks here

Lush vegetation along trail

Tree lichens are thick and dripping wet, everything is dripping wet

Many trees are covered with layer of moss

Don't eat the mushrooms !

A huge pileated Woodpecker

Next stop is the Pacific coast,

Twinkles and Slick

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