Chewelah, Washington Through the North Cascades

Trip Start May 08, 2006
Trip End Oct 2006

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Friday, October 6, 2006

October 5th and 6th

Chewelah, Washington
Through the North Cascades
To Lopez Island

We left the Golf and RV Park without any more golfing (sigh, Jeff says) and headed for the North Cascades National Park area. For all of the exploring and hiking Jeff (and Deb) has (have) done in the Cascades of Oregon and Washington, neither of us had been over Highway 20 in the Park.

It turned out to be a long, hot, dry drive across the inland mountains and along the river valleys and coulees of north central Washington. There wasn't much to recommend it. The land was pretty heavily used for timber production, fruit orchards and quarrying. Just the same, the views of the mountains were quite nice, and we got near the end of the day in Winthrop, which is a western-themed tourist town in the Methow Valley east of the North Cascade Crest. The Methow Valley is on the dry side of the Cascades and is a spectacular wide glacial valley with the rocky Cascades on each side and the Methow River flowing in a wide bed through ranches and grasslands. It is often used by the sometimes soggy residents of the Puget Sound as a respite from the rain. A few lucky folks have found niches to fill in the area, or are wealthy enough to buy one of the spectacular ranches along the river.

We drove up and out of the Valley and parked along Early Winters Creek in a Forest Service Campground in the tall trees.

We wanted to enjoy the National Park area for the bulk of Thursday, so to start the day, Jeff took off with Rubi for a 4 mile walk on the Early Winters Trail, on the timbered and brushy hillside above the creek. We got a peek of the higher rocky peaks ahead and got the blood flowing for the day. The family got back together at the end of the trail along Highway 20 and headed to Rainy Pass for a walk to Rainy Lake. On the way there were spectacular mountain views. At the highest elevations the green of the firs was accented by the orange and yellow of the larches (tamaracks). There was very little snow left on the high peaks, and, yes, the glaciers are melting.

The walk to Rainy Lake was easy, and through a wonderful mixed conifer forest, with colorful vine maples and mountain ash. It wasn't raining at the lake and we enjoyed the view of the classic cirque lake.

After looking for a scenic spot for lunch (actually, we hadn't yet had breakfast), we stopped alongside Diablo Lake for a bite. Diablo and Ross Lakes are actually reservoirs created by dams built by Seattle City Light. They have created spectacular deep lakes in the gorges of the Skagit River. Necessarily, but unfortunately, the views are marred by the extensive power lines running from the dams.

While eating lunch we decided that we wanted to finish this day with a view of the Pacific, a very accessible dream. So, with that in mind, we headed down the Skagit Valley with a goal of Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island. We were not excited about heading out of the mountains and heading into the "real world" of the Puget Sound, but it turned out be pretty brief.

So, there we were heading down Highway 20 toward Whidbey when we started to approach Anacortes. As you know, Anacortes houses the Washington State Ferry terminal for the San Juan Islands. The magnetic pull of Lopez pulled harder as we got closer to the city, and the magnetic pull eventually grabbed our big hunk of metal (not to mention our hearts and minds). We found ourselves paying gobs of money to sit in the ferry line. We pulled into the line just one half hour before the next ferry to Lopez, but our luck ran out there. The car in front of us was the last one let on the ferry, so we were destined to wait for an hour and a half for the next one. But after an hour went by, they announced that that ferry was at least an hour late, so we sat, first in line for about 3 hours before we finally got loaded.

It was all worth it when we sailed under a full moon through the peaceful islands, and found ourselves on the sand in a campsite on Upright Channel at Odlin County Park on Lopez. The moon was full and bright enough to set up camp and light the Channel as ferries went by.
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