In our continuing quest to visit as many national parks as possible, we ticked another off the list–and this one was beautiful! North Cascades National Park is located in the northern part of Washington State in the middle of the Cascade Range. It’s brimming with old-growth forests, hundreds of glaciers, swiftly flowing rivers, and alpine lakes. You kind of have to want to come here, as it’s not a park you just drive by. Certainly the remoteness makes it all the more special.We visited just one day and saw what we could from the car and short trails. However, the real way to see North Cascades is on foot with a pack on your back. We are not traveling that way these days so we settled for the tourist route and it was still spectacular. We can’t help but wonder what we missed by not being able to get to the back country.From our campground in Concrete, Washington the park was about a 30 mile drive. Of course the visitor center was closed due to COVID-19 but rangers still greeted us outside with maps and suggestions. Our first official stop was the town of Newhalem. This old village was once the “company town” for Seattle City Light, the power company that has transformed the power of the water in these mountains into electricity for Seattle and the surrounding areas. As such, there are large power lines, old pump houses, and hydroelectric dams throughout the park.Not far from Newhalem we came across the Gorge Dam and Gorge Creek Falls. While man has certainly altered the landscape here, it is still a spectacular natural site.The most incredible views were found at Ross Lake. We could have spent days here if we were down at water level. Instead, we soaked in the glacial-topped peaks and glacial-green waters. The Ross Lake National Recreation Area, at over 100,000 acres, is a lot to explore!We took in a few short hikes that gave us a flavor for what the back country might look like. The Ladder Creek Falls trail features a suspension bridge over the Skagit River, gardens, and a 1920’s powerhouse.
The powerhouse was constructed to produce electricity for homes in Seattle as part of the Skagit Hydroelectric project.The Trail of the Cedars was a short, 0.3 mile loop starting on another suspension bridge and weaving through an old-growth forest along side the Skagit River. Just lovely.
Lunch beside the river in a shady spot and a quick stop at the Cascadian Farms Organic Farm Stand for the best chocolate ice cream on the planet rounded out the day. We left feeling like we saw a lot but left much yet to explore.
Steve also made a habit of picking wild blackberries from the bushes around our campground. With so many berries he made his first pie! We were in this area for just a few days and spent the rest of our time shopping for an internet jetpack, barbecuing, and enjoying the cooler-than-Arizona weather. From here we begin to travel eastward.