North Cascades National Park
“I went out in my alpine yard and there it was… hundreds of miles of pure snow-covered rocks and virgin lakes and high timber”Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
A scenic highway, a river, pine trees, jagged peaks, and cloudy skies… It’s good to be back in the Pacific Northwest.
After a short drive up from Seattle (<3 hours), we arrived at North Cascades National Park just before sunset. A beautiful valley pitted by alpine mountains and lush evergreens, the roaring Skagit river running right through the middle.
Not wanting to waste a beautiful scenery if we can, we head straight to Diablo Lake lookout to catch the sun setting. But we were greeted with strong winds and thick dark clouds. An ominous sign that didn’t end up coming to fruition, as the rest of the weekend we had beautiful clear days.
Following our patterns as of recent, we spent the first day mostly exploring the easier parts of the park with a short day hike. Just a hop from our campground is the small unincorporated community of Newhalem, a charming small “town” with a real nice garden and a general store. Built as a company town to support the hydroelectric plants and series of dams on the Skagit River. A short walk from the store, is the Gorge Powerhouse that also have a lovely garden and viewing spots to Ladder Creek Falls.
There is also a viewing gallery where you can peer in the still working power generators.
Our short hike was going up the Thunder Knob trail, a 3.6 miles there and back starting from the Colonial Creek Campground… which we totally got campground envy because theirs were right next to the lake with a creek running through it.
A relatively mellow hike lead to a ridge with a couple viewing points down to Diablo Lake.
But the real goal for this hike… really was the spam/egg/mayo sandwich. Yum. :P
A short nap and snacks later, we started driving towards the east end of the park to the Washington Pass area to catch the day’s sunset from there. It’s just a short paved walk to the overlook with a grand view of SR20 highway and Liberty Bell Mountain.
And while the light was really fleeting, managed to get a quick trophy shot of the mountain with a bit of alpen-glow.
Stuck around for a little more to try to get a different angle, and it wasn’t long before the sky started to light up in colors.
The next day we started our long hike to Thornton Lakes. The trail started easy on an old road grade, used by loggers a long time ago. About half-way through, the trail quickly climbs up to steep and seemingly endless switchbacks.
Until the forest clears up and we reached a ridge with a view of the lake 500 feet down.
After another steep scramble down through what can be barely called a trail, we found a quiet rocky outcrop to sit down and finally take a break to enjoy the quiet lake.