North Cascades National Park, Washington

Summer in full swing, and time to get our first camping trip done. I found a picture of the North Cascades N.P. on Instagram, and I was like “we have to go there now”. And so we did. Late Thursday afternoon we left boiling PDX and headed north.

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Our first stop was at the Shell at the Winlock/Toledo exit for a road trip late lunch of chicken tenders and jojos. For some reason mine was dry and not as tasty as usual, Mary insisted hers was as good as normal. Anyway, onward and forward.

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Our timing leaving Portland was perfect and we managed to avoid Seattle traffic – a first! The sky as we drove northward was looking more and more apocalyptic. Wildfires in BC were blowing that distinctive orange smoke south, and the haze grew thicker the further north we drove. We stopped in Mt. Vernon to hotel it overnight with a king sized bed and HGTV before 3 nights of tent camping. It felt like a good transition from town life to ‘out there’. We ate a late dinner at the local Applebees (yuck). A family across from us was celebrating their sons 21st birthday, and mom and dad were plying him with shots of bourbon. It was amusing and weird to watch that rite of passage similar and yet so different from our own.

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In the morning we left Mt. Vernon around 9, ate breakfast at the hotel (yuck) and stopped at Fred Meyer to fill the cooler, gas tank, and pick up a new Barbie for Mary to model crochet prototypes dreamed up in the car. She has been named Travelonda d’Boocoupe. Mary crocheted up a hoodie sweater and a pair of shorts for her on the way into North Cascades.

We arrived at Colonial Creek Campground a little later than I wanted, but snagged site #106, one of the last remaining ones aside from walk-ins. After setting up camp in our bower for the next 3 nights we drove back to the ranger station in Newhalem.

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They had a nice exhibit describing the geological features and wildlife of the park, including this large stuffed slug that I loved! I stamped my national parks passport book, and we checked out the trails there for possible future hiking. On the way back to the campsite we stopped at the village and picked up some drinks and snacks, and then headed to the Gorge Overlook. The half mile or so trail was gloriously wooded and shaded, a welcome relief from the lingering heat wave. The haze was obscuring some of the scenery, but the views were still fabulous.

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We dropped in for a brief peek at the beach across Highway 20 from the campground, and snapped some photos. I waded into the water to mid-calf. Shockingly cold at first but quickly got used to it, and I was looking forward to a nice long float the next day in our favorite tubes. We also scouted the trail in the campground that we also hoped to hike the next day.

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Travelonda, the new raven that we picked up at the ranger station, and our favorite travelling companions watched over while we made a dinner of hamburgers with grilled onions, mac and cheese,  baby carrots, and MOOSE DROOL! Finally some yum! Hurray for camp food! After getting everything stowed away in the provided bear box we settled down at the picnic table for some serious crochet and journaling. Kids and dogs barking in the campground kept the night pretty loud. A group camp across the road from us had a birthday party including cake and a “damn-the-ban” campfire, their previous relative mellow turned to raucous sugar high quickly.

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We hit the sack early for some cot reading, but I fell asleep after 20 pages or so. Mary said the sugar highers went on for ages, but since I didn’t sleep well the night before I crashed hard and slept through it. There was a brief thundershower overnight, but the remainder of the night was delightfully dark and quiet. We woke up the next morning to a 3 hour thunderstorm.  After nearly a month of no rain, and many years since experiencing a decent thunderstorm it was very exciting! The thunder echoing off the steep mountains surrounding us was amazing. The rain finally tapered off enough for us to get out of the tent around noon and make some coffee and eat breakfast.

Since the weather continued to look iffy and was significantly cooler we decided to skip floating and  jump straight to hiking. We drove to the Wilderness ranger station in Marblemount to ask about moderate ~3 milers near our campground. They directed us to the trail in camp, and another very popular trail right across the road. We popped into the Newhalem store again on the way back to Colonial Creek so Mary could pick up some Calamine for a palm sized evil fly bite she got on her leg. Once back at camp we made a late lunch of hot dogs rolled up in grilled cheese halves with more grilled onions, yummers!

After lunch the sky cleared and we set out to do an out-and-back three miler up the Thunder Creek trail, the ranger had told us a bridge over the river was a good turn around point. The trail was through dense forest next to the creek with that fresh after rain smell – earthy and unbelievably delicious. The water in the creek was a smoky teal grey from rock flour and moving quite rapidly after the morning rain. There were quite a few people on the trail, but it never felt too crowded. A nice soft easy trail to get the legs warmed up after the long drive.

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Once back at camp we were greeted by a slug army. What is this slimy brown cat turd climbing up our tent!?! I had to evacuate several slugs and a few green stink bugs from our general area, hopefully they all enjoyed the nice trees I placed them on. Meanwhile in camp there was a dude who kept yelling out “Yaaaaa-Hupp” over and over. It went on day and night so I don’t know if he had Tourettes or was just a loud arsehole.

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After eating an ungodly amount of grilled onions in a third meal of chicken tenders with curried noodles our stomachs rebelled all night long in the tent.”Yaaaaa-huuuupppp”. Fortunately we didn’t asphyxiate ourselves, and lived to hike another day! No internet bliss! No campfires allowed though, so no night time s’mores activity either. 🙁 Our loop of the campground quieted overnight, the group camp aka “the human zoo” left, and we had a passed out biker (bicycle kind), and a quiet couple on either side.

Sunday morning we woke up around 10 to sounds of the campground packing up and leaving for the work week, no more “Yaaaaa-huuuppp”! Yay! We talked a bit about the weird noise in the middle of the night we both heard and after research what I think was a barred owl call. After breakfast we got our hiking duds on and headed across the road to hike the Thunder Knob Trail.

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METAMORPHIC ROCKS!!! WOOHOO!

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We danced a true groove at the top of the trail, and picked up a few interesting metamorphic rocks, don’t find many of those round these parts, very exiting! I’ll let the pictures of the hike speak for themselves, but in a word –  spectacular. After the 3.6 mileish hike we boogied back to camp for cheeseburgers and carrots, but didn’t linger too long as our camp bower was cold and clammy. We decided to get our creative gear out and found an awesome pier on the river to relax on, watching birds and people try to fly and paddle on the extra breezy waters. Watched some kids throw rocks in, and just lazily drew and crocheted in the sunshine until it got too chilly. Back at camp I set up the hammock for Mary to crochet in, and I took a nap in the tent.

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The next morning we packed up our camp and hit the road. We drove east on highway 20 and stopped at the amazing Diablo Lake overlook. WOW! There are some awesome metamorphic swirls on the road cut across from the overlook so check those out too if you’re up that way.

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Washington Pass is the last pass before hitting the east side of the cascades, and we had to stop and grab some pics. Next time we’ll hit the trail there that supposedly has a 700 foot cliff and amazing views as well. We turned south on 97 and drove back through central Washington as I had never been that route before. Through the eastern edge of the Cascades and into high desert country rolling over its golden ridges. We passed countless fruit orchards, cherries, apples, pears, peaches, etc. and through a number of apple maggot quarantine zones. It was a slow route taking over 9 hours to reach home, but it was totally worth it for it’s ever changing geography, topography, temperature…so many trees.

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We ate lunch in Wenatchee, and I captured a cloudy halo in the back window as we packed in for the final push to Cascade Locks and home!

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We arrived in Cascade Locks a little after 8 pm, and drove up to a closed sign at “The Cone”.  We both screamed NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! But I noticed a girl with two sodas standing at the window so I told Mary to jump out and see if we could still get cones! The woman at the window told Mary she just cleaned the machine, and Mary said we just drove 9 hours for this cone – but then the girl (her daughter) said “Mom, let that lady have a cone, she really wants one. And it’s money!” So she did, and we coned! YAY! East Wind Cafe you rule!

26The final bit of the drive was a golden sunset through the Gorge, and then home to happy cats. Another fun adventure in nature – relaxing, rain-filled, cool, full of gorgeousness, full of hiking and challenging ourselves to wander!

Critter Watch:
Slugs, inch worms, chipmunks, Stellars Jay, robins, ravens, loons, canadian geese, other ducks, other water birds, warbling birds, tiny bees, flies, mosquitoes, green stink bug, 3 small deer including 2 with tiny new horns, 2 elk, heard a barred owl, various unidentified butterflies and other insects.