Peg and I are now in the Olympic NP area enjoying the 70 degree days and cool nights of the Pacific Ocean air. Before we got here we spent a wonderful two weeks in the North Cascades area at Pine Near RV Park in Winthrop, Washington. We went to visit the snow and see the beautiful mountains and forests of the Cascades. Of course, we took a white knuckle ride to the top of Slate Peak and met many wonderful people.
Winthrop is a very nice old town which looks like it is still in the 1890’s, with the addition of wonderful restaurants, bars, and touristy shopping. Oh, and of course the obligatory winery. From Pine Near, it was a short walk through the Shaffer Museum and down the mountain to downtown. Pine Near is a great rv park, we highly recommend it, all grass, super Wifi, wonderful people and well maintained.
Peg and I ate lunch one day on the river having a couple of local brews. This is where we met a couple of local folks who told us about the great view at Slate Peak up past Hart Pass. I still half think they were leading us a long a little, but it sure was worth the trip.
The road to Hart Pass is paved and a very pleasant drive through the forest. It makes an innocent little right turn onto the road to Slate Peak, turning into a gravel one lane road, then rock one lane road, then less than one lane road. Why they build one lane roads that must be used to go both directions is beyond me, but boy do they get the adrenalin pumping. This road rises to over 7000 feet in 10 miles and some of it is literally hanging on to the cliff edges where regular landslides knock the whole thing down. Needless to say this was Peg’s favorite part. To her credit, she just looked straight ahead, squeezed the hand hold until it screamed, and said nothing for the longest time :).
At the end of the road was a small parking lot and a trail up to the top of the peak at 7488 feet. The view was already breathtaking; however, I hiked on up to the top. The surprise was that a small portion of this trail is part of the Pacific Crest National Trail, the west coast equivalent of Appalachian Trail. Slate Peak itself served as an Army outpost for most of the Cold War, watching for Russian bombers. All that remains is a small secured ( triple locks on the door and heavy steel cable anchored into the rock ) building and a tall watch tower. The watch tower is abandoned and in very poor shape, not climbable.
What a panoramic view! 360 degrees of mountains, valleys and glaciers. I was so glad I walked to the top, especially after not making it up to the top on two previous trails. We were very lucky to have a crystal clear day. Mt Baker, which is an active volcanoe, was in clear view. Pictures of the placards naming all the mountains and their locations are included. Hope you take some time to view the mountains and begin to see why they are called the Cascades.
The Smoke Jumpers Base tour was free and very interesting. These people jump from airplanes into the forests on the mountains and work forest fires. They seem normal, but deep inside, they have to be a little nuts. And if you are ever in the area of one of these 8 or 9 bases, take a tour.
The North Cascades NP is beautiful and designed for foot and horse travel. Very limited roads and off road vehicles are restricted. The interesting thing about traveling Highway 20 through the park is the change in the landscape from the dryer east side to the almost rain forest like west side.
A note on the links to the pictures. With the new camera, the pictures are now 24mp and the files are large. When viewing the pictures in Flickr, it may take a moment or two for the pictures to complete loading, so if they look fuzzy give them a moment or two. if they are still fuzzy, sorry. Also, Peg has on occasion found that linking through on Facebook will not load the entire album, I don’t know why. FYI all the 14000 some pictures are for the most part public with attribution, so feel free to use them.