North Cascades National Park, WA

You can thank the Mercedes GL for this blog because it has had a hiccup that forced us to pause our travel.  We’re currently in Creswell OR, near Eugene, awaiting a part that was ordered yesterday.  I’ll talk about that in a future blog.

First, let me fulfill the promise I made a while back, to talk about our trip to North Cascades National Park.  That lovely visit to Lake Chelan boosted our interest in going further up into North Cascades.  (Technically the town of Chelan is outside the park, but taking the ferry up the lake to Stehekin put us into North Cascades for a day.)

north-cascades-driving-map

If you could fly over the North Cascades with your Airstream from Chelan WA to Newhalem (near the center of the park) the trip would be fairly short, perhaps 70-80 miles.  But since the roads skirt the eastern edge of the mountain range, it’s a 134 mile trip that took us over four hours with a couple of stops.

The reason for the stops should be obvious from the photo below: it’s just gorgeous up there.

north-cascades-airstream-overlook

[Just an aside: virtually every time I pull into a large fuel station someone stares at the Airstream and asks me “does that Mercedes pull that big trailer OK?”  But when I’m at elevation in the mountains at a place like this, nobody asks.]

north-cascades-diablo-lake-overlook

The really prime viewpoint is the Diablo Lake overlook (above).  Diablo is one of three lakes created by hydroelectric dams along the Skagit River that provide power to Seattle.  The amazing color of the water is the result of “glacial flour”, which is basically ground-up dust from the ancient bedrock.  You see the same thing in the rivers and lakes in Alberta.  As stunning as it is in a photo, it’s even nicer in person.

north-cascades-gorge-high-damAlthough we ended up spending four days in the national park, the best way to appreciate this area is to explore the backcountry.  That means dedicating some time to hiking, tenting, fishing, etc.  We didn’t have time for that on this visit, but I made a note to return for a longer visit–and bring my tent and hiking boots.  This is a beautiful, wild, and vast national park and I want to see more of it.

Since we had squeezed North Cascades into our trip itinerary at the last moment, we were obliged to keep the visit short and get on toward Seattle. Eleanor needed to fly back to Tucson for an appointment, and I had at least six or seven days worth of work to catch up on.

So we parked the Airstream at Washington Land Yacht Harbor in Lacey, for an affordable full hookup, and that’s how this trip across the United States ended.

I’ve never bothered to count how many times we have crossed the country, but the number of one-way trips certainly is more than 25 at this point.  It’s not really a point of pride, as I believe that the key to enjoyable Airstreaming is the amount of time you stop rather than the amount of miles you drive.

If I could go back and change the past I would be glad to have spent twice as much time at many places. When you travel slowly it’s amazing how often you trip over some place that’s truly fantastic, while on the way to somewhere else.

Our next trip leg takes us south into California for Alumafandango, but before we get there we’ve got a little time to explore Oregon and northern California. I’ll get into that in the next blog.