We went sightseeing this week in the Pacific Northwest. Our tour took us to:
- La Conner
- The North Cascades National Park Highway
- Mt. Baker and
- Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
For the most part, these are places we have never been. These were long, busy days with a lot of new sights and incredible photo opportunities. Thankfully, somehow, the slapstick jams I normally find myself in were largely avoided.
Concrete is an intriguing name for the town that seems to be the unofficial entry point to The North Cascades National Park. It provides the last services for about 60 miles on Highway 20 as it crosses the park. This road is closed for long periods of times during the winter.
The second I saw the concrete silos in the middle of the town, I realized I had seen a picture of them before. It was a bit of “deja-vu”! I never dreamed I would come across them in our adventures today! It was a pleasant surprise.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades is a relatively new National Park (1968). It is almost entirely protected as a wilderness area with few roads or structures. The Park contains the most expansive glacial system in the contiguous United States, with vast forests and the greatest degree of flora biodiversity of any US national park.
Highway 20 begins as a relatively flat road along the wide, slow moving Skagit River. Rapids slowly begin to appear as the elevation starts to rise.
Eventually, we pass three dams, concrete courtesy of Concrete, WA. Ross Dam, the third and largest (540-feet) of the dams, creates Lake Ross, stretching over 22-miles north into Canada.
Gold was first discovered in the area, but the supply was unpredictable and logging took over before dam construction was started in the 1920’s.
Old Growth Forests
Fortunately, the forest has returned and the park is now protected. There are still some remaining pockets of old growth forests. Truly, the majesty of a 700-year old tree dwarfs our very own existence.
Taking a Break from Sightseeing
On our way home, we stopped back in Concrete at Cascade Burgers, a local joint decorated from the 50’s, with a long history inclusive of most everyone that has passed through this decaying hamlet.
I noted to Deborah, that the name, with the local tie to the Cascades, was a good choice. I doubt CONCRETE BURGERS would have worked quite as well!!
We were served the thickest milkshakes ever, and met a ” regular” customer named Mike. He asked us where we were from, I think, so we would reciprocate. It turns out that Mike was born in Concrete and a 1957 graduate of Concrete High School. He told us that he moved to Burlington once (all of 20 miles west) but felt out of place and returned to Concrete in less than a year. As Mike left, he picked up a used local paper stacked on a nearby shelf. I am sure that he was just going to read about everything that he probably already knew.
Next was a trip to Mt. Baker, a snow and glacier covered volcano reaching 10,781 feet in elevation. The Mt. Baker Highway also heads east from I-5, but is prominently posted as a dead-end road. It follows the North Fork of the Nooksack River before finally raising to an elevation of 3,500 feet at the Mt. Baker Ski Area situated in the saddle between Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker.
It was already July but the snow near the top parking lot was still over 15-feet deep in places.
The Ascent to Mt. Baker
Our sightseeing took on a more adventurous turn as we drove Willy up NF-39, a remote old logging road to the west of Mt. Baker. Unbeknowst to us, it led to the staging area for both the Coleman Glacier Climbing Route and the North Ridge Climbing Route. This is a common place for mountaineers to begin their 3-day ascents over the glaciers and up to the summit of Mt. Baker. We had only seen 3 cars on the 13-mile journey to this point, so we were surprised to see eight vans and gear trailers parked there!
Anacortes and La Connor
Each historic town has been revitalized with unique shops; although, LaConnor seems a little more quaint and unique.
Entering and Exiting Canada
After my border fiasco , a couple of days earlier, I was a little nervous about entering Canada on our way to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. I wondered if any issues would arise when my passport was scanned. Instead, the officer confirmed four times that we did not have any guns in Willy. He warned that the Royal Mounted Police were just down the street doing searches.
I respect Canada’s strict stance against guns. There have only been six shooting deaths in Vancouver this year – a total easily reached in one week in numerous US cities.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Sightseeing is great. But it’s also great to get out, go to a tourist attraction, and experience being a tourist with thousands of other people! Capilano Suspension Bridge Park has added a TreeTops Adventure and a CliffWalk since we last visited it’s historical Suspension Bridge.
This Park was so organized, beautiful, clean and natural with majestic trees that are 300+ years old. We found a couple of great walks, and in addition, I can report that they also have some wonderful ice-cream concoctions.
At the end of this energizing day, we easily passed back into the USA, with a passport.
My advice: Don’t leave home without one!
Scenic Sightseeing Overload!!! So many places to go, and so much to see!! We truly packed a lot of sightseeing into this week, along with two days of golf and some shopping. And, for the first time in our married life, I was the one who asked if we could slow down and experience some down-time.
The thought of sitting under BAM’s awning, in a nice lawn chair, enjoying the 70 degree weather and watching the big white fluffy clouds go by seemed like the perfect thing to do!!!
Fortunately, Tim seemed just as ready to take a break!