Thursday, July 20, 2006

Road Trip - The Cascade Loop

Ever since I started visiting the Pacific Northwest, I've been hearing about the "Cascade Loop" and longing to go see it. This is an approximately 400 mile drive from Anacortes (on the coast), east across the Cascade Mountains, then south to Wenatchie, then west again, back across the lower Cascades to the coast. On Monday morning, my friend Shane (below by the tree) and I set out to experience the Loop for ourselves, and it did not disappoint! One drives first through the Skagit Valley, the big tulip growing area north of Seattle. The first entry into the mountains begins after Sedro Wooley, and things begin to get dramatic in the little town of Concrete, where several rivers converge. Here, when the salmon spawn, dozens of bald eagles appear and feed on them, and the town even has a Bald Eagle Festival.
There are rivers or lakes along almost all of the Cascade Loop. The Skagit River, on the first section, is an amazing green color because it is fed by glaciers. At several points, the river is dammed up, forming beautiful green lakes. We drove up into the mountains, even reaching the snow level. From every turn, the views were breath-taking.

Coming down the other side, one enters a high desert plateau, the Methow Valley, ringed by mountains. Both the Twisp and the Methow rivers run along the roadside. Fruit orchards and vineyards are everywhere, lending green patches to an otherwise dry landscape. We spent the first night at Winthrop, at a lovely motel with big green lawns running down to the river. Zuma was in heaven there, rolling in the deep grass, and sniffing all the new smells.

The next morning, Tuesday, we got up early and drove to the town of Chelan, further south. We checked Zuma into a local kennel for the day, and hurried over to the dock of the Lady of the Lake, a boat tour that took us on an all-day ride up to the end of Lake Chelan and back again.
This lake is 51 miles long, 1 mile wide (at it's widest point) and extremely deep. It goes back into the heart of the Cascades, which rise steeply from the edges of the lake, eventually ending in a little town called Stehekin. Named by the Indians, Stehekin means "the way through". This was because the Indians paddled up the lake, then passed through the mountains behind Stehekin to trade with Pacific Coast tribes. The town of Stehekin relies on boats ond barges to bring everything to them, from groceries and supplies to building equipment, cars, gas, etc. There are no telephones up there, and only 72 permanent residents. They send a mail order and a blank check by boat to the stores in Chelan, and supplies are then delivered to the boats in return. We also were told that the town of Stehekin boxes up all their trash and sends it out by boat, due to a problem with black bears. They keep a community box of discards to be sent to the Goodwill, but residents typically browse through it and help themselves to things. Stehekin calls this box of discarded items "the Stehekin Mall". While there, we took a little side trip to see the Rainbow Falls, a spectacular 314 foot tall waterfall that crashes dramatically down the cliffs above the town.

On Tuesday night, having liberated Zuma, we stayed in a motel right on the lake in Chelan. Yesterday we drove back through the mountains again, stopping frequently at scenic spots to view the Snohomish River, the dramatic little town of Index, and the kitchy Bavarian decor in the entire town of Leavenworth.
We spotted an osprey in a nest on a snag in the river, and we hiked down to another lovely waterfall at Deception Falls.
Finally got back to Whidbey Island last night, tired but so happy to have made this spectacular tour.


robin andrea said...

Oh what a gorgeous journey. We are definitely going to have to do it! It looks so beautiful. Thanks for taking us along.

DivaJood said...

Fantastic journey. It is the only part of the US I've not traveled, and now I want to even more. Thank you!

Dotty Stripes said...

What an amazing Trip...Wish I could have gone with y'all!

The Fat Lady Sings said...

Pretty cool, honey! I only wish I could have been with ya! Wonderful pictures too. We have a local osprey who visits on occasion. They are truly magnificent birds.

TDharma said...

Leavenworth reminds me of Solvang in California.

I loved joining you on your travels. I love Washington state. Thanks for bring it home to us!