Thursday, August 16, 2018

Crossing the Cascade Mountains and Landing in Concrete, WA

Posted from Graham, WA

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To view additional pics not included in today's blog, please click on a link below:
Travel Along the Cascade Highway
Mt. Baker, WA

After leaving Twisp, WA (on the east side of the mountains) we were very much looking forward to our next stop in Concrete, WA (which is on the western side of the Cascade Mountain Range).

The move was only 117 miles, but it took a bit over 2:46 because of the twisty roads and occasional pull outs for pictures.

The North Cascades Highway (Rt. 20) is closed from mid-November to April because of heavy snowfall. The drive was beautiful and there's certainly no reason to be rushing as you travel through this area.

We reached our destination for the next 12 days at the Grandy Creek Thousand Trails, located approximately 6 miles west of Concrete, WA. This is a bit of an odd TT, as it shares the property with the Grandy Creek KOA.

We were able to select a spot under some towering trees. As always when parked under trees, there is an upside and a downside. We loved the cooler temperatures provided by the shade of the trees, but it also meant NO television (either satellite or over-the-air) for the entire stay. Oh well, we survived. LOL

As in most campgrounds we've found in Washington during this time of the year, the TT here is very popular. During the week it was pretty quiet, but during the weekend it was pretty much full.

One of the areas we wanted to visit while here was the Mt. Baker National Recreation Area. From our campground, Mt. Baker is almost due north and only 17 miles away. Unfortunately, that is "as the crow flies". The drive by car was about 85 miles.

We followed SR542 all of the way to the end of the road (past the Mt. Baker Ski Area). The road ends in a large parking lot which leads to several trailheads for hiking. We began with the longest hike of the day to Table Mountain. Although it was July, the remains of snow and ice are still present. It did make finding the start of the trail a bit more challenging.

Don't let the snow fool you, it reached 90 degrees on this day. This whole area is beautiful. Here's a view of Mt. Shuksan as you look toward the north.

The final 1/4 mile is a bit steep, but the views from the top of Table Mountain are wonderful. We're looking toward Bagley Lakes here.

Of course, if you look the other direction, the view of Mt. Baker isn't too bad either.

The second trail of the day was named Artist Ridge. I can certainly see how people with artistic talent (certainly not me) would be inspired by the views in all directions from this area. Here's Karen taking a rest for a bit of introspection.

With the snow melting, beautiful small pools are formed at several locations along the trails.

The final two hikes of the day were short in length, but long in beauty. The first, Fire and Ice, was so named because the landscape showed the effects of both glacial and volcanic activity through the years.

This large lake was nestled at the base of Table Mountain.

The final hike of the day was named Picture Lake. The trail is comprised of a short walk around the lake. The "money shot" is the reflection of Mt. Shuksan in the lake. Unfortunately, there was a slight wind while we were there and capturing a mirror surface wasn't possible, but I still like the view.

In the next blog post we explore the little town of Concrete, learn about the creation of the dams in this area, and eat a meal of "dam good chicken".

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wrapping Up Our Stay in the Twisp, WA Area

Posted from near Anacortes, WA
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To view additional pics not contained in today's blog click below:
North Cascades Smokejumpers Base
Lake Chelan, WA

The week we spent in Twisp with our friends Bill and Debi flew by. Although we have since moved on to a different area of Washington I still wanted to blog about two really interesting places we visited.

The first was almost right across the Methow River from our campground. This is home to the North Cascades Smokejumpers Base. The base is the home of a group of very brave men and women who jump from planes to fight forest fires. Rather than go into a lengthy history of this group, just click on the link above. Just briefly, the idea of jumping from a plane to combat forest fires began in 1939 when a small group made 58 experimental jumps into the nearby forests to determine whether or not this was even feasible. No injuries were sustained and the first actual fire jump was eventually made on August 10, 1940.

Today, there are approximately 400 smokejumpers throughout the western US and Alaska. The teams fall under the jurisdiction of the USFS and BLM agencies.

When we drove over to their base, we walked into the office and requested if a tour might be possible. The guys in the office were very accommodating and radioed for the "rookie" to respond and lead our tour.  Our guide took us into the parachute loft where a few team members were packing chutes.

Our guide did an excellent job of detailing the history of the unit, along with showing us the equipment used by smokejumpers. In front of the main office is this plaque commemorating the early beginnings of the smokejumpers.

We climbed inside the plane currently used to carry out the firefighting missions. (The plane is pretty old and I thought he was showing us an example of what was used in the past.)

We concluded our excellent tour with our guide taking a group picture of the four of us in front of their plane.

If you are ever in this area I would recommend spending about an hour and take a tour of the Smokejumpers Base. It's free and no reservations are required.

Our last adventure before leaving the Twisp area involved an all-day trip via ferry on Lake Chelan to the small village of Stehekin. Stehekin is a very small village located near the north end of Lake Chelan, which is approximately 50 miles in length. This little place is located in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The village is so remote that there are no roads leading to it. The only way in is via ferry (which we took from the city of Chelan), private boat, seaplane, or by hiking in.

During this time of year visitors wishing to travel via ferry can either ride the Lady of the Lake II or the Lady Express. The difference between the two is the amount of time for the layover in Stehekin. We boarded in Chelan at 8:30 AM for the 4-hour ride to Stehekin.

The ferry ride is very relaxing and passes by a variety of landscapes along the route. The lower part of the lake consists of many residences and businesses near Chelan.

As you travel northward evidence of many vineyards come into view. At one point Lake Chelan reaches a depth of 1485 feet. The area was formed by glacial movement long ago.

About 1/3 into our journey and all roads along the lake cease. It's still possible to view a few homes dotting the hillsides ever so often, and you wonder how all of the materials were brought in for their construction. The more remote the area, the prettier the scenery became.

There are vehicles in Stehekin to move tourists about and to facilitate activities of the NPS, but they all must be brought in by ferries which only handle such equipment.

We arrived at the dock at Stehekin at 12:30 PM and only had 90 minutes before departure. Just enough time to eat a quick lunch we had brought along, and to visit the NPS Visitor's Center in town.

There are places to stay for overnight lodging and if I return again I believe that we would like to spend a couple of days visiting the remote area. From what I understand, reservations need to be made well in advance of an intended stay. The whole area was beautiful and the feeling of being "away from civilization" was very alluring.

I want to express our appreciation to Bill and Debi again for taking time to bring their RV to the campground where we were staying for the week. They were excellent "tour guides" and directed us to many places which we probably would not have found on our own.  Thanks again guys!

The next blog post will be about our activities in the North Cascades Mountains.

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look!