Wandering through Washington, Part I

July 26, we left Idaho behind and made our way into Washington. First stop, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. It was a nice drive from Idaho, except going through Spokane. I swear, they put a traffic light every 200 feet. And we were getting stopped at every, single one. For miles. Ugh! But we did have a great laugh before we got to Spokane. As we approached a small town, we saw a deer crossing sign coming up. When we got close, it said “Warning! Suicidal Deer.” That had us laughing for awhile!

We stayed near the town of Kettle Falls on Lake Roosevelt. The lake is a reservoir created by the Grand Coulee dam, which is over 130 miles away, on the Columbia River. We never made it over to the dam, but we did enjoy our time there. We had a nice view of the lake from our site. However our site was located about 20 feet up above the lake with no shoreline access.. There was a trail leading out of the campground for dog walking. Internet was non-existent. There was a lot of smoke in the air because of wildfires. Seems everywhere in the west, there are fires.  You never know from day to day if you are going to have clear skies or smoky ones.


After a week there (in the 100° heat with no hookups, mind you), we headed out to Concrete, Washington so we could visit both the North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake National Recreation Area. We split the drive into two days because we knew it would be a long day on secondary roads with lots of ups and downs, curves and switchbacks. On the second day, Bev was actually happy she had to drive slow so she could take the views in. It was spectacular. The North Cascades are rugged granite topped mountains with lots and lots of huge trees. We were oohing and ahhing for quite a way.

You actually drive through Ross Lake NRA on State Route 20. When we came upon the lakes they were really different. Ross Lake is 28 miles long and stretches north into Canada. The only road that goes to it is on an unimproved dirt road from Canada. There is the Ross Dam and then Diablo Lake. It was a mint green color. (I’ll fill you in on that in a minute). Then after the Diablo Dam, there is Gorge Lake. Still green, but not as minty as Diablo. The hydroelectric power generated from the dams provides power for Seattle. The mountains were all pretty much snow-capped (or were they?) and there were waterfalls all along the highway.


The next day we drove to the visitor center. We learned the reason Diablo Lake is minty green is from the water feeding it. Diablo is fed from glacier run-off. The glaciers grind the granite into a fine powder called ‘glacial flour’. It contains lots of minerals, and those minerals, which are suspended in the water, refract light. The pictures I took didn’t show the minty green color as well because the sun was being filtered through the dense wildfire smoke.  We also learned there are over 300 glaciers in the North Cascades NP. So those snow-capped mountains are actually glacier-capped mountains. A glacier is really just a snow field that doesn’t melt in the summer and moves. The Rockies do not receive the same amount of snow as the Cascades, therefore, the Rockies have fewer glaciers. The Cascades, being near the ocean, get lots of snow and the short summer, at altitude, prevents the snow from melting. There are actually more glaciers here than Glacier National Park. Cool. And we learned that the Cascades got their name from the cascading water that is everywhere. You don’t have to go far to find flowing water. They don’t get as much rain as Seattle, but the snow melt going on all summer, keeps it all pretty moist and green.

A total of three different parks are connected in this area. The two we visited, North Cascades and Ross Lake are the biggest. Ross Lake NRA straddles the Skagit River and the three reservoirs. North Cascades stretches north of Ross and goes to the Canadian border. Another section runs south and contains the only road in the entire park. Then way down south there is the third park, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The only way in is hike, float plane, or boat. We were not able to visit Chelan as it would have taken a full 10 hour day to get there and back.

We did hike on one of the trails in the Ross Lake area. Dogs are allowed on the National Recreation Area trails, but not on any trails except the Pacific Coast Trail in the Cascades National Park. So Kip and Kellie got to go on a hike in the woods. They got a little bored from waiting on us to take photographs. But I think they enjoyed it as much as we did.


Oh, and I can’t forget to mention our favorite past time while here. Blackberry picking. The bushes are everywhere. Literally. They take over any ground they can. We found one patch where the berries were so sweet it reminded me of blackberry flavored candy. Yum. One day, we picked a pint and Bev whipped up some buckwheat pancakes to have with them. So if you come to Washington state, come in August when the berries are sweet and there for the picking. Oh, and yes, some gorgeous scenery.




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