North Cascades National Park | 19/59

This is officially my favorite national park sign we have seen so far.  We knew that we were in for a real treat, if this is what the sign looked like!  (P.s. Eyespy Vladimir)

I was still having a hard time doing anything super movement intense.  My knee was messed up.  Instead of trying to climb or slackline, we decided to take it mellow on Diablo Lake.  We suited the kitty up and got the kayaks down.

The kitty knows that when we get these big gray boxes down, that we are getting in the water.  The hardest part is getting him in the boat, once he is in – he’s fine.  It is the two seconds that we hold him over the water to get him to the boat that is not havin’ it.

Apparently the water is so turquoise because of the surrounding glaciers.  They grind the rock into a fine powder, which is transported to the lake via streams and creeks.  The powder gets suspended in the lake and in the sun creates an intense turquoise color!  Science!

In fact, this was one of his better paddles.  Towards the end of the ride, he even ventured out on the top of the kayak!  He passes for a pretty good mermaid on the end of our boat!

The North Cascades is a “Park Complex”.  We didn’t really understand what that meant until we got there.  In short, there is a north and a south section of North Cascades National Park and sandwiched in the middle is the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.  The North Cascades Highway goes right through the National Recreation Area.  The rules an regulations are very different in the two places.

North Cascades

As we drove the road, we couldn’t help but notice the massive power lines that connect the series of dams.  In 1924 the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project built the first dam to provide power to Seattle.

As we drove, we felt deceived.  We weren’t used to having things like power lines and hydroelectric projects interrupt our connection with nature.  It really felt… weird.  The whole drive gave this feel of “look at these pretty lakes WE built and strung together with our fancy wires.”  It didn’t feel like a national park.

At first, I was annoyed.  I knew that I had only seen a little part of the area, but I didn’t understand why this would be a national park.  There had to be more.  We had to get deeper into the park to see what was here that merited the status of National Park.

We really wanted to hike with the kitty; we hadn’t taken him on a hike in a while.  We drove to a trail just outside of the park where he was allowed – Heather and Maple Pass Trail.

This place was awesome!  There were spectacular views most of the way up, and we were the only ones out on the trail!  It was so low traffic, we decided to see how Vladimir would hike off leash.

At first we were worried that he would take off at the first sounds of chipmunk that he heard, but then after a bit of him sticking to the trail, we totally trusted him to stay with us!  He just trotted right along beside us.  Sometimes he would stop and sniff a few plants or climb a few feet up a tree.  And if he ever got behind, he would race to catch up!

We were very impressed with this little kitty’s hiking abilities.

Ann Lake was gorgeous.  The trail winds up and around giving a really awesome view of the whole thing.  We stopped here for me to rest my knee and for the kitty to explore the piles of rocks.

We spent the night in the trailhead parking area.  We aren’t totally sure if that was okay, but we didn’t see any signs, so we went for it.  Better to as for forgiveness, right?  (There really wasn’t anyone to as for permission anyways.)

We went to the Visitor Center and watched a really cool film on bears!  We even got to see a few of them outside!  This poor guy got hit by a car a while back, so now he is on display to help teach people more about bears in the area.

At the beginning of our time in the North Cascades we had heard that there was an “epic trail” that you had to drive a ways down a steep dirt road to get to the trail head.  People told us that we couldn’t miss it, but by the way they described the road, we were a little worried that the RV couldn’t make it.  We kind of ruled it out.  But as our first two days went by, and we couldn’t shake the weird “power line feeling”, we decided that we had to make the trek to really get to know the park.  Let’s just say, it was one of the best decisions we made this whole trip.  The drive out to Cascade Pass was rough, but worth it.

You can’t see him very well, but this bear was right off the trail scarfing some berries!  He was rustling around when we walked by, other wise we would have never been able to spot him.  (watch the video clip at the end of the post to see him actually come out of his bushes for a second!)  We were probably 20/30 feet from this guy!

There were flies everywhere.  I couldn’t tell if it was the same swarm of flies that followed us up the whole hike, or if the trail just happened to go through a winged demon mosh pit.  It was bad.  For the whole six hours we were out, flies were just hitting us in the face.  It seriously felt like the plague that Moses called down on Pharaoh relocated to Cascade Pass.

The views, and the much needed snow angel, at the top were worth the struggles with the flies.

The hike up to the pass was a sweaty, fly-covered mess.  There was a point on the trail when the only thing I wanted in the world was to be fully submerged in cold water.  Luckily, after we got down, we jumped in one of the waterfalls off the road and counted it as our shower.  I have to say that it was better than any shower I have ever taken. I felt pressure-washed clean.

North Cascades National Park Complex was interesting to say the least.  We shamelessly judged North Cascades by it’s cover.  Like we said, we had a hard time understanding what the park was all about at first. We saw ugly power lines and man-made lakes, and we instantly thought, ” well, this is lame.”  But when we took the time and put in the effort, we found the real hidden gems.  I am confident that if we had the time to venture even further into the park, we would have found even more awe-inspiring secrets and jaw-dropping vistas.  It just goes to show, that if you are willing to “travel the hard road”, you can find the good–in people, in a “terrible” job, and in life in general.  There is good stuff to be found – however, sometimes you have to work hard to track it down!


  1. 1. NoCa definitely has the best sign of all.

    2. The park was actually primarily established to protect the glaciers- the highest concentration of active glaciers in the lower 48 (and maybe all of North America, I’ll have to check my science on that one)! 99.9% of visitors to the park never even get to experience them. When we all go back together (it’s happening, don’t try to fight it) we’ll have to do some legit glacier climbing!

    3. Those power lines were a little weird, but hey, they were there first! Haha. When we went we hiked along the edge of Diablo Lake and it was spectacular. Can’t wait to go back.

  2. Dawn from Camano Island

    I have to admit that the west side of the park just does’t look like a national park. There’s a super popular trail over Cloudy Pass drops down into a valley. It’s stunning. There’s an old mining town there that was purchased many years ago by the Lutheran Church–they have a retreat center there–Holden Village–that is definitely worth a visit if you want to experience the east side of the park. There’s an old road that drops down to Lake Chelan & you can take a little boat up to Stehekin. There are a lot of stellar hikes out of Stehekin that go north into the park. I guess all this is my way of saying–come back to North Cascades if you ever get the chance & experience the ‘other’ side of the mountain. Happy Trails!

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