September 11, 2010 Mostly sunny, 54 degrees
The value of water in the west is not to be underestimated. Apple, peach, and cherry orchards are flourishing in areas normally covered with sagebrush all because of irrigation made possible because of Grand Coulee Dam. All along the route we took from Omak to North Cascades National Park, fields were being irrigated, even hay fields.
We were totally unprepared for the beauty of North Cascades NP. Our national parks book failed to describe it accurately. Unsurprisingly, some of the almost vertical mountainsides are covered with trees, and others are barren. The surprise, however, was the glaciers. We learned that Northern Cascades NP has more glaciers than anywhere else in the Lower 48---over 300---and many more than Glacier NP. They are almost everywhere we looked, and many were large as well. They also are the source of numerous waterfalls cascading from high on the mountainsides, their presence revealed as their spray glints in the sunlight.
Except for the serious backpacker, NCNP can only be enjoyed from the road. The steep mountains and narrow valleys limit access to its rugged beauty, so much of the park is undeveloped. Few trails are appropriate for the average hiker, so we viewed the park from the many overlooks. And there is much to be seen from the overlooks. In addition to the mountains, glaciers and waterfalls, three dams, Ross, Diablo, and Gorge, have been constructed in the park. Behind each is a lake with glacial silt tinting the water green. Some have islands in them, and these waters are obviously very popular adventurous individuals as evidenced by the number of canoes and kayaks plying their waters.
During our time in the park, we found two short trails to hike before we arrived at the Visitors Center, located on the opposite side of the park from where we entered. There we found out that there were other trails we could have tried if we had only known about them. Bummer. We suggested that maps be made available at both entrances.
Another great feature of the park is the road. It is a state highway which is wide and well-maintained, unlike the roads we slogged through in Theodore Roosevelt and Glacier NPs.
Our plans for tomorrow are up in the air since rain is in the forecast again. We'd hoped to take a scenic drive to MT. Baker, but it will be futile if everything is shrouded in clouds and fog.
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Omak, WA 155 to WA 20 through the park to Sedro Woolley
TOTAL MILEAGE TO DATE: 3,900 miles