Soon the Pacific Northwest will be shrouded in the dull color of gray. Until then, the Fall Colors this year exploded into burnt umber, rich reds, vibrant oranges, bright greens, and light greens painting the landscape with magnificent color and beauty.
The Artists Point area is a called that for a reason, it is a true natural inspiration for artists. Photographers from all over the world flock to Picture Lake hoping to capture the iconic reflection of Mt Shuksan in the lake. Mother Nature shows off her best in the Mt Baker area and this Fall she was in FULL glory.
The lighting on this Saturday afternoon drive was anything but bright. It was more of a reminder of the winter to come, but that didn't stop the colors from shining brightly, painting the landscape with vibrancy and warm colors. This is why Fall is my favorite season — the rich, warm colors that remind us of the beauty surrounding us. Add to the color, the crisp, fresh, cool Fall air after a hot, stagnant summer and we have a season that is worth every minute.
These colors won't be here much longer, but it was well worth the Saturday afternoon drive up Hwy 542 to Mt Baker Ski Resort area, even on a rainy afternoon. The reflection in Picture Lake was beautiful mix of Fall colors and the hike around the Visitor Center in Heather Meadows made for a quiet reflection of why the world is so beautiful.
If you take the drive up, a must stop is Wake N Bakery in Glacier, the healthy snacks are to die for, my personal favorite is the Orange Frosted Cardamon Cookie. And a hot espresso is great on a chilly day. We completed our day with Pizza at Chair 9 restaurant on Hwy 542. The place was bustling on a Saturday night, they even ran out of Pizza.
It was a good way to relax, spend time communing with nature, filling the camera with photographs, and getting quality time with the hubby.
We hit the road at 8:15 a.m. The morning was cool and crisp, a touch of Fall nipped the air, a welcome relief after weeks of warm weather and smokey skies. We headed east on Hwy 20 from Anacortes, WA. With a two-hour drive ahead of us, we settled in and enjoyed the morning drive through the Skagit Farmlands as we headed to the North Cascades.
Our destination, The North Cascades Institute at Diablo Lake. We had signed up for the Diablo Lake and Lunch Boat Tour. After years of driving by we were finally going to 'experience' Diablo Lake by boat and learn more about the history.
To get to the Institute you drive east on Hwy 20, also known as the North Cascade Highway and the Cascade Loop. Watch for mile marker 127, shortly after you will see a sign for North Cascades Institute Educational Center telling you it is the next left. The road looks like a driveway. A little bit larger than a single lane road takes you over Diablo Dam, then park in the last parking lot. There's a short, easy hike from the parking lot to a set of buildings.
Amos, a National Park Ranger greeted everyone as they signed in. There is a nice little gift shop to browse in and well maintained restrooms close by. After a brief presentation in the amphitheater, we did a short hike to the boat house. There we boarded the Alice Ross IV for our two-hour boat tour of Diablo Lake. The boat was roomy, comfortable, heated (if chilly), large outside deck, large windows, water cooler, and large restroom. With everyone on board, we were filled with eager anticipation to start our tour with our guides, Amos (National Park Ranger) and Evan (North Cascades Institute.)
Amos and Evan took turns educating us about the area, the lake, the dams. Educational and entertaining we learned so much (too much to keep notes, you'll just have to take the tour) and enjoyed every minute of the tour. Evan started the tour telling us about the names of the various mountain peaks; Mt Fury, Formidable, Forbidden, Mt Terror, Desolation Peak, Devi's Dome, Devil's Elbow, Nightmare Camp, and more. We pulled up close to Diablo Dam. The dam, built in 1929-1930, at 389 it was the tallest dam in the world.
We then hightailed it over to Thunder Creek, where Amos proceeded to tell us about the glaciers and how they feed the lake. Thunder Creek is fed by 52 glaciers, making it the most glaciated drainage in the lower 48 states. North Cascades National Park has 312 glaciers, making it the most glaciated park in the lower 48. Amos went on to explain 'what' a glacier is. The North Cascades receives over 400" of snow per year. Glaciers start by large patches of snowflakes that don't melt, accumulating year after year, becoming a permanent snow patch. As it grows, becomes heavy, and compresses, the air is squeezed out between snow flakes, eventually it morphs into ice. He went on to explain the Emerald Green color of the lake comes from what he called "rock flour" basically the sediment caused from lots of grinding and suspends in the water. We left Thunder Creek and took a quick ride by Deer Island and Monkey Island (you'll have to take the tour to find out why they were called that.)
As we went down one of the small arms on the lake, the high walls towered over us, it was like going through a canyon. They told us that the North Cascades is the second larges biodiverse park in the country, second after the Smokies. Also the second largest watershed in the state, second after the Columbia River. We reached the power station for Ross Dam where we docked, after donning the stylish hardhats, we took a quick 15 minute tour through part of the power plant. Once the tour was over, we boarded the Alice Ross IV and headed back to the Institute where we completed a tour with a delicious lunch in the dining hall.
Touring with Skagit Tours was not only educational, it was entertaining, exhilarating, exciting, and worth every moment. Visit their website for more information and to sign up.
To continue our daycation and exploration, we detoured up to Rainy Pass and finally took the time to discover this hidden gem — the Washington Pass Overlook. An easy hike on a well maintained trail took us to an overlook with an incredible view of Washington Pass and the last part of the highway before you descend into the Methow Valley. Well worth the stop on the Cascade Loop.
We finalized our day trip on a drive back on the Skagit Hwy, located on the south side of the Skagit River from Concrete to Sedro Woolley instead of our usual, Hwy 20. It gave us a different view of the Skagit River, parts of the highway were lined with old trees dressed in heavy moss, canopying over the highway. All in all, it was the perfect Skagit day. After all, in the Coastal Salish language, Skagit means a Place of Refuge and after spending such a peaceful day it most certainly lived up to its name.
I had read somewhere about this little neighborhood called Deep Cove in North Vancouver. Located on Indian Arm off of Burrard Inlet, it is the most adorable little gem of a community with a stunning view and peaceful harbor.
After a 1 1/2 hr wait to cross the border, we asked Google Maps to take us to Panorama Park in Deep Cove. She mapped the quickest route, which took us on a different journey through New Westminster and Burnaby before crossing Burrard Inlet and taking us into North Vancouver. It was an adventure weaving through neighborhoods we normally would not venture to.
On the website it warned that on a nice summer day Deep Cove was a popular place and parking was limited. We did manage to find a spot a few blocks from town in a quiet neighborhood park. We then walked along the shoreline and strolled into town. The town is small, just a few blocks with shops and restaurants, but adorable. We stopped at the "must stop" Honey Doughnuts and Goodies shop but the line was too long and it was a 15 minute wait for them to make the doughnuts, maybe next time, because we will definitely go back to explore.
Kayaking is a popular activity in Deep Cove. The Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre was bustling with activity. We didn't have time for hiking but there is some great hiking trails around the area. A hike they recommend is Quarry Rock, an easy hike with a view that makes the trip worth it.
This little community was worth the visit. Next time, I will plan it better and stay longer. I can see why it a gem of a community hidden in a beautiful location. But this quiet area is no longer a 'hidden' gem.
There is nothing quite like a Sunday drive on a summer day. The Explorer inside of me occasionally needs to go forth and explore. To visit somewhere never visited.
This Sunday drive, we decided to head north, to leave the country, to visit one of our favorite places—Canda. But on a hot summer day we wanted to avoid the crowds in Vancouver so we headed east. We took the scenic drive from Bellingham, through the farmlands of Lynden and Everson to cross the border in the small town of Sumas.
The line to cross the border is right on the main street of Sumas. With a forty-five minute wait time, we had not much else to do but look outside the car window at downtown. Sumas did not have much going for it. Most of the buildings were run down or closed. The only businesses that seemed to be thriving is the Shipping/Mailbox business. There is quite a number of them within a few blocks of each other.
Once we crossed into Canada, being Americans and from Washington, our first priority was to stop at Starbucks. We were in much need of a bathroom break, a cold drink, and a snack.
We headed east on Hwy 1, our destination was the area just north of Harrison Hot Springs, but a sign on the highway caught our fancy and we immediately took the next exit. That's the good thing about Sunday drives, there is never a plan, it can be impulsive and adventuress. The sign was for Cultlass Lake. We looked it up on the map. It is nestled in the hills of the Northern Cascade, right by the U.S. and Canadian Border. Next to the lake is an Ecological Reserve. It sounded peaceful and quiet.
Our first clue it may not be quiet and secluded, was the large Water Park and Amusement Park by the lake just as you approach it. Swarms of people were enjoying the hot weather on the rides. Business was booming at the various ice cream shops. And cars were parked wherever they could find a spot. We traveled on, hoping the further south we went, the quieter it would get.
We finally found a parking lot to pull into. It was quite large and quite full, but luckily we found a spot right away. It was late afternoon and on a Sunday, how busy can it be? As we descended down the hill and caught our first glimpse of the lake and the beach, I was shocked at how crowded it was. And noisy. People were everywhere. Boats were zooming around the lake at full speed. Children were yelling. This was not a quiet spot to stop and contemplate Mother Nature and enjoy nature's peaceful existence. And the smell! Instead of fresh mountain air and nature's divine floral aroma, the air was filled with gas fumes from all of the toys on the lake and lighter fluid from all of the bbqs.
We strolled around a bit, but we weren't exactly dressed for a hot day at the beach. And the noise and smells did not encourage us to kick back and stick around. After a few photos and a quick stroll, we decided to get back into our car and head home. We wanted to beat the traffic before all of those people left the park.
It may not have been a quiet day, but was an adventure. We found some new places to visit and enjoy in the more off season. The country side around Chilliwack and Vedder River was a beautiful place to take a drive. The farmlands interspersed with towns was a nice mix of old and new. Next time we visit, we may explore the Vedder river more and the hillsides. For there will be a next time.
Short Stories of passion, of life, of people.