Sunday, June 5, 2016

43: I think I know why they call them the Cascades . . .

I think I know why they call it North Cascades National Park. Notwithstanding the fact that it's in the Cascade Mountain range, there are so many waterfalls in this place! And yet the forest is dry as tinder. We rode all day through that hot piney scent, like incense, that a conifer forest gets when the temperature climbs. 
Drought and pine bark beetle damage. 

And it did climb! My Garmin was reading mid nineties while we were rolling. When we would stop and look at something, it climbed over a hundred. At one point it registered 108 degrees!

So the promised heatwave has arrived. Of course, after complaining about cold wet feet in the past several weeks, Roger and I could not wait to find a stream to plonk our tootsies into along the route.
So nice in the water!

The peaks that we could see from the road are jagged, and some of them still have snow, but the hot weather this spring has caused the snow to melt very quickly this year. So while we could look to the peaks and see some snow, which was very inviting, on the road it was hot and very dry.

We stopped at the visitor center and I was saddened to observe that it's in need of repair. One of the sinks in the ladies' room was out of order. They couldn't show the film because of a problem with the projector. Several of the exhibits in the Learning Center were not operational. The whole thing just looked sad and barely hanging on. When we arrived at our camp site, we found that several bathrooms have been closed, and there are port-a-potties out front. Oh, well. I'm planning to slip my shorts on and go splash in the lake to cool off. And thankfully, we found a nice campsite that was near a working toilet. All is well! 

This National Park is unlike many, in that it has a National Recreation Area running through the middle of it. That's where the road is, of course, which means it doesn't have that pristine quality of some parks. It's relatively new; established in the late 1960s. The river running through it (I believe it's the Skagit) has three dams on it, and there are big high tension lines carrying the electricity to Seattle.  So most of your views have the lines in them.
One of the lakes created by the dams on the river

On either side of the NRA, there is wilderness, as expected in a national park.  But we can't really get to that on a bike. So I think you'd need to come when you could get into the backcountry if you really wanted to experience the best of what this park has to offer.

Our visit here has been impacted by the heat wave in Seattle.  It reminds me of heading up to Forest Falls when it gets really hot in Redlands.  Maybe it's just 15 degrees cooler, but that seems like a lot!  I feel like a lot of folks just headed to the mountains to beat the heat - the road was very busy. We are hopeful that we will leave some of the crowd behind as we climb the pass tomorrow. It's actually outside the park, so we'll see. 
Nice river views all morning long

Before we started gaining some altitude today, we rolled along the Skagit River for some time. Beautiful!  Thick moss drapes the trees, and when the light shines through from behind it's like an aura around the tree. I wish I were a better photographer, so I could have gotten a picture of it.

We met a young couple, Jan and Carolyn, from Germany, touring the US and Canada on their leave after having a child. This is the second couple from Europe we've met doing the same.  I'd like to know more about this policy. Seems pretty civilized to me! 
Jan, Carolyn and Laura

And then we talked for a while with Johnny, who was interested in our tour, the bike, etc. He thought we were really doing something special, and maybe we are. But he is raising six children, so I think he's the one with the most  excellent adventure! 

Tomorrow we want to get an early start and try to beat the heat at the summit. So it's an early night. Hard to go down when it's still so light outside. And when there is a really boisterous crew over at the next campsite.  Arrived late, already drunk. Proclaimed LOUDLY how drunk they were on the ride up. Laughed LOUDLY at each other's expense. Had some guy named Dan over there, I guess, because every time someone said his name (LOUDLY) someone would start singing "Danny Boy" LOUDLY and everyone would laugh, LOUDLY. Geesh.  Just in case one of them ever sees this post - Here's a news flash for you: when you are drunk, you are not nearly so clever or funny as you think you are. So keep it down!

The day's report:  Rockport to North Cascades National Park, 38.5 miles/1957 to date

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