blue lake in the north cascades

Day 265 – North Cascades Loop (Part 4)

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Day 265 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

Gorge Powerhouse

Our first stop of the morning was at the Gorge Powerhouse which was a pleasant surprise.  The powerhouse was originally completed in 1924 and expanded in 1949. The first surges of electric power sent to Seattle via the Skagit Hydroproject were from this powerhouse. 

With four turbines which require a dam and the river being diverted through a tunnel to generate enough pressure to operate them, the powerhouse provides enough electricity for over one million 100-watt light bulbs. The 1960 dam, 300 feet high and 670 feet long replaced a 1923 rock-filled timber crib dam and a 1950 masonry dam.

The powerhouse has a lovely garden area and is situated in front of a beautiful waterfall.  Ladder Creek squeezes between moss-covered rocks as it descends below a canopy of trees.  I’ve never seen such a picturesque powerhouse!  After strolling through the powerhouse gardens, we proceeded up the road to a trail which led to a variety of views of the dam.  In addition, we stood on a grated steel bridge and watched Gorge Creek stream hundreds of feet over ledges and boulders before passing 900 feet below my feet.

Diablo Lake

Continuing east through North Cascades National Park, we reached Diablo Lake where we took a hike that climbed up to a few partially eclipsed views of the jade green lake.  I think I would have been better off just driving to the roadside overlook, though many of the roadside views included power lines that carry electricity to Seattle.

diablo lake in the north cascades

I made a stop at Ross Lake Overlook, when a cyclist, who by the looks of his lean, muscular body was a hard core rider, rode up. With a hopeful tone in his voice, he asked “Do you by chance have any salt. Presuming he was cramping up, I offered him some electrolyte tablets when he responded, “Well, I’m out of water”.

He had three bottles with him, but the temperatures were 10 to 20 degrees above average this time of year. After filling two of his bottles, he graciously thanked me and suggested a hike to Blue Lake at Washington Pass.

view in the north cascades

Rainy Pass

I approached Rainy Pass before Washington Pass where I had hoped to take a trail to “waterfalls, glaciers, and lakes” according to my Reader’s Digest book, but I found out from a few trekkers that the hike was a rather strenuous eight mile jaunt.  Being mid-afternoon, it was too hot and too late for such an excursion by myself.  They seemed to think the Blue Lake hike was feasible, however, so I headed there.

Blue Lake at Washington Pass

I left Petey behind in VANilla as the trip up the mountain by Diablo Lake took a toll on the old man. Additionally, the group I met at Rainy Pass implied the Blue Lake hike was harder than the Diablo Lake hike.  Interestingly, the grade wasn’t as steep and the path was more shaded, so it wasn’t as difficult as Diablo Lake despite being twice the length. Regardless, the four and half miles would have been too long for Petey.

The trail led me beneath the shade of evergreens, through a field of wildflowers, over some rocky areas and eventually across a small creek via a single log bridge to Blue Lake situated beneath glaciers and the crags of Liberty Bell Mountains.  Given it was late in the day, after snapping a few photos, I skipped back down the trail.

Toward the end, I caught up with the couple that had just left the lake when I arrived. They were retired in the San Juan Islands and were taking a week to hike around the area.  It was their first time to hike Blue Lake, but they spend the winters skiing in the vicinity.  They told me that the eight mile hike at Rainy Pass was outstanding, so perhaps I will have to return one day.

I ended the night at the Pearrygin-Lake State Park Campground outside of Winthrop, Washington, an interesting little town.  I had the best chicken stir-fry.  It came recommended by the waitress.  Had I known the types of vegetables included in the meal, the likelihood of me ordering it would have been nearly zero.  I don’t know if I was starving or if anything cooked is mouth watering to me these days, but the tender chicken doused in a tangy pineapple teriyaki sauce was tasty!  ETB

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

Other Articles About Washington You May Like


Check out the photographic note cards and key chains at my shop.  Each card has a travel story associated with it.  20% of proceeds are donated to charity.

photographic note card, waterfall in Olympic National Park

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Published by

Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

3 thoughts on “Day 265 – North Cascades Loop (Part 4)

  1. Nice of you to come to the bike rider’s rescue! I bet he was glad he ran into you!

    Fabulous photos!

    Xo’s M

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