Day 265 – North Cascades Loop (Part 4), September 7, 2011
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
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 views included power lines that carry electricity to
When I made a stop at Ross Lake Overlook, a cyclist, who by
the looks of his lean, muscular body was a hard core rider with a hopeful tone
in his voice asked if by chance I had 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 I heard 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.
I approached Rainy Pass before Washington Pass where I had
hoped to take a trail to waterfalls, glaciers, and lakes according to my 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.
I left Petey behind in VANilla as the trip up the mountain
near Diablo Lake seemed to take a toll, and the group I met at Rainy Pass
implied the Blue Lake hike was harder. I
found that the grade wasn’t as steep and the path was more shaded, so it wasn’t
as difficult despite twice the length.
Regardless, the four and half miles would have been a bit too much for
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. It seemed like
it would have been a lovely place to view wildlife at dusk, but walking back
down the trail in the evening didn’t seem like a bright choice, so I snapped a
few photos and skipped back down the trail.
Toward the end, I caught up with the couple that had just left the lake
when I arrived so I chatted with them a bit.
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 around the area. 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 a state park campground outside of
Winthrop, 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