~ North Cascades National Park and Washington Route 20 ~

Jagged peaks, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, and over 300 glaciers adorn the North Cascades National Park Complex. Three park units in this mountainous region are managed as one and include North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. These complementary protected lands are united by a contiguous overlay of Stephen Mather Wilderness.

Steep mountains and onshore weather systems from the Pacific Ocean influence a wide range of climate conditions in the North Cascades. One of the snowiest places on earth, the westside mountains collect more snow than melts each year (forming glaciers). On the east side of the mountains, conditions are much dryer.

North Cascades NPSC has over 300 glaciers, more than any other park in the lower 48 states. More than half the glaciers in the 48 states are concentrated in this mountainous wilderness region called the North Cascades

Washington State Route 20

After a wait of three and a half weeks in Omak, Washington, Route 20 was scheduled to open at noon on May 25th. When I arrived at the gate, there were four others already waiting. By the time the gate was unlocked, there were at least a dozen more waiting.

The trip was well worth the wait.

They opened the gate promptly at noon. By their website it was 12:05, but my watch pointed to high noon.

And the race was on. It seems that the other 16 drivers who had gathered for the opening were in a race to get to the other side. I, however, refused to join in the race. I averaged between 35 and 45 mph the whole drive to the visitor center, where I arrived at 3:00 p.m.

I stood next to walls of snow which were over fifteen feet tall on the roadside and the evidence of several avalanches were all along the roadside. You could readily tell those avalanche areas by the increase in the height of the roadside snow. Most areas had six foot barriers, but they went much higher where an avalanche had come down. As I got to the west end of the park, there was no snow on the ground and the main areas that had the big snow were well east of the park.

The flowers above appear to have a guilty conscience. I arrived a while before noon, so the gate was not yet open.

The measure is in feet, not inches

Glacier covered mountains

Avalanche areas

Huge glacial valleys

The Hairpin Curve

Another view of the Hairpin Curve

Jagged peaks

There is a tree wedged in the gorge near the bottom of the photo on the right. A detail photo is near the bottom of the page.

North Cascades National Park

The mountains are beautiful, if not spectacular. Unlike Glacier National Park, which has the Going-To-The-Sun Road running right through the park, most of North Cascades National Park is wilderness and roadless. So I couldn't stand on a glacier. They were all several thousand feet above me and far away.

North Cascades National Park was designated in 1918, making it one of our older parks. The wilderness area that encompasses both sections of Cascades N.P. and the Lake Chelan and Ross Lake National Recreation Areas was designated in 1988 under the 1964 Wilderness Act. There are only two hard surface roads within the Wilderness Area, one is accessible only by boat from Lake Chelan and Washington Route 20, which I drove.

I highly recommend this drive. Even those parts outside the park are scenic drives.

I wasn't aware of the raven flying over, until I looked at the photos on my computer. Sometimes we get lucky.

These photos were taken from the Diablo Lake Overlook.

That's Arvie sitting by the roadside

The two photos above were taken from the same bridge over Diablo Lake. In the right hand phto you can see a fisherman in his boat in the distance.

Left is looking down into a very deep gorge from a steel walking bridge along side the highway bridge. On the right is the tree I referenced above

Music is "Strawberry Wine"

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