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Saturday, July 11, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Going Mobile

North Cascades National Park presents a perfect scenic getaway



We’re on the road again and it feels good.

Yes, we’re well aware these are difficult times, but sometimes you just need to unplug and recharge. Mission accomplished during a couple of days off-the-grid camping in the beautiful, newly reopened North Cascades National Park and the surrounding area.

Thanks to our RV, we were able to travel safely and reconnect with one of Washington state’s most beautiful outdoor spaces. We walked through lush forests and alongside alpine lakes, sat in sunshine and listened to the birds singing.

This was our first trip since returning to the Pacific Northwest from Arizona in late April in the midst of the coronavirus shutdown. It felt like we were getting reacquainted with an old friend as we hit the road.

We enjoyed good meals and marveled at the improved gas mileage our Thor Gemini is getting since we bought new tires. The trip also inspired us to think about future adventures as we sat by the fire and studied the map.

At the end of each busy day of hiking and sightseeing, we slept like logs.

Here are a few highlights:

From winter to summer: It’s pretty cool to watch the seasons change right before your eyes. The calendar might say it’s summer, but in the high country it’s just now spring, the deep winter snows of the North Cascades finally releasing their grip.

Few people: As Washington reopens from the coronavirus stay-at-home order, we noticed that the trails of the North Cascades still remain largely empty. We did several hikes on both sides of the Cascade crest and ran into only a handful of other people.

Water, water everywhere: After dinner the first night -- seared sockeye salmon with curried veggies -- we wandered down from our campsite and watched the full-to-the-brim Skagit River flow. The next evening, Early Winters Creek would be the whooshing soundtrack to a warming campfire as we hung out at the excellent Klipchuck Campground, just west of Winthrop.

Mazama delivers: As we rushed to get out the door, we forgot a few key kitchen items, but that was just the excuse needed for a stop at the rightly famous Mazama Store. Part gourmet gift shop -- with a spectacular selection of wine -- and part general store, this popular spot has what you didn’t know you needed until you see it. Yes, please, we’ll take a bag of just-picked arugula to go with the mushroom ravioli on the dinner menu.

Camping bargains: We stayed at the Newhalem Campground in the national park (price: $8 with a Golden Age Senior Pass) and at Klipchuck in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (price $6). Stop and think about it -- our camping tab for two nights in one of America’s most beautiful places was just $14.

Incredible views: The overlook at Washington Pass on State Route 20 (elevation 5,575) is the best vantage point on any highway in Washington. The gates were closed, but a short road walk brought us to the clifftop perch with views of the Early Winters Spires on the Liberty Bell massif.

Excellent hiking: One of the nice things about the North Cascades Scenic Highway is the accessibility of hiking right off the road. Some of our favorites are Cutthroat Lake and Cutthroat Pass, Blue Lake, the Maple Pass Loop and Easy Pass. Shorter favorites include the Skagit River Loop, the Happy Creek Forest Walk and Rainy Lake.

Takeaway: Is it safe to get back out and travel? Yes, as long as you take precautions and wear a face mask in any social situation. Now, more than ever, we are deeply grateful for our tiny home on wheels for making this trip possible.

Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.