Thursday, July 14, 2011


Western Washington.  Rain.  Two things almost inseparable!  It has rained without letup since we awoke, but we are cozy inside, with a pot of beans bubbling on the stove and the British Open on TV.  A good time to blog.  :)

We’ve heard much about Hwy 20 which crosses the Cascade Range through North Cascades National Park.  In the past, we’ve decided on another route for one reason or another: too much smoke from forest fires filling the valleys, or we wanted to visit Mt. Rainier, to the south, so crossed on Hwy 2.  This year, the time was right – and we got unexpected cooperation from the weather.  We awoke to sunshine, slathered on the bug juice, hooked up the Jeep and were away to the west by 9:15 am.

The view out our window when we awoke in Twisp.  Prepare to battle the mosquitos!

Heading west through the Methow Valley with lots of sunshine.

Early Morning in Twisp Towards Mazama

Washington Pass, at 5,477 feet elevation, seems to be the dividing line between drier, eastern Washington and wetter (MUCH wetter!) western Washington.  The climb from the Methow Valley is steep (several miles rated a 7% grade) and beautiful.  The road was smooth, the sunshine welcome, and we cruised along oohing and ahhing at the changing scenery.

Then… as the road started to rise, just around a curve, we glimpsed a gravel truck that had passed us when Odel used a “slow traffic” turnout.  Oh, man!  Just before we hit the steep grade, we lost our forward momentum!

We caught our first glimpse of the truck…

… and soon were up close and personal.

Mountains and the truck Behind the truck 1

With no way to pass, we settled in for a slow climb, which turned out to be a great learning experience.  We’ve known for quite awhile that the way to keep the engine temperature down (not a worry today, with temperatures in the 50’s during the climb) is to climb slowly – which usually means 3rd gear for us on a steep, curvy grade.  With the truck moving so slowly (21 mph), we were geared down into 2nd gear – and the needle on the temperature gauge hardly budged off “flat road” temperature.  Its all about high RPM’s.

So we slowly crawled along, with plenty of time to look around and enjoy the scenery.  Several miles short of the pass, we began to see bright orange “Road Work” signs.  Around a curve, we came upon a flagger, who stopped us at the head of the line as the gravel truck continued to crawl up the grade ahead of us to drop his load.  When the flagger came over to Odel’s window for a chat, he said we’d have a five minute wait, so I hopped out for a few photographs.

The truck pulled away at the flagger; see the road cut on the side of the mountain ahead?

Odel and the flagger chatted while I took photos.  Notice the little waterfall to the left.

Behind the truck and road cut First in line

We fell in behind the pilot car…

…followed her around the curve and on up the grade.

Follow me Lots of snow

It was just a short distance to the summit, and then we were over the pass into western Washington.  Soon lush growth covered every bit of soil, and moss carpeted rocks and tree trunks.  Named waterfalls thundered down mountainsides next to the highway; smaller, unnamed cascades splashed onto the road frequently; misty clouds clung to the mountaintops.

High country Ross Lake

We saw beautiful high country valleys…

… and pulled over at the Ross Lake viewpoint.

Farther west, moss abounds.

Raindrops on our windshield were a given.

Moss and rocks another waterfall

At times, the road brought to mind “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”, with sharp curves on a downhill slope.  Odel occasionally geared down into 2nd so we could negotiate the winding two-lane road without braking (much).  We crested another (lower) summit, passed a few gorgeous lakes, bisected the National Park, knowing we would be camped close enough to revisit the park and do some hiking over the next few days. 

Site 31 HMSPWe pulled off the highway in Rockport: gas station, post office, tavern and, its greatest feature, Howard Miller Steelhead Park (click here to read our review), our home for the next 5 days.  We had a site reserved for the first two nights, with the next three (weekend) night up in the air. Hooray - as I have been writing, the campground manager dropped by to say he had a cancellation for the weekend, so we’re in (though we will need to change sites).

With that settled, on the recommendation of our friend Jim Baker, Odel called Seattle City Light and arranged two tickets for their Diablo Lake Boat Tour.  According to, Sunday has a decent chance for sunshine, so we’ve crossed our fingers.  Until then, looks like umbrella weather.


  1. What do you use for your TV? I'm assuming Direct or Dish. And internet what do you use for that? Just curious as you always seem to be able to get some sort of a connection.

  2. What a scenic drive over the mountains! Makes me wish I was out west this summer...

  3. I really enjoyed my five years running around in the Pacific Northwest. 2002 to 2007 Have some fun for me too.

  4. Wow what a wonderful & scenic drive... enjoyed the post and the photos!!!
    Have fun

  5. I have done that pass several times, always in either rain or snow! Beautiful scenery for which you "pay at the pump" when you hit the other end with an empty gas tank!

    Welcome to our neck of the woods, otherwise known as the "Wet Coast"!

  6. Ruth, we havr Direct TV as our satellite carrier, and we use a roof-mounted, automatic satellite dish (push a botton to lock on the signal). We pick our site for southern exposure; when making a reservation (rare), we ask for a southern exposure.

    For internet, we use a Samsung Hot Spot with Verizon service (same as our phones). We don't camp in truly remote places often, so frequently have a Verizon signal - a recent exception was the Tucannon River RV Park near Starbuck, WA, down in a canyon. There, we used the park's WiFi.

    Usually, if we don't have some way to connect online, we'll only stay a night or two.

  7. What a gorgeous drive, and beautiful photos, Laurie. East vs West, Dry vs Wet, it is why we live on the east side of the Cascades! I need sunshine. I haven't taken that route for more than 30 years, and your photos made me want to see it again.

  8. Samsung Hot Spot? Are you using the Samsung Galaxy Tablet and using it as the hot spot?

  9. I have always wanted to take that road! It looks just as gorgeous as I imagined. And my favorite cereal is from Rockport, WA - Cascadian Farm. According to the box, they have berry shortcakes, homemade ice cream, and other organic goodies. Also u-pick berries.

  10. No, Bobbie, a little Samsung 4G MiFi card that we picked up a few weeks ago when our old MiFi card broke. Haven't been in a 4G area yet, but we will soon.

  11. I just love that drive across Hwy 20, We were up there just last May and the road was still closed due to the snow. This is one of my most favorite spots in WA.
    Where are you headed to next?

  12. It was early last century when we crossed Washington on 20, and it was lovely way back then, just as it seems today. Thanks for the reminder, and drat it, you've made us pine for the great northwest again!

  13. Boy This is beautiful country. Looks like you've gone up high enough to have left the mosquitoes behind. Lucky you guys!

  14. Hey Laurie, I hope today is ok for you guys up there. Raining here on the Island and looks to do that for most of the day today. There is a Blue Grass Festival going on up in Darrington today, not very far from where your at. I hear that the Navy Blue Grass Band is part of it. Have fun whatever you do. There are most likely some folks from Oak Harbor there in the park also.

  15. We are enjoying our beautiful, 70 degree days here in Newfoundland. I think you and Odel would love it out here. So much nature and tons of hiking trails and history.

    We plan on hitting the northern states next summer. So thanks for your great suggestions!

    Have fun and Safe Travels!