The North Cascades Adventure

April 27, 2011

These rare photos were taken when I visited Washington’s North Cascades to deliver our new North Cascades Map. I awoke that first morning in the little mountain town of Concrete to clear skies and light snow, and decided that I’d better grab my camera and drive up the mountain. Little did I know…

West of Marblemount, the snow grew deeper. A fresh coat of white powder covered the fields and the mountains above. If only I would’ve turned back here…

The distant peaks seem to beckon me from the bridge at Diablo Visitor Center. I swallow hard and decide to risk it all. I will stare death in the face to bring you these rare pictures of the North Cascades in winter. Destiny and duty calls…I must press on, ever higher into the snowy mountains. Anyone can see the North Cascades in the summer, when the weather’s good and the roads are clear. But winter? That’s not for the faint at heart.

As I depart from Newhalem, I notice that there’s no one else on the road but me. Where is everyone? Probably safe at home, where they belong. I’m fighting panic as I drive into a totally empty snow covered parking lot. What sane person would venture this deep into the North Cascades in the dead of winter? Am I crazy? I feel like I’m drifting in and out of reality. My mind says “Turn back!”, but my heart says “Push on!” I follow my heart. Vitara, my trusty Suzuki, has been my faithful traveling companion in the best and worst of times. I pat her gently on the dash board. No response. She doesn’t say much, but she’s always there when I need her.

Just above Gorge Lake Dam, Gorge Lake carves a frigid swath through the snow dusted mountains. The higher I climb, the more ominous the mountains look. Do they look ominous to you? They don’t look that ominous now, but they sure did then.

I continue following the winding Skagit River, and the majestic alpine scenery that the North Cascades is famous for looms frightening in the distance. I don’t even remember taking this picture. By this time the memory was gone. I was running on adrenaline and autopilot.

As I climb higher, the snow draped peaks become more massive and majestic. For all I know, someone else could have taken this picture. I awoke the next morning in my motel room with no memory of the previous day. Take my advice: Unless you’re a seasoned explorer, don’t visit the North Cascades in winter.