North Cascades trip East.

#1
Living on Camano Island WA in the North Puget Sound we have easy access to North Cascades National Park. Just short hour and half drive grants us access to the park. We often head over to Mazama WA and camp on the Methow River.

This trip I wanted to do something a bit different. I wanted to head east of Mazama. First a few nights with friends on the Methow was in order.

The evening prior to departure I was able to bounce out of work early to pack the GX, purchase a growler fill of our local brewery and a fresh bag of coffee. Its like a ritual to pack and enjoy a cold beer on a warm summer night.


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The morning of July 24th we rolled out heading East on highway 20 aka The North Cascades Highway. My daughter (wayward sky) joined us for the journey. As usual we stopped at Diablo Lake vista stop to see the lake and stretch our legs. Diablo and the bigger lake, Ross Lake are part of Seattle City and Light's network of hydro power dams and offer great views. Just prior to the lakes the town of Newhalem offers a snack store and normally tours and information on the hydro project (but no fuel) but due to COVID things are muted a bit.

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We have done this trip many times so we piled back in our vehicles and pressed on. As you journey East you travel over the highest paved pass in Washington, Washington Pass @ 5476' its not high compared to Colorado, Montana or Utah passes but considering when we departed our home just 2 hours West we were at 187' in our driveway, its pretty dramatic. The short hike at the pass is worth the time as it offers beautiful views of the East slope of the Cascades. From the pass Mazama is just 35 minutes away.

Mazama is really just a hamlet of a few homes a great gas station/restaurant, bike/ski shop and a real estate office. The Methow Valley is well know for producing US Olympic cross country skiers. They have 130 miles of trails for use year round. Its not uncommon to see a person roller skiing on the road in the summer and the ski trails are mountain bike trails in the summer as well. There is also a Outward Bound School in Mazama and a huge climbing area Goat Wall. You can start to understand why we camp here often. With a fill up in Mazama we headed North out of town to camp. Just off Forest Service road 5400 is dispersed camping along the Methow. We set up camp in our favorite area large enough to accommodate our soon to be five vehicle 10 person group.
 
#2
With camp established our group started to file in. Will G. one of the Amigos arrived shortly after us and found himself a spot in the shade. My daughter had recently picked up her dog she rescued in Namibia so it was fun to watch his sniff around and explore his new world.

By late Friday our group had grown to four trucks and a trailer. Dinner, beers and fire was the entertainment along with the sound of the Methow River. By Saturday morning Java and his family graced us with there presence and quickly formed the plan for the day.


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#3
Slate Peak is the highest point in WA you can drive @ 7440’. The road and lookout was to be used for military purposes back in the Cold War era but technology caught up and became obsolete before construction was completed. The road is listed as the “most dangerous“ in WA to drive but that is for the average knuckle head. It’s a narrow Forest Service road with one section, approximately 2 miles long that is down to single lane width a severe drop off of 2000’. Java’s Tundra fit no problem for reference. Toward the top there are numerous vehicles parked at hiking trail heads and that is probably the biggest challenge, poor parking skills. The last 500’ is a hike and for us sea level dwellers it will cause you to breath a bit heavy. We took in the view for an hour or so made sandwiches and enjoyed our time together.

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#4
By Sunday afternoon our group shrunk back down to three vehicles 4 people. We parked our chairs in the river and played cards to deal with the heat. Monday morning we re supplied in Winthrop WA, a Old West themed town with wood boardwalks and a annual cattle drive through town. Not having any interest in that we headed East out of town of FS roads. Winding our way to Chopoka Lake. Chopoka is the last nights camp on the WABDR and is just South of the Canadian Border. It is a state park and since they have “fixed” it is no longer a fun drive in and accommodates travel trailers.


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#8
If you haven’t been out West much or at all in the summer you will find numerous cattle in the higher altitudes.

We departed Chopoka Lake as it was a means to the end of the day, the evening prior and served its purpose. The lake was fantastic for a dip to refresh.

We continued East to the town of Tonasket for a fill up and icy cold Coke.

Normally a sleepy town it was buzzing with activity. A fire base had been set up at the local high school.

According to https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6893/

The Anglin Fire was 1992 acres and had been 100% contained.
We were in such awe as we drove past watching the helicopters drop water on the last remaining hot spots we forgot to get pictures!
 
#9
We continued East toward the town of Republic WA and our next area to explore and camp. We hopped back on Forest Service roads in hopes of finding something interesting to drive or see, unfortunately nothing but well maintained high speed gravel. The ladies in the group had zero interest in running down what looked to be promising trails so we head to three lakes that on Google maps to be dispersed camping. We ended up at Ferry Lake a small lake with 12 tent sites and at least no RV space.

The lake was nice and cool and helped a bunch in the afternoon heat. BE3F3E07-7659-40DF-9901-7AF5B1B74CB1.jpeg 93825766-C064-46A4-8435-5BE77199A686.jpeg

My daughter imported a rescue dog back with her from Namibia and wanted no part of the cold mountain lakes. He was happy to lay in the sun and pant!
 
#10
None to happy with the trails we had found since departing Chopoka Lake, Will suggested we head to West Bar in the Colockum Wildlife area. The trails are at least narrow and offer some excitement in driving.

We departed Ferry Lake the next morning and headed South through the Colville Reservation. Never seeing this part of Washington made it a decent drive though it was on paved road. We made are way to Grand Coulee Dam.

More can be found here about Grand Coulee Dam.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Coulee_Dam


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#11
We needed to be in Ellensburg Washington to meet my daughters friend and resupply with fuel, water and adult beverages. The forecast was for extreme heat 100+ and with very little cover at West Bar we were going to need it. We arrived West Bar Wednesday after the heat of the day at around 6 PM. We had ran down several trails that eventually ended and finally found the open one to West Bar.

Will cooked up some great tacos and served up fridge cold Medelo with them.


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#12
West Bar is a big sand bar that protrudes out into the Columbia River. There are two ways in, one by boat and the other through Washington State DNR lands. Its located Northeast of Ellensburg WA and directly across from Crescent Bar WA a popular boating and RV tourist trap.

The road in and out is in generally good condition although a bit narrow in sections and littered with sharp basalt and baby head boulders. The views can be spectacular and the drop offs of 2000' can intimidate some.

Thursday morning was my 54th B day, we planned to stay the whole day not driving and enjoying the river and cool waters. Around 11:00 AM the US Navy decided to put on a group of fly by in my honor. My guess as they were from Whidbey Island NAS https://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrnw/installations/nas_whidbey_island.html


It was great to see the numerous F-18 aircraft fly by. I started my aviation career on fighter jets and it still makes me happy to hear that jet noise!

Our island is just across from Whidbey and we (Camano and Whidbey) make up Island County. We often see the F-18s and Coastie helicopters but never get to see them ripping by at 400 mph and 500' above the deck.
 

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#15
We enjoyed ourselves so much we checked our stores to ensure we had enough water and beverages and spent a second night on West Bar. For dinner Will and I dumped most of our leftovers in a big pot and mixed them together, delicious!

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You don’t need a highly modified rig to complete this trip. My daughters 22 year old 4 Runner did just fine. Mild suspension lift basic kitchen build and a ground tent for her friend.
 
#16
It was a great way to spend time with my daughter before she moves on to her next job adventure. Stacey was great! Prior to departure she ordered a Mega Mat mattress. She slept like a baby, once it cooled off! Will is always a trusted friend on and off the trail. Good times had by all!
 
#19
Awesome trip! Autumn 2018 we roughly followed the same area after dropping daughter off in Seattle at college, although on paved roads and not camping. We loved all the tiny crossroad towns along 20 and 155 to Grand Coulee. Missed two damn dam tours before we moved on for the day. From there we departed your route, heading south to Moose Lake, then 395 south to the Columbia, and 12 along the river to Umatilla and Pendleton. The stretch of Interstate from there to Salt Lake City was the only 4-lane we were on between Seattle and NE Ohio.

Eastern Washington and Oregon are amazingly beautiful places, and I'd love to spend a lot more time exploring. Deb's not the least bit interested in moving west, though, so I'll continue to enjoy vicariously through you guys...
 
#20
Awesome trip! Autumn 2018 we roughly followed the same area after dropping daughter off in Seattle at college, although on paved roads and not camping. We loved all the tiny crossroad towns along 20 and 155 to Grand Coulee. Missed two damn dam tours before we moved on for the day. From there we departed your route, heading south to Moose Lake, then 395 south to the Columbia, and 12 along the river to Umatilla and Pendleton. The stretch of Interstate from there to Salt Lake City was the only 4-lane we were on between Seattle and NE Ohio.

Eastern Washington and Oregon are amazingly beautiful places, and I'd love to spend a lot more time exploring. Deb's not the least bit interested in moving west, though, so I'll continue to enjoy vicariously through you guys...
Fly out and rent a 4x4 with low range, no moving out West required!
 
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