Friday, October 15, 2010

The Northern Cascades Fall Colors Caravan - Day 3, Meandering behind the Caravan and exploring the Washington Mountains

* Lights up his second cigar, a Macanudo - Hampton Court *

That's better.....

Now, I left off with Moby and I having settled in for the night at Sauk Campground. Libations were aplenty by the time I got there, most folks having already long since had dinner and were relaxing for the evening around one of the three big campfires that were to be had on this journey.

Since I didn't want to miss any of the ruminations, I didn't bother to fix myself a proper dinner (having had yet more McDonalds food during the drive from Arlington to the Campground), but rather managed to consume roughly three pounds of salted in-shell peanuts from a five pound bag I had brought along with me for the trip.

If you hadn't guessed already, that was a BIG mistake.

First things first, a little more info about the campground. It IS a primitive campground, but it does have one outhouse. The only problem is that its clear at the other end of the campground from the site I was parked in. Not very ideal when you need a toilet and are in a bit of a hurry.

Add on the fact that not only is the bathroom at the far end from where I was staying, the parks myriad of looping little roads are perfectly designed to confuse the living hell out of someone in the grips of a digestive emergency.

If it wasn't bad enough at this point, the rain caught up with me from Oregon and it had started down pouring shortly after Moby and I had retired to the camper for the evening.

Now, you're probably wondering, Matt, you've got a john in that camper of yours, why didn't you just use that?

In the end, I did.

However, that first "Oh sh--" situation when stomach satan started his attack kind of drove my body into its normal autopilot mode of "Go use the campground bathroom" and Moby and I made a frantic dash down soggy gravel roads trying to find the little blue outhouse using my little LED flashlight of problems (It likes to go out randomly and needs a good thwakking to make it work again.

Eventually, I got to sleep that night, but dear God, I didn't go peacefully.

The next morning eventually found me, but not before a last attack from stomach satan sent me scurrying off to that outhouse one last time. At least this time the rain had stopped and I could see where the devil I was going.

Lemme tell you something. Nothing is more intimidating than to be sitting on the seat in an outhouse when a whole bunch of diesel pickups all start up at the same time and begin gathering around outside idling as they wait their turn to depart from the park.

Once again, I made my journey along the route by myself, but judging from what I've seen in alot of other folk's pictures, I'm glad I did, I would have missed all of the rather neat little stops along the way that made the drive enjoyable.

After emerging from the bathroom again, I made my way back to my now lonely camper all by itself in the far corner of the park.

I was finally able to amble around with my camera and get a good look at what I was all around me. Till now, I hadn't realized just how close the Sauk river actually was to my campsite. I do believe a return trip along this route outside of the Caravan is definitely in order.

After packing back up my generator (I had pulled it out and got it running recharging the camper battery bank right before that last gut attack hit), and walking the park with Moby, we clambered back into the Express and hopped back on the road.

Day 3's Journey

View Larger Map

As we made our way back towards Highway 531, we stopped one more time to grab a picture of the bridge that had closed up my Day 2 chapter of this tale. Bridge is a little less intimidating in the daylight, but no less narrow.

As we slowly made our way across, I turned to look over at the Sauk River one more time.

Judging from the giant mound of washed out trees, one could safely wager that heavy melt-off occurs in this area during the spring....

Back on the road, heading north once more!

Entering Marblemount, WA.....

As we meander along Highway 20, the massive transmission towers from the many Seattle Light hydroelectric dams follow us on and off again along the way.

Newhalem, WA

Newhalem is one of the many reasons why I have no complaints about falling behind the Caravan on this journey, where as the group blew on by, I stopped and meandered for a while, my addiction to all places historic guiding my steps and I walked around town, snapping photographs of the various shops and information kiosks scattered through the area.

Anything to do with the big reclamation projects and the hydroelectric boom left over from the 1940s and so on has always fascinated me. Someday I will eventually make a journey back north into Washington and visit the Grand Coulee Dam and take the tour of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The Old Number 6 Steam Locomotive in Newhalem, WA.

I'll freely admit it, I'm a train junkie. I love the old Steam Locomotives the most, but I won't turn a blind eye to any of the classic diesel locomotives, though.

The Old Number 6 in my mind is how a Locomotive of that period should be kept when turned into a park piece. This train is in immaculate condition (Though likely not capable of moving under its own power), far better than the shape I've seen alot of its Baldwin Locomotive brethren in as I've visited them in my myriad of journeys.

With as tempting a morsel as a polished brass locomotive bell in place with a rope that anyone could reach from the ground, I simply couldn't resist making that old bell sing :).

After doing a little shopping at the local general store for a few gifts for Dawn, Moby and I loaded back up in the truck and got back underway, but not before getting a few pictures of the hydroelectric power house (still active) at the edge of town.

On our way up towards Diablo Lake and the Diablo Dam, stopping all the way.

Finally, the outlook over Diablo Lake and Diablo Dam, on our way up in the world towards Rainy Pass!

As we climbed up and over Rainy Pass, and then continued our slog on up these jagged peaks, we went from unlimited visibility.....

Right into Suicide fog.

Why do I call it "Suicide Fog?" Because there's always at least one motorist that simply has to do ten-to-twenty miles over the speed limit through these "Can't see past your hood" fog banks.

Me? I crept through this fog at around 25 mph with my hazards a flashing, watching for curve signs to appear out of the fog banks and desperately keeping a close eye on the lines on the ground to figure out where the lanes were (When I could see the lines).

In the end about seven other vehicles followed me slowly and rather closely through the suicide fog till we finally emerged....

And they all took off like bats out of hell.

Sadly, that big bank of fog blocked the view of one of the most impressive sights on Highway 20, the Liberty Bell. Someday, I'll come back this way again and hopefully on that day, it'll be clear and dry and I'll be able to stop and gaze upon the Liberty Bell's grandeur.

After descending out of suicide fog, and back down into the Methow valley, I began to notice that unlike Oregon, Washington's central and eastern Mountains can go from densely tree canopied to sparsely treed to eroded hills of dirt in rock and back again within the distance of a few miles.

This constantly changing environment became one of my favorite things to watch for as my journey through these ancient mounts progressed.

Well, this pretty much wraps up the drive from Sauk Campground through the majesty of the Rainy and Washington Passes. Tune in again for my next installment, the town of Winthrop, Silver Line Resort and the giant Truck Camper potluck!


  1. Nice set of pics, Matt. Suicide fog is right! It definitely was much clearer coming back across on Sunday. See you on a future campout.

  2. Great pics Matt! It was great travelling with the gang, but now we have to go back to meander through and enjoy the drive slowly! Krishelle

  3. Aye, there's so much to explore and see along that route you could easily spend a week exploring it and not see it all :).