Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Spencer Jack Drives Me And His Dad Over The North Cascades To Liberty Bell Mountain

Email last night from Spencer Jack's dad, FNJ (also known as my Favorite Nephew Jason).

Email Subject Line: Spencer Jack visits Liberty Bell

Text in Email: Spencer Jack and I traveled east. Have some great pictures of Spencer and the Liberty Bell that I'm sure his FUD would enjoy. Will upload them from my camera and send them to you later.

FUD (that would be me) replied asking: "Liberty Bell in Philadelphia? Or the one on the North Cascade Highway?"

That question was answered a few minutes ago, with the promised pictures and the following message....

FUD --

Your FNSJ drove me east to the Washington State Liberty Bell.

Our original plans were to explore the Skagit Dams yesterday.   We did the dam thing with stops along the route at Rasar State Park, Concrete High School / Airport, Lower Baker Dam and Howard Miller Steelhead Park before proceeding further east to reach our final destinations of Newhalem, the Gorge Dam, and Colonial Creek at Diablo Lake.   But Spencer Jack insisted driving until we found snow.   We both had never seen such a near snow free North Cascades.   We were finally able to find some winter snow remnants underneath Washington's Liberty Bell.   After a snow ball fight, we decided we needed to cool off in Lake Pearrygin before having dinner in Winthrop.   Spencer Jack let me drive home last night while he slept.

In the picture above you are seeing Spencer Jack in the driver's seat with Liberty Bell Mountain in the background and the most pitiful pile of snow I have ever seen at this location.

Above it appears Spencer Jack is in the midst of the snowball fight mentioned above.

I am losing my ability to remember Washington place names, but I believe what we are looking at above is Spencer Jack at what is called the Washington Pass Overlook, which sits atop a steep cliff and overlooks the North Cascades Highway as it descends, steeply, from Washington Pass. The aforementioned Liberty Bell Mountain is behind Spencer to the right.

Above Spencer Jack is standing on a suspension bridge which crosses the Skagit River. On the other side is the Gorge Dam Powerhouse. Gorge Dam is further up river, with a tunnel bored through rock to deliver hydro power to the Powerhouse. One used to be able to go inside the Gorge Dam Powerhouse, with nice restrooms of the modern facility sort located inside. I wonder if one can still go inside the Powerhouse, nowadays, what with terrorists terrorizing that which used to seem safe from such things. Behind the Powerhouse are elaborate gardens, with waterfalls and trails, built while the dams were being built. The town here is Newhalem. Sort of a company town for Seattle City Light. It appears there is a lot of water in the Skagit River at this location. There is no dam that backs water up here. This location is as far upriver as spawning salmon can get. When the spawning salmon are in town it is quite a spectacle.

The Gorge that gives Gorge Dam its name begins shortly past the Powerhouse as you continue east. This section of road is not for the acrophobic. If you saw the Warren Beatty movie, The Parallax View, you saw the Gorge in the part of the movie where Warren suddenly has to scramble due to water being released from the dam. This happens in real life as well as the movies. Alarm sirens go off if water is about to be released, so Gorge explorers can scramble to safety.

The next Seattle City Light Dam one comes to is called Diablo Dam. It is an old dam across a narrow gorge. One used to be able to drive across. I've no idea if that is still the case. Construction on Diablo Dam's Powerhouse tunnel began in 1917. The dam was not completed til 1930. At the time of completion it was the tallest dam in the world. Hence it being a bit scary to drive across. That and the narrow switchback road one drives to get to the dam is also a bit scary.

Next we go back to earlier in Spencer Jack's drive across the North Cascades.

Concrete is a town which used to have a big concrete making business. It was quite the spectacle to witness in operation. It has been closed for decades. Back when it was operating Concrete was known for its gray coating of concrete dust. As you can see above, Concrete High School has the unique distinction of having a road run under the school. Is this the road that leads south to the Concrete area bridge over the Skagit River? I don't remember.

In the last picture I am not sure of location, but it appears that Spencer Jack is somewhere on the west side of North Cascades National Park. Even in drought mode there are rainforest type areas on the west side of the North Cascades.

FNJ made mention of going to Winthrop and Lake Pearrygin, but no photos were included documenting such.

Winthrop is a fun old west type theme town. Very touristy. In a good way. If I remember right I did what is known as the Cascade Loop the summer before the move to Texas. I remember it being a melancholy drive, not knowing when I would be that way again. The Cascade Loop is done by driving over the North Cascades Pass making a loop of it by returning via Stevens Pass or Snoqualmie Pass. Or vice versa, clock-wise, counter-clockwise, with the North Cascades being the end of the loop, not the beginning. The Stevens Pass Cascade Loop option takes you by another fun theme town, the Bavarian village of Leavenworth. The Snoqualmie Pass option takes you by Roslyn, not exactly a theme town, but a tourist town, which was known as Cicely in the TV show called Northern Exposure.

I was melancholy the last time I drove the Cascade Loop, not knowing when I would pass that way again. Turns out August of 2001 I did a modified Cascade Loop, leaving out the North Cascades Pass part. Instead taking Stevens Pass to Leavenworth, then on to Wenatchee to get a lot of fruit to take back to Texas, then across Blewett Pass en route to Snoqualmie Pass, stopping in Rosyln for pizza, before crossing Snoqualmie Pass back to Seattle.

A couple years before moving to Texas I remember driving Spencer Jack's dad and uncle, my Favorite Nephew Joey, over the North Cascades, to Lake Pearrygin, where we surprised their parental units, then continued on through the Methow River Valley where the nephews had a Nephews In Danger incident on a rickety wooden suspension bridge swaying over the Methow River. I do not remember stopping in Leavenworth that time, as we headed west towards Stevens Pass.

Yesterday Elsie Hotpepper got me thinking about PNW stuff, mostly Oregon related. And now today has me remembering living a very short distance from an incredible variety of scenic wonders. Saltwater in one direction, mountains in another direction. And my favorite foreign country, other than Mexico, a short drive north.

I think I am ready to move back to the Pacific Northwest.....

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