Sunday, September 1, 2013

North Cascades

After a chaotic whirlwind of one-armed unpacking, laundry and re-packing, we climbed into my car with Winthrop, WA and the North Cascades NP our destination. I had some complications with my cast along the way which resulted in a stop at urgent care and a 10pm arrival at our hotel. Exhausted, we collapsed into bed only to be awoken by excessive amounts of long rumbling thunder. In the morning Jason coaxed us out of bed when he came across a hot air ballon departing from our hotel. We headed into town for coffee where we discovered that the North Cascades Highway had been closed due to rock and mud slides caused by the epic storm. They (optimistically) hoped to have it open by 2pm so we decided to head up past the road closed signs, to do some hiking, hoping the road would be open when we were done. We stopped at a few empty vista points to soak in our tourist-free views, hiked to Blue Lake and rolled up to the final road closure sign at 2 where a few people were waiting in a pull-out for the road to open. We pulled over and joined them to see what would happen. After enjoying the views for a while, I noticed the others looking and pointing behind us. I turned around and we saw the mountain being enveloped by what appeared to be fog. Then we heard a roar that sounded like a freight train as the "fog" quickly swallowed the mountain. Turns out that it was sheets and sheets of hail. Trying to avoid a severe pummeling, we found shelter under some trees at a trailhead close by and waited it out. When things had cleared a bit we went back to check the status of the road. All the cars but one were gone (apparently washed away) and the road closure sign was on the ground. Obviously the road was open! Heavy clouds of steam rose from the road and obscured our view as we inched along. I strained to see the road through the fog and instead caught a glimpse of a raging river next to us, eating the road away. I had a bit of a freak-out and informed Jason that maybe we should turn around now. Right now please. He had not seen the river at its raging peak and pleaded to go just a bit further.  I was very persuasive and we turned around to escape the potential deathtrap. We returned to the road closure and asked the last guy waiting if he had any info. Apparently he had ridden his bike down to the slide and was there when the hail storm had hit. He watched the road covered with several more slides while he was there. That settled it, it was time to get off this highway before we got boxed in. The storm started back up with a veangence and we drove through the pouring rain as fast as we could safely go, anxiously watching the steep, streaming slopes hoping they wouldn't slide and take us with them. After we safely arrived back in sunshiny Winthrop, we learned that there were 4-5 more slides that afternoon. Take-away lesson: maybe we shouldn't ignore road closed signs in the North Cascades. Or anywhere.

With our path blocked, we changed plans and set out to Leavenworth, an old logging town turned Bavarian village, brilliantly designed to bring in tourist money, nestled beneath the spectacular Bavarian Alps ... er ... Cascade Mountains. We adapted quickly to the Bavarian lifestyle as we settled into Munchen Haus outdoor pub scarfing down sausages, sauerkraut, and beer. The following day we hit the Stuart Lake trail, an old favorite we had last hiked when I was seven months pregnant with Isaac. The views were as gorgeous as I had remembered and it was so fun to share it with the boys. Back in Leavenworth, we repeated the previous night's dinner formula with much satisfaction. 

Click here for photos.

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