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Seattle 2010 Trip

Day 8 of 13

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Thursday, July 1st
Drive to North Cascades National Park

We woke up to...rain. I checked the weather forecast, and it looked like more rain in the coming days. Thoughts of canceling some of our camping in North Cascades crossed my mind, but the fact that we'd brought the canopy helped alleviate most of those doubts. Still, we didn't have rain pants for the kids (or ourselves), so I was a bit worried about hiking in the rain. Sure, they'd done it before, but I don't think we'd actually ever done a hike with the kids when it was raining from the start -- it had only rained on us later.

So, we decided we'd make a little detour to the REI in Bellingham to pick up some rain gear. After checking out of the inn, we drove north, stopping at a few places along the way. First, we stopped at Rosabella's Cafe on Farm to Market Road where we picked up some apple pie and apple cider donuts. It was still drizzling a bit as we stopped at another bakery in Edison Village for lunch. The sandwiches and soup were excellent. Finally, after lunch we stopped at a cheese place in Edison Village.

Next we drove to the REI in Bellingham, about 15 miles north out of our way. We picked up some shell pants and ponchos. We then continued our drive in the rain along Highway 20, past Marblemount (the last place to buy gas for 60+ miles) to the Newhalem Campground in North Cascades National Park. I'd reserved a site about 6 weeks in advance. There had been plenty of space available, so I was able to pick a pretty good site. On the other hand, it looks like almost any site in Newhalem is good. The sites are relatively large and spread far apart, in an inviting dense forest, trees towering 50-100 feet above.

When we first pulled into our site, I was a bit confused. The parking area was huge, probably big enough for two RVs, and our site apparently had two picnic tables and two fire pits. It wasn't until a few minutes later that I remembered that I had paid a little extra for what's called a "family site". There are a handful of them in the campground, and they're appreciably bigger than the other sites. The cost difference is really minimal -- it's $12 per night for a standard site, and $18 for a family site. Well worth it, and quite a contrast to the $35 per night for standard sites in California state parks.

Since it was only Thursday, even with the long weekend, the campground was mostly empty. Only a handful of sites in our loop were taken. It was still raining ever so slightly as we set up camp, but the trees mostly shielded us from it. Still, I was very happy to set up the canopy above the picnic table.

The restrooms were quite nice, providing flush toilets and running water, although only cold water and no showers. One problem with our site was that it was quite far from the restroom. Perhaps the farthest I've ever been from one in a campsite, requiring a walk of about 3-4 minutes. We eventually discovered that it was faster to walk to the group site restrooms in the opposite direction, a 2 minute walk away.

There are bears in the area, but apparently they're not the problem they are in Yosemite, as there are no food storage lockers. Instead, campers are expected to keep their food in their cars.

There's no firewood for sale at the campground, but there is firewood for sale in the town of Newhalem, less than a mile down the road on Highway 20. It's an interesting place, as it's a company town consisting of pretty much one street with a row of maybe 30-40 houses, and a main street of two blocks containing a general store and a post office. Probably most of the residents work for the power company (Seattle City Light) -- there are several dams and hydroelectric plants in the area.

For dinner, we had the oysters and clams we'd picked up yesterday, then enjoyed some of the apple pie we'd bought earlier today. After dinner, we walked in search of the river. We walked through the group campground and then did part of the To Know A Tree Trail, which contains interpretive signs explaining the different types of trees in the forest. We enjoyed the sights of moss-covered trees which reminded me of the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. The trail led us to the edge of the Skagit River. Unfortunately the shore it brought us to was too steep and dangerous for the kids, so we didn't stay long. We vowed to try to find a better spot the next night.

Clams for dinner

Skagit River

Mossy tree, prompting memories of the Hoh Rain Forest

Our campsite in the forest

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