I’m finally getting to the 3rd leg of our epic trip to the Pacific Northwest – North Cascades National Park.  I have been dreaming of visiting this park for so long.  Sadly it was incredibly smokey and the views of the mountains were not really available for most of the trip, but we still had a blast!

North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park – Patty and Kristin

Our visit started in a rather alarming way.  On the road into the park are signs with the warning  “if you hear an alarm, get to high ground”.  We were not really sure what that meant, so we just went into the campground and found our site.

Flood Evacuation Route North CascadeWe had just opened our car doors and we hear an alarm, kind of like a tornado warning siren….  WTF???  So we pile back into the car and follow the signs to “high ground” which was where the visitor’s center was located.

Funny thing was, no one was panicking or even acting alarmed, so we ask a ranger about it and he said  “the alarm is a flood warning, in the event that the Skagit River Dam breaks and floods the valley”.  So I say, “why is everyone so calm then”, and he says “oh, the alarm goes off every day at noon”, and I say “but it’s 1:30” and he says, “well the alarm goes off for a lot of different reasons”, (cry wolf, anyone?) hence it became a pretty good joke for us the rest of our visit, but you can bet that no matter where we were in the park, we always knew where “high ground” was.

Ann's Lake North CascadesI was once again reminded of what is so great about camping for me.  I know it’s much easier to stay in a hotel, MUCH more comfortable and easy, however in a hotel you miss the best parts of the park.  The early morning quiet, just you a good book and a cup of coffee or a hike along the river, the late evenings by the camp fire, with roasted marshmallows and scotch on the rocks,  getting up in the middle of the night to pee, and getting an amazing view of the night sky.  All good stuff, well worth it in my opinion.

Camping also really helps “keep you in the moment” of the experience.  It took some getting used to, but we became very grateful that we were totally off the grid.  No cell or internet service, no cable news, no way of really knowing what was going on in the world, even if that “peace” was only for a few days, it was a huge gift.

Unlike our campsite in Olympic, which was right on HWY 101 and full of traffic noise, our site at North Cascades was wonderful with nothing but bird song, the sound of the Skagit River and an occasional flood siren (for all kinds of reasons).

North Cascades National Park

We had great weather, enjoyed hikes in the old growth forest, walks along the Skagit River and a great ranger program in the evening.  On our last day we hiked to Ann’s Lake, a 4 mile round trip and 600 ft of elevation gain.  Now remember, Kristin just had knee surgery.

Once again, she was a trooper, taking on the switch backs, the sketchy/narrow sections of the trail and even remaining calm through her encounter with a bear (nothing serious, but pretty damn scary).  It was our final day, and the skies cleared a bit and we were rewarded with the awesome views and the incredible beauty of the park.

Hike to Anns Lake Kristin
Kristen hiking to Ann’s Like (and encountering a bear)

What I learned about the Park:

North Cascades is awesome.  Not very busy and tons of trails.  I will definitely be back here.  We did hike 100 steps of the Pacific Crest Trail, Pacific Crest Trail signwhich runs through part of the park.  Another bucket list item for me is to hike at least part of that trail.  They also have an awesome education center at this park.  They have a ton of great programs for people of all ages.  Here is more information on the North Cascades Institute.  How cool would it be to take my grand children there???

What I learned about myself:

I hope I never stop wanting to camp, hike and visit these beautiful places.  It’s always so amazing and no matter how many parks and wild places I visit, there is a ton of diversity and beauty I need to see.  It never gets old

Some thoughts for you:

Here is a recommendation from Kristin, who I will remind you is 70 years old (and in great shape).  Kristin recommends that as you get older, every day you should get up off the floor at least once, every single day.  Really, make yourself sit down on the floor, and get up off it.  If you don’t you will lose the ability to do it.  Getting off the ground and out of the tent, she said, was the hardest part of the trip.

Remember —  Get out there!!!

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