Our campsite on the North Fork of the Nooksack River was a fine one.
Lots of green forest around us and the tumbling, rumbling white water
river flowing past the front door of our tent.
Three day intra-state "road trip" - Mt. Baker Highway - August 1st - 3rd. 2012.
My wife and I hadn't driven the North Cascades highway in several years. This scenic route (highway 20) was opened in Washington state in 1972, one year after my wife and I were married.
Here is a photo of a "family" camping trip with our daughter in 1973 over the newly opened North Cascades highway:
We had a camper shell on the back of our Chevy pickup truck; I installed curtain rods inside the canopy; my wife sewed curtains; we put in a mattress - - and we were set for camping and traveling. We were on our way to Jasper National Park in Canada back then. Fun times.
Looking at maps it occurred to me that neither my wife nor me had ever traveled the Mt. Baker highway (highway 542) in the state of Washington. I have no idea how we missed doing that scenic route, but we hadn't so that became our destination for a short road trip within the state of Washington.
Our plan was to head up over Blewitt Pass; drive up the Columbia River; turn up the Methow River at Pateros; cross the North Cascades highway; pick up highway 9 and drive north to highway 542; and then see if we could find an open camp site at either the Douglas-Fir campground or the Silver Fir campground on the North Fork of the Nooksack River. That is what we did.
We pulled into the Douglas-Fir campground and found a nice site to pitch our tent for the night...right on the river. With my old man senior's discount it was just nine dollars for a very nice tent site.
After setting up camp and eating a bite, we decided we wouldn't wait until mornign to see what the rest of the highway 542 looked like up to Artist's point (if we could make it that far without running into too much snow). So up we drove toward the Mt. Baker ski area, just to get a sneak peek at the peaks.
What a wonderful drive it is! Clouds were coming in and light was fading but we thoroughly enjoyed that quick jaunt up to Artist Point. I stopped at Highwood Lake to try some reflection photos with Mt. Shuksan. I did the same at Picture Lake but the wind and low light foiled any good shots there.
We loved the big metal raven sculptures we saw on the drive. Some artist did an outstanding job of capturing the intelligence and independence of these marvelous birds. The clouds dropped down on us when we reached Artist Point (we noted four cars at the Lake Ann trailhead along the way, a hike that has long been on my list).
The snow around the parking lot at Artist Point was piled high and will certainly take a lot of warm weather to melt it down. With low light and clouds swirling about us at times I tried to take a few photos to capture the moment of this surreal scene.
We drove back down to our tent camp on the Nooksack as it was getting dark. Our plan was to get up early and head back up the same way to see some of the same sights at sunrise and stop at Nooksack falls as well.
We slept with the tent fly rolled up over the front door of our tent (REI Quarterdome T3 - - the same tent we had used to backpack in Grand Gulch a year before). The fast moving North Fork of the Nooksack River, made unusual sounds at night like big round rocks clunking along the stream bottom or cavitations caused by the white water itself. It was a lovely sound to listen to just 30 feet out in front of our tent door.
We got up early the next morning and were surprised to find it misting, then raining lightly. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. The weather forecast had been for just a 10% chance of rain, but on the west side of the Cascades that actually translates to 100%. They drop a zero - as the folks on the Westside are born optimists...they have to be to live on the rainy side of the Cascade Mountains.
Not to worry. We struck camp in short order and decided to drive back up to Artist Point - - rain or no rain, clouds or no clouds. We would first stop to take a look at Nooksack falls. That is one of the prettiest waterfalls I have seen in the state of Washington. It is made all the more interesting by the wild waters of Wells Creek coming in at an oblique angle at the foot of Nooksack Falls.
For some of you old folks, Nooksack falls is the waterfalls in the 1978 movie "The Deer Hunter" with Robert De Niro.
Everything above the waterfalls was socked in with clouds, so I was very happy the two of us had made our short run up to the Mt. Baker ski area, the evening before. Besides wanting to hike Lake Ann this year, I now want to return to spend a lot more time in the area.
With clouds and rain and what we knew would be a busy weekend coming up, we deicide to hit the road and head for the sunny Okanogan country of Washington. That we did, returning over the North Cascades highway again and making more stops along the way to enjoy the scenery. We spent the second night in the small town of Okanogan on the river with the same name.
On Friday 8.2.12, we left Okanogan and we drove home along the Columbia River and then Blewitt Pass, the way we had traveled on Wednesday. We drove through dense smoke down a large section of the Columbia River from a 10,000 acre orchard fire.
It was good to get back home before the roads and campground filled with those taking advantage of the improving weather on the weekend. I didn't take a lot of photographs but I hope you enjoy the ones that I post. OMT