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Trip Report North Cascades/Olympic National Park Trip

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Travelled with a group to the North Cascades for 4 nights. Our first stop was North Cascades Basecamp Lodge, close to the town of Winthrop. We had the whole lodge reserved for our group. The lodge is owned by a couple of wildlife biologists who are environmentally concerned- everything is reused, recycled. All meals were provided which were very healthy- and liberally laced with emmer- a high protein grain. Beautiful grounds with walking trails and every morning the owners did a little talk about the flora, fauna, geology of the area. In the winter, its a cross country ski base. It was a comfortable place to stay but not exactly high end.

Day 1: Hiked to Cutthroat Lake- an easy 4 mile hike to a mountain lake. Had lunch at the lake. Following the hike, we cleaned up and went into Winthrop- very cute little western town with several restaurants and shops. Our favorite stop was the Schoolhouse Brewery- nice patio out back along the river. Made this our daily afternoon stop.

Day 2: Drive up Harts Pass which might be the scariest road I have ever been on. Its is narrow, hair pin turns and no guard rails and pretty scary to meet another car and attempt to pass. Harts Pass is the highest point you can drive to in the state of Wa. From the parking lot at the top, you can walk up a paved trail to a lookout tower with fabulous views. The Pacific Crest Trail can be accessed from here and we saw lots of hikers and heard stories of those who were near the end of the trail in Canada. We were disappointed not to see much wild life - but we did see a golden eagle.

Day 3: Walked the trails at our lodge, shopped Winthrop and then had dinner at the Sun Mountain Lodge. Wow! If you want a 4 diamond experience, this would be the place to stay. Fabulous views, beautiful accommodations, many activities to do from there. It is a beautiful but spendy spot to stay.

Day 4: Off to the Olympic National Park. Took the ferry to Port Townsend where we spent a few hours. I think I could have spent a few days here. What a cute town!!!!!
Then short drive to our lodging at Lake Crescent Lodge. Beautiful old lodge at the edge of the lake. We stayed in cabins with lake views. They were very comfortable but basic- no TV's here.

Day 5: After a hearty breakfast at the lodge headed out for a short ranger led hike to a beautiful waterfall. Hike was easy except for many stairs to climb to reach the top of the falls.
After lunch we went kayaking on the lake- it was smooth as glass and a beautiful place to kayak. There is a nice long dock extending into the lake where we spent the late afternoon enjoying a few glasses of wine before dinner at the lodge.

Day 6: Drive to Sol Dac Hot Springs- my least favorite event of the week. Too many people in the pools to really enjoy. Most of the time we were there, there was only 1 pool open as they were testing for bacteria in the other pool so people were packed in like sardines.
Apparently there are some nice hikes to do from there but we did not do any.

Day 7: Another kayak on the lake on an absolutely stellar day. Does not get better than that.
After lunch we drove to Hurricane Ridge- very nice visitors center there. We did some of the easy trails and then decided to go all the way to the top of Hurricane Hill. It is a steep trail but paved all the way and is worth the effort. From the top you are surrounded by the snowcapped Cascades and can see across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island.
Breath taking views. I was glad we took the time and made the effort to hike to the top.

Day 8: Headed back to Eugene after breakfast at the lodge. Beautiful drive from the lodge to Olympia along the Hood Canal.
Could have spent so much more time in the area, so much more to see and explore - hope to get back soon

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