North Cascades/Olympic National Park Trip

Old Oct 4th, 2012, 08:34 AM
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North Cascades/Olympic National Park Trip

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
sunbum1944 is offline  
Old Oct 4th, 2012, 09:23 AM
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You were in some of my all time favorite areas! The hiking in the North Cascades is amazing! We have spent quite a few anniversaries in Port Townsend, and then like to backpack in the Olympics. Wish I could have been along with you!
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Old Oct 4th, 2012, 12:00 PM
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We didn't get to kayak/canoe when we were at Olympic. Looking back now I wish we would have. I enjoyed Sol Duc, but my wife felt much like you and thought of it as down right disgusting. I think the smell from the water alone was enough for her to not get in. I bet there were 50-75 people in the pools.

We did Hurricane Hill just two months ago, but I don't remember it being paved. We saw 10 or so mountain goats there.

I had really expected to like North Cascades, but found it to be a bit underwhelming. All we did was hike Cascade Pass, and while it was nice, it just didn't wow me. We really enjoyed Mount Rainier. Even though Olympic may not have the super super places that other parks have, we really like it because there is so much variety right there, just a few miles apart. Rain forest, ocean, tidepools, waterfalls, mountain all the same day.

Did you hike to Sol Doc Falls? We really liked it.
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Old Oct 4th, 2012, 12:23 PM
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I did not hike to Sol Duc falls - we just wallowed around in the pools with all the other folks. I hear it is a nice hike though.

Hurricane Hill was paved almost to the top - well it was like 1/2 the trail was paved and the other half dirt - . One of our hikers was so exhausted when she got to the top, she attempted to sit on a rock, lost her balance and almost fell over the other side. That gave us a brief moment of panic.

I liked the N Cascades and could have spent more time there but liked the Olympic National Park better. I loved kayaking on Lake Crescent- could have done that a couple of more times and so much we did not see.

Some of our group hiked to Blue Lake in the Cascades and have wonderful photos - I also hiked into Rainy Lake ( another paved trail) which was really beautiful.

Love Mt Ranier too- am so lucky to live in this area with so much to see and do within a days drive.
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