Alaska Bound: From the Rogue Valley to North Cascades National Park

IMG_5954Day #1: It was time to begin the next leg of the moving to Oregon and Alaska  odyssey,  So on Sunday July 22 I headed out of the very smokey Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon with the final destination to be Soldatna Alaska.  I planned on taking 10 days to arrive there and to camp all but 2 of the nights.  IMG_5908 2 Adopting what I deemed a sound rational plan, I chose not to leave for the first night’s stay at the LaQuinta in Vancouver Washington until mid-afternoon. My first major stop was to be in the North Cascades National Park on Monday, to set up for the first day of this camping adventure through British Columbia and Yukon Territory. It had been 9 months since I pitched a tent and this one was new.  So I decided to get the repetitive driving routine section out of the way on Sunday, having traversed I-5 to Portland many times.  I wanted to  enjoy a brisk morning walk (it always dumbfounds me that it can be in the 50’s in the am and push upwards of 100 during the day on the east side of the Siskiyou’s in Ashland OR) and have more time with family.  So I finally got on the road by 2:30 in the afternoon for the five hour drive to north of Portland (which would of course be closer to six with gas and pee breaks and a stop to nourish and shoot up my diabetic dog). My logic would be less traffic and trucks on the road on Sunday.  That may have well been true if I could compare it to Monday, but traveling up the I-5 corridor through Oregon was no leisurely Sunday drive. Plenty of traffic, trucks and traffic jams.

IMG_5928Since the drive from Southern Oregon to and through Portland has been undertaken many times, it remained expedient to follow the path of the major highway designers, which is usually the path of least resistance — but also least interesting. The mountains of southern Oregon for first 100 miles are striking but the landscape was shrouded in smoke from the high number of forest fires in southern Oregon.  It was almost as if a scrim had been lifted at Exit 138 and I drove out of the smokey mist into blue sky and sunshine. I motored on through the relatively flat valley with not much ado and only had to start vice gripping the wheel when driving through Portland.  The traffic was fast (10 + over limit) with numerous tight curves and bridges.  Not much chance to even glance at Portlands modern city scape.  Portland is touted as a very desirable location and progressive city but it also comes with its expressways, traffic jams and many of the not so desirable features of a metropolis areas. Not far beyond was Vancouver WA and the bed for the night, arriving at 8:30 pm.

Day 2   Monday July 23:  Yesterday and this morning was the preface to this tale or perhaps the act before the main event but the journey finally really began when I exited the I-5 and headed up 535 to the North Cascades. Getting out of the motel was quite swift (had lots of practice last month crossing the country) but the surprise I awoke to was not so swift.  Crawling out of bed I noticed Kili sleeping on the other queen bed, something he never does. Looking a bit beyond the bed, there  was a pile of poop on the rug.  Poor guy had an accident and was probably disoriented  in he dark and got onto the wrong bed.  Clearly this dog does not travel well in some ways.  He had hijacked my quesadilla at lunch when I got up to get a club soda and it had onions on it – so I guess this was my “fault” for not guarding my food better from a dog who wants anything but real dog food!

By now you can pretty much guess my feelings and reactions to the  trip from Vancouver Washington  trough Seattle on I-5.  Traffic moves very fast and then barely moves at all – repeat TIME and time again. Siri keeps telling me which is the fastest route (I am not sure why Siri thinks I am always interested in the fastest route but then I guess she is not programed to be my personal assistant!) for a minute here or there really would not make a huge difference on this trip.  She actually advised that going trough Seattle on I-5 might be a minute or two faster than the eastern loop skirting around the city  So I figured crawling through Seattle would be a whole lot better than  crawling around the outskirts which I imagined would look like every other suburban interchange.  Besides, perhaps I cold catch a glimpse of the now ancient (but refurbished) Space Needle built for the 1962 World’s Fair.It was so famous when it opened and became an icon of the Pacific Northwest.  I was pretty shocked to find the road 5 lanes wide as in my mind Seattle was a sleepier town when I was last through there about 20 + years go…long before Starbuck’s AND Amazon were mega corps calling this city home.  In my mind, it is a huge modern city filled with shiny skyscrapers which now dwarf the iconic needle.  Somehow what does not fit in with my conception of the Pacific North West. 

I was finally delighted to be motoring down a narrow corridor of towering pine trees,  briefly interrupted by small towns and farms . Gratefully the traffic was light and we were at our campsite by 2:30 in North Cascades National Park. 

IMG_5930Setting up camp was relatively  smooth, new tent and all.  My Big Agnes Copper Spur – lightweight backpackers tent for three is just about perfect for 1 adult, two dogs a teddy bear and all of my STUFF – which of course I would not be needing if I was backpacking. I had a well shade spacious campsite in Newhalem campground loop C. There were definitely fewer tents that RV’s since these campgrounds do not have electric and water at the sites. Sadly there were many areas here and in the park that were hard hit by the mountain pine beetle and I observed a high level of tree mortality through out the area. I had read that it was impacting trees at higher and higher elevations as a result of global warming. The mountains sides appear ghostly with trees often still holding on to there needle, now gray and lifeless. 

 I decided to drive the highway through the Cascades  and the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. It was a hot July day (in the high 80’s) but It was  a lovely drive on route 20 and I was quite excited to be in the mountains with craggy peaks and the grandeur and majesty I was envisioning. One thing that was most noticeable was the massive hydroelectric projects and the resulting lakes and reservoirs. There were three major dams en route including the Gorge, Diablo and the Ross Dams. There were some beautiful views of the Ross Lake and Diablo Lake and the Sourdough Mountains – the shimmering lakes sported an electric turquoise hue offset by the deep green of the surrounding forests.

I was wondering if this would be yet another one of those dam building projects that, as a result of disrupting the natural flow of the rivers and  thus preventing  salmon and other species from reaching their spawning ground, might someday be the target of another one of the movement that is targeted tor dismantling to save species. 

Back at the campground,  forested with Western Red cedar, and Douglas fir trees, and near the Skagit River,  I began the challenge  of re-acquainting myself with all my camping equipment and food stuffs that I had packed weeks before-prior to the move from Florida and also managing the bees, mosquitoes and flies. It was mostly bees but they were not as noxious as I had anticipated upon their arrival.  They mostly sought moisture and as long as I minded my own business they did not bother this human that much. A quick dinner and nice walk around the campgrounds loop topped off the day.  

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