Doin’ the Cascade Loop (Sort Of) Part One

During the last bit of our Roamin’ Holiday, we decided to drive the Cascade Loop here in Washington State. No day trip, this. It would require an overnight stay somewhere. I had mixed emotions about that in this era of pandemic, but I was also itching to go somewhere, anywhere, and do something, anything. So off we went.

This road trip is something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. I’ve done bits and pieces of it, but never the whole thing, and I can now say that it’s highly recommended. It was a refreshing getaway that increased my love for this state.

The first thing to do is check out this awesome website that’s dedicated to everything related to the Cascade Loop. It breaks down the loop into 9 regions, and is full of amazing photographs, recommendations as to where to stay and what to eat and what to do, and it also goes into great detail about the history of each region. They even offer a free guidebook, which I dearly wish I’d had.

Map

One of the first things they recommend is that you drive the loop counterclockwise, as you get to see more spectacular views that way. Oops. We didn’t do that. That’s what I get for not doing my homework. Maybe next time. We also skipped the first region, Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, because we had just explored that area a few days before.

Since we were choosing to skip that leg of the journey, we decided, instead, to take a brief detour to explore Camano Island, the next island to the east of Whidbey. It’s a lot smaller than Whidbey, and has fewer amenities. It seems like a quiet, rural community. It did have a few intriguing shops, galleries, restaurants, a grocery store here and there, and some wineries. All but the grocery stores were closed due to the pandemic. We felt bad about not financially supporting this community, but in these viral times, we decided it was more socially responsible to remain socially distant. But Camano also has several parks, beaches, and fabulous views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, so it was still well worth the drive.

We picked up the Cascade Loop again in Skagit Valley. This is farm country. I love this area particularly in April, when the tulips are blooming and there are vast swaths of color in the fields. It makes me feel like I’m back in Holland again. I love looking at the farm houses and the barns, and imagining what life would be like out here. Quiet, but hard work.

I love the little town of La Conner, with its quaint little waterfront shops, and the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, housed in an amazing Victorian mansion. But again, those things are for healthier times.

Hamilton is probably full of tourists in normal times. We had the whole small town to ourselves. Sedro-Woolley is a loggers paradise. Apparently they host an annual Loggerrodeo. That sounds intriguing.

In fact, there are a plethora of festivals at different times of the year, all along the loop. It is a good idea to plan accordingly. But keep in mind that the North Cascades section is shut down in the winter, due to snow. We took our trip in May a few days after the road opened. A lot of places close down in the winter.

The North Cascades section is probably my favorite part of the loop. With its mountains and valleys and waterfalls and lush greenery, it reminded me a lot of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Well, sort of. Here, the mountains are taller and more jagged, the valleys are deeper, and the predominant trees are evergreen, not deciduous. But you get the idea. There are also 300 glaciers along the route. Hard to imagine that I’d never seen a glacier 6 years ago. The lakes and rivers are spectacular as well. There are a lot of camping and hiking and fishing opportunities here.

We passed through the town of Concrete in about 5 seconds. As you can probably guess, it used to be a cement production center. I just love that there’s a town called Concrete somewhere on earth.

Coming down from the mountains and entering the Methow Valley, we were feeling kind of peckish, and decided to stop in for some takeout pizza. One thing I’ve learned is that you can always count on pizza, even in a pandemic. We ate a lot of pizza in our travels. This time it was East 20 Pizza in Winthrop.

I hope to visit Winthrop more extensively in better times. It feels like you’ve been transported back to the wild, wild west. You can walk along its wooden sidewalks and explore tons of cute little shops. It’s also known for its fine dining. But alas, every single thing was closed while we were there, except the pizza place. I half expected to see tumbleweeds piling up in the corners. What a sad state of affairs to find ourselves in.

Then we continued on to the town of Twisp, where we spent the night. Can I start off by saying that I adore the name Twisp? I’d move there simply to be able to say Twisp multiple times a day. It sounds like a cross between the sound a potato chip makes and a squirt of honey in your mouth on a hot day.

We stayed at the Idle A While Motel. What a blast from the past. These buildings were built in the early 1900’s for the forest service. And now they have been converted into individual motel cabins along with a two story strip of rooms that looks like your typical 1950’s cheap motel. You could kind of tell that about half the place was occupied by seasonal residential types, but it was clean and felt safe, and they allowed pets, so I was happy. That, and we were able to do our check in over the phone, and I sanitized the place obsessively before and after.

Internet was sketchy and it was a bit chilly out, so we hung out and watched cable TV that evening. We watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which was filmed in 1963, and it now seems quaint, like the hotel, rather than scary, as it seemed to me as a child. (Given our setting, I’m kind of glad they weren’t showing Psycho.) After that, we drifted off to sleep.

Here are some photos from our travels. More about day two in a day or two!

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

3 thoughts on “Doin’ the Cascade Loop (Sort Of) Part One

  1. Angiportus Librarysaver

    Next time you make that loop, either way, be sure and turn off at the viewpoint park just N of Washington Pass and the hairpin turn. The undulating granite is surprisingly smooth–glacial polish. The warm color of the mts to the east is due to their being part of the Golden Horn batholith. Turn around and you will see something from countless guidebooks and so on–Liberty Bell Mountain. Quite farther to the west, nearer the dams, there’s a turnoff where you can look across the road and see a wall of rock with white streaks thru it–igneous intrusions, I forget the rest of the details. Washington is a geological mishmash, and the north Cascades is the mixiest-mashiest of all.
    The land where you live, and I live, didn’t used to even be part of this state. It…drifted in from somewhere–no one is sure where. The whole Northwest is a patchwork. It fits in entirely with the quilt museum. Speaking of which, next time you go to La Conner, there’s a great big museum at the top of that hill over downtown–just go up till you run out of up–and when it’s open you can see a 120-year-old motorcycle. And possibly some interesting art in the other rooms.
    Mukilteo–be careful on that ferry. Way back in ’82 or so, a Mercedes was driving off and the boat unexpectedly lurched outward, the car was trapped over an expanding abyss and the driver got out just in time and the car went in the drink. There’s lots of things happen on ferries.

  2. Pingback: Doin’ the Cascade Loop (Sort Of) Part Two – The View from a Drawbridge

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