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North Cascades Hwy - March 2019


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So we've had a heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest, and starting today, the temps are supposed to return to normal.  After all the snow we got...which may not seem like much to those who normally get snow...this was a wonderful respite.  Snow in the PNW is supposed to be in the mountains, not the city streets and it shut Seattle down for weeks.

I knew before leaving that the entire North Cascades Highway was not completely clear.  There's snow plow crews working on both ends of the passes to clear it out.  But I knew it would be open far enough through to get a good ride in some of the most amazing scenery in the state.

I headed up I-5 till just past Arlington and then turned off onto Hwy 530.  If this is your first time through, stop for a moment or two to look at the Oso landslide.  An entire section of the hill slid off a few years back and buried the area east of the town and inhabitants there under 30-70 feet of mud and debris.

The scenery along Hwy 530 is beautiful in its own right.  Farmland.  Scattered homes and tiny communities along the base of the foothills of the Northern Cascades.  Here's some pics from the roads along Hwy 530.




Roads were good along the way.  The sand from the snow seems cleared, at least in your lane.  The center stripe area still had some in places. 

After riding along for an hour or so on roads like this, I reached the North Cascades National Park.

In a few weeks, I'm sure all that ice will be melted away.  Oh...temperatures varied a lot on the trip, often within a mile or less.  The high I saw on the temperature readout was 80F...but the low was 48F.  There were places where the air wasn't moving and the tree canopy was high and dense.  Those areas still had a foot or more of snow and between the shade, the still air, and the snow, the temperatures would plunge 15 degrees or more.  It was like a bunch of microclimates.  


Gorge Lake



I parked the bike at Colonial Creek Campground.


You can see ice still on the water in the distance.  This is DiabloLake from the campground area.



I thought these rings were interesting.


There's an observation point up the hill a couple miles past where they had the road blocked off, so I hiked up there.  I actually liked it better than when I've ridden through there.  It was a good time to spend seeing things that you go by too fast and hearing the sounds.  And except for a couple I passed who were going down as I was going up the hill, I had the place to myself.  



Diablo Lake from above at the Observation Point.




Look closely above the snow and the black spec is my bike.  



I left there and the way home was like the way up there.  No traffic.  It was just a great day to be out riding.


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Very nice, I take that trip every year.  I am assuming that the pass wasn't actually open yet?  Last year I went in May, a few weeks after it officially opened and encountered wild climate changes like you described.  87 degrees at Diablo Lake, 42 Degrees going over the pass with dense fog and rain, then 92 degrees on the other side in Omak.

I'm going to do it again in July but continue on Hwy 20 to the Idaho border and then return through Inchelium, Nespelem and Grand Coulee taking the ferry across the Columbia.


North Cascades Pass-2.jpg

***2015 Candy Red FJ-09***

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It wasn't open all the way, but I got a nice almost 3 hour ride each way to where the road was blocked off.  Six hours of riding, plus just walking around and soaking in those sites was better than sitting in front of a computer wishing I'd gone.  :D


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Yeah its a great road. I used to live in Snohomish County and it was a regular yearly ride past Diablo then over through Winthrop down to Chelan, through Wenatchee and back on Route 2 through Leavenworth. Great roads. Thanks for the memories!

Everything is simple, Nothing is easy

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  • 3 weeks later...
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Beautiful! I rode North Cascades in September 2017 and the sky in the entire PNW was brown from wildfire smoke. It's a lovely ride but I elected to shoot photos in BW because the natural light color was so miserable.



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