Brave New World in the North Cascades

We needed to get away for a little 'mental health' so we set our gaze on the North Cascades for something refreshing to take our minds off the world's woes.

Heading North to Oso

Recently we decided we just needed to get away from the craziness of 2020 even if we couldn’t travel far. The trick was Theresa and I were craving something new but how to accomplish that when COVID-19 made it somewhat risky and irresponsible to travel long distances? We finally settled on turning our gaze towards the North Cascades.

Washington has such a massive and diverse selection of activities that we just haven’t turned our attention to the northern range of the cascades. I also admit to a small part of me being reluctant to travel through the greater Seattle corridor with the trailer. It’s really not that bad, just very low on my list of ‘fun’ things to do….somewhere right there with going to the dentist!

It didn’t take long to find a good basecamp from which to start our week of exploration. Turns out it was just outside of Oso. Depending on where you are in the country the name may be instantly recognizable or it might just seem like you should know it, but can’t remember why.

Oso unfortunately gained national recognition when, in the spring of 2017, a huge landslide engulfed 49 homes and claimed 43 lives, It’s a tragic event which should have been avoided but it’s also a tale of resilience, sacrifice, and highlights the best of humanity. There’s a memorial along the highway which gives a great vantage of the cut in the hillside. I can tell you it’s very eerie to stand that and imagine the events of that day. Here’s a good article with much more detail on the events of that day.

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Boulder River Trail

After getting settled into our basecamp we started doing a little research on what our first trip might entail. We quickly settled on driving out to the Boulder River Trail and seeing if the double waterfalls that are mentioned are worth the hike.

The trailhead is just off the Arlington-Darrington Highway on NF-2010. The path is well marked and the trail takes you through some wonderful old-growth. Towards the start of the trail, we heard a waterfall in the valley to our right, but the undergrowth was too thick to get a good look at it.

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We needed to get away for a little ‘mental health’ so we set our gaze on the North Cascades for something refreshing to take our minds off the world’s woes.

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However, it doesn’t take long before you come upon the second waterfall which is the highlight of the trail. It’s a high double fall which apparently has no name. It is one of the most stunning waterfalls I’ve seen in Washington. This is a popular trail but as it was a Monday morning we had the place to ourselves and we took advantage of it with a nice picnic at its base.

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Sunrise from basecamp over Tower Rock in the background. Are we sure this is October? ...

North Mountain Fire Lookout

Our second venture out was a tip from old exploring partner Jason. He had mentioned that he had heard of an old fire lookout somewhere in our area. A quick bit of research online and we found it; the historic North Mountain Fire Lookout.

Obviously the lookout sits atop of its namesake and is located 12 miles outside Darrington. The hardest part of reaching the lookout is the 12-mile drive up some of the worst dirt track that I’ve ever taken the FJ up. I was sure I had a couple of fillings loose by the time we finished.

At one time Washington had 600 fire lookouts in the state. Now there are less than 100. There is an organization that is refurbishing the structure and ‘Friends of North Mountain’ has done a good job. The tower is in excellent shape despite having been built in 1965 and sitting vacant since the 1990s,

The evaluation at the tower’s location is a little over 3800’ and the views of the surrounding valley went a long way in making up for the drive. The building itself was locked but the stairway still provides a great view. Quick sidebar for those who enjoy mountain biking. Apparently, this is a sort of mecca for that activity with many single tracks spider webbing the mountain.

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More to explore

Old Growth
Journal

Search For An Unnamed Waterfall

The sign stated that the private tree farm was closed to motor vehicles but opened to foot traffic. So, if we wanted to find our unnamed waterfall that meant hoofing the last 1.5 miles on foot. The thing that worried me was the high voltage wire crackling above the FJ.

Read More »

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