The National Park You’ve Never Been To
North Cascades National Park is a place many national park enthusiasts may miss in their travels. Had I not already been in southern British Columbia with a full tank of gas and nothing to do, I would have missed it myself. I’m very glad I went however, because the park is a diamond in the rough.
Not for the faint of heart, North Cascades National Park doesn’t provide your normal tourist activities and flashing draws. There is no Old Faithful, there are no ‘rustic’ cabins to sleep in, and the mountains offer no solace for the weak. I was lucky enough to be able to visit the park with Kerri, but we just planned to drive through and stuff at an overlooks or plaques we could find, and bask in the beauty of the peaks towering over us.
We weaved and turned through rural towns, just looking for the entrance to the park, which itself is hidden in mountainous terrain. I maneuvered the car between a cliff and the gorgeous Skagit River, its flowing turquoise water sparkling in the unpolluted sunlight. We made our way into the park and found the visitor’s center, which was nestled amongst the pine trees. Kerri and I wandered around and learned about the indigenous flora and fauna. I wandered down a wooded path and was struck by the weight of the silence. I alertly listened for bears; I wanted to see one, but am not sure what I would have done had I seen one.
The view was awe-inspiring. I knew I would never make it to the interior of this beautiful park, but I felt myself blessed to scrape the surface of this corner of the majestic Cascades. After some quiet reflection, we decided to drive as far as the road went until it exited the other side of the park. I followed the bends past the dams that light Seattle and the snow-capped peaks that loomed over us. We ended the drive at Diablo Lake, and lake that looked like it was filled with blue-green gel because the water was so opaque with its ingredients. We drank in the scenery to our hearts’ content and then piled back in the car to begin the return trip to Vancouver.
My experience with North Cascades National Park was brief and cursory, but it made an impression on me. The looming silence and sheer size of the landscape was enough to draw my gaze and my mind and to do nothing but be completely in the moment. I have no doubt that the interior of the park is a haven for hikers and backpackers that wish to penetrate the inner recesses of this beautiful landscape, if that is what you seek. Kerri and I, however, were just looking for an escape for the day that would open our minds to a new and exciting grandeur. North Cascades National Park has a secret, and I feel that it was whispered to me so low that I could not catch what it was. Maybe next time.