The siren signaled to my brain that it was all about to end. It seemed that my wife felt the same way from the look on her face. I looked around for any signs of a cataclysm, but could find none. I then went inside the North Cascades National Park information center and was told that the siren we assumed was blaring in advance of our impending doom was just a routine test done every day at noon.
Our friendly park ranger told me that if it was much louder and didn't stop to get to high ground immediately, as that meant that one of the dams on the Skagit River had been breached and we would be in a mess of trouble. Thankfully, this did not happen on the day my family decided to traverse a good portion of the North Cascade Loop.
We began our trip on the North Cascade Highway(20) in the small town of Sedro-Woolley, Washington, which is a great place to stop for breakfast. For a displaced Southerner such as myself, the quality of the sawmill gravy placed atop chicken-fried steak was a welcomed sight to behold. After a proper breakfast, we sojourned onward to the East where the Cascade Mountains were waiting for us.
Throughout this trip there are numerous excellent viewpoints and interesting sights to behold. One of my favorite areas is just past the North Cascades National Park
information center, where there is a small general store if you need to stock up on snacks and beverages. There is also a great pedestrian suspension bridge across the Skagit River that connects to a trail through a lush and beautiful forest. You may imagine hobbits and elves sneaking through the underbrush, if you are even slightly nerd-inclined.
I feel at this time that I should note that we took this trip in mid-May, so there was still a good bit of snow on the tops of the mountains. In fact, as we climbed up to Washington Pass we encountered a heavy snowstorm that only let up as we descended to the other side of the mountains into the Methow Valley. It is also pertinent to note that a large section of the highway is closed throughout the winter every year, as there is
just too much snow for the road to be maintained properly.
Once we moved over the mountains and into the Methow Valley, the scenery and weather changed drastically as we entered the "wild west" tourist trap known as Winthrop, Washington. It's interesting that the town has actively sought to promote this theme and is fun for a quick visit if you don't mind everything being overpriced. Moving along, we were now traversing through a wide valley with rolling hills on both sides with
far fewer trees. Apple orchards stretch along both sides of the road for miles and it's beautiful in a completely different way than the western side of the mountains.
We also made a quick stop in the town of Leavenworth, Washington, another "theme" town that looks like it belongs in the Alps. Leavenworth reminds me of Helen, Georgia, but much nicer. As our trip was coming to an end, we begrudgingly headed back towards Seattle in need of some rest after a full day in the car.
All in all, the North Cascade Loop is a fantastic trip for families and adventure seekers with many opportunities for sight-seeing, hiking, and relaxation. While I have done it in a day, it did take the whole day, so I suggest attempting to make this at least a two day trip so that you can fully appreciate what this area of Washington has to offer.