Without meticulously studying a trail map, who would have known Concrete, Washington, could have been one of the most scenic stops along our return-home trip?
After abruptly changing plans from Shi Shi Beach and a return to Colorado via I-82, The Lizard delighted me with a whirlwind trip through a long-desired mountain fantasy. We camped in the heart of North Cascades National Park and even took in a tiny bit of cyclocross along the Skagit River to visit a waterfall we didn't even know existed.
The North Cascades have been on my wishlist since high school, and I even dreamed about one day climbing one of the jaggedly steep peaks back in the days of climbing Colorado's 14ers. Now that I've seen (from a distance) some of the sharpest peaks, I realize I probably will never have the skills to climb even Mount Triumph. With a name like that, it calls to me. But photos may be all I ever get.
I did discover, after we'd passed it, of course, a trail at the foot of looming Mount Baker that provides stunning views of the North Cascades. If I didn't need to be back at work the following Monday, I would have coaxed The Lizard into backtracking to the town of Concrete to hike the eastern foothills and valleys of Mount Baker to bathe in the stunning views of the North Cascades. Goat Mountain was calling my name pretty loudly, too.
I'd always wanted to bike the road traversing North Cascades, and I thought we might get to live that dream this trip. Alas, the long drives and a few restless nights had beaten us down. We didn't feel confident riding amongst vehicular tourists. Instead we biked a gravel road and dirt trail without knowing it led to Ladder Creek Falls.
The Falls are lit at night, but we were too exhausted to return, plus we hadn't packed headlamps for the bikes. We definitely didn't want to drive there, although it's very easily accessible via four wheels.
We got up before the dawn and toured the park in the beautiful golden light of a clear morning. The sensational views from lookouts above Diablo Lake made us want to return, perhaps for a North Cascades-specific vacation.