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Cascade Loop Snoops
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Cascade Loop Snoops
  Washington State Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton

cascade_loop_blueview.jpg Washington state's Cascade Loop covers sheer diversity. Heights of 5000 feet to sea level; snow capped mountains to tumbling desert sagebrush; lush green forests to blossoming orchards. And that's just nature's canvas. As well, the human hand has painted pictures of the wild and woolly west; a fishing village; once upon a time in Early America; a glimpse of the old country; and tours of powerful dams. Our first time around we barely noticed nature's artistry, let alone had time for tours en route.

Our second time around the loop we slowed slightly. We had three days to cruise through boutiques, antiques and bric-a- brac booths. This time, we climbed stone paths amid wild flowers and paused at cascading falls and boundless vistas. This time, we enjoyed home cooked dining at the banks of a soothing river.

By our third time around we were professional loop snoops. We stumbled upon white water rafters in Index and modern day cowboys in Mazama. We lunched in a rickety inn with ghost stories on the menu. We visited a castle that sure looked like an old log cabin to me and read how the pistol displayed in the showcase got imbedded in the limb of a tree.

Notwithstanding, this circle of edifying and amusing contrasts can be broken at several junctions in the state of Washington. Our third time around, we broke in at La Conner. The following is a quickie description of our trip.

laconner_mountain.jpg La Conner claims to have welcomed six hundred thousand visitors last year, and the fact that they came back for a second and third look increases the figure to a whopping two million visits. We scooted over the Rainbow Bridge to scan the city's pretty backside perched at the water's edge. Then we briefly visited the Gaches Museum.

Cutting back, we headed for Anacortes on Fidalgo Island past barren land that's ablaze with tulips in early spring. We took the recommended scenic route through the sprawled community by playgrounds and parks and winding roads with stunning views of the bay. Then over world-famous-for-its-beauty Deception Pass to Whidbey island and past Oak Harbor, the home of the Whidbey Navel Air Fleet and seven thousand sailors.

Further on came Coupeville--one of the oldest cities in Washington (the city's planners have done a fine job of restoring the Victorian homes along its harbor ), and Langley, a quaint little town with narrow streets and wide ocean views. A short time later, a ferry ride took us back to the mainland at Mukilteo and on to Everett and across 1-5.

The folks in Snohomish, like the people of Coupeville, are keeping the past alive by carefully maintaining charming old houses that have been around for over a hundred years. The homes look so dignified, bedecked with their fancy doors, windows and friendly porches--how proud the architect must have been.

It had been a hectic day and when we arrived at the Thunderbird Campground in Monroe we soon drifted off to sleep.

cascade_highway_funkyshop.jpg The next morning we were in wooded mountains savoring logging communities with strange sounding names like Sultan, Startup, Index and Skykomish. In Index, the air sizzled with excitement as an attentive group of rafters paid heed to last minute instructions before plunging into the river of no return. Churning foam smacked ragged boulders tempting the thrillseekers. Their screams, deadened by the river's roar swelled just before they hit the rapids.

Then we had lunch at Skykomish Inn where the flavor of the hotel surpassed the flavor of the spaghetti. It seems the ghost of one of Molly Gibson's girls roams the upstairs hall. I took a peak at the dilapidated dwelling. The floor creaked beneath my feet -- a perfect setting for a ghost of two. Oh, if only the walls could talk.

After several oohs and ahhs while crossing showy Stevens Pass ( 4601 ) we arrived at Leavenworth nestled at the base of the Cascade Mountains.

Leavenworth looks like a page out of a Germany travel brochure. Hilly sidewalks curving gently, old century lamppost, blooming geraniums tumbling from planters hanging on brick and stone walls and a strolling minstrel dressed in Bavarian costume.

We sat among this array of color and scent, drinking in the atmosphere while satisfying our sweet tooth on German pastry. Mm . . .

The ride into Cashmere was another eyeful. This time of the Early American theme.

A few miles later, past creeks swarming with fishermen, we were in the big city of Wenatchee, the apple capital of the world. The state square dancers convention was taking place and dozens of swingers were strutting on the streets in their finest regalia -- wide skirts and frilly shirts.

Our next stop of interest was the Rocky Reach Dam. The beautifully landscaped grounds of the Rocky Reach dam even have a playground for the children. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to eyeball the fish in the viewing room.

loop_garden.jpg Then came Entiat. I could spend a week -- easy -- in Entiat. The city campground is simply gorgeous.

The landscape changed from fruit trees to sage brush as we headed for Chelan and an evening's rest at Chelan's Lakeshore R.V. Park -- crowded with young boating enthusiasts. The sound ofcrackling wood and the smell of hotdogs evoked memories of our earlier camping days.

The following morning we toured the town and snapped pictures of an interesting old stone bridge by historical Campbell's House. Soon after, we were beyond the arid landscape and headed towards the 'Old West'.

I remember the first time I saw Winthrop. What a rush. I thought I stepped back in time until I noticed the cars parked at the wooden sidewalks. They make the false front clapboard saloons and shops such as "Three Fingered Jacks" and "Sam's Place" look like movie sets. We hiked up the hill to what used to be the town's founder Guy Waring's house. It is full of memorabilia. The longer we lingered, the more we found. A skull and a still were two fascinations among plenty.

We were nearing the end of our excursion but not without more visual bonanzas compliments of the North Cascade National Park. The crooked road stretches past creeks and falls, through healthy vegetation, with aptly placed vista points few people can resist. The sights of the Skagit River dams cradled among the mountains lured us in.

It was getting dark. I wanted to enjoy some sunshine in a tranquil setting before getting on 1-5 for our frantic ride home so we stopped at my favorite campground ( Howard Steelhead Park) in Rockport for dinner and contemplation. Of course, we didn't have time to visit Sedro Woolley and Burlington, two more towns on the loop. Oh well, our fourth time around . . .

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