In trying to make everything fit in before my planned September week-long vacation in Glacier National Park, I have to do a little mid-week travel, something I rarely do. But since I work Central Time Zone hours while on Pacific time, I am able to squeeze out a couple of extra hours of daylight. North Cascades National Park is an easy 76 mile drive from Anacortes, so I make a run for it mid-week, with the hopes of exploring the least crowded of our National Parks over the weekend.
North Cascades National Park is made up of steep-sided, heavily forested mountains with glacier-topped peaks, often referred to as “American Alps,” though I wonder if my Colorado friends might have something to say about that. 😉 It is the steepness of the Northern Cascades, rather than elevation that lends to the dramatic landscape, along with the over 300 glaciers in the park, though some of those have melted within the last decade.
I recently read about Newhalem Creek Campground from blogger John, who reported a strong 4G signal. From inside a National Park? Unheard of! So I asked John if he thinks the signal is strong enough that I would be able to work. He reports back “You should have no problem.” This is confirmed by my leap-frog traveling friends Jim and Gayle, Debbie, and Kim who have arrived before me. What a treat to park in such a gorgeous spot during the work day, with time to hike nearby trails at the end of the day!
I start doing some advance research on the national park, and although there are ample hiking opportunities, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of attractions beyond the mountains and lakes…not that those aren’t enough, but looks like it is a pretty low key on the activity scale compared to other national parks. In reading through the “Things to Do” section, I notice a couple of recommended tours with a common thread. Both are operated by “Seattle City Light,” Seattle’s electric power utility, who owns three dams within the park; Gorge, Diablo, and Ross. These three dams make up ¼ of Seattle’s electric power.
I get a sense that these tours, which include lunch at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, are geared toward making me feel good about the three dams. “You’ll also learn about the unique relationship between the environment and the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project’s three dams, which provide clean, low cost, renewable power to the citizens of Seattle.” I opt out of the tours, as much for the “propaganda factor” as the $38 price tag!
A look around Newhalem, and you quickly see evidence that it is the hydroelectric epicenter. In fact, the entire town was built as a “company town” for the purpose of supporting operations at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. I have them to thank for my 4G Verizon signal.
A visit to the “Electric Forest” after dark is enchantingly beautiful, yet the location of the attraction right behind the power plant, with glass display windows of the giant machinery again feels like another propaganda ploy. Though the dams and Electric Forest are beautiful, to have this kind of environmental disruption in the middle of a National Park just feels wrong.
I am not a fan of damming rivers, and in fact, I lean more toward Edward Abbey’s “Monkey Wrench Gang,” the fictional book about a group of conservationist who try to throw a monkey wrench in the damming of the Colorado River for the sake of the Glen Canyon Dam.
Though Kim does remind me that I am fond of my hook-ups, I also feel pretty good about my solar install these days, which allows me to run my entire home and mobile office from any given sunny spot for days on end. I wish we as a country would explore more solar options. It seems like such an obvious choice over rearranging our rivers and altering the course of nature.
“The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.” ~Galileo