Results 1-6of 6 Reviews
by gowest youngman
March 7, 2010
From journal Whale Watching and Searching for Mt. Baker
by Kim M.
Key West, Florida
October 4, 2007
From journal North Cascades Area and Seattle
Before our trip we were familiar with Seattle's "10% for Art" initiative, but we were very surprised to see the same value placed on public art in the tiny power town of Newhalem. Little more than a single street of homes, this tiny town boasts several outdoor sculptures. The most imposing and intriguing, in my view, is the "Temple of Power". This strangely beautiful sculpture is actually an Edwardian-style gazebo constructed using old electrical fittings. It is especially captivating while the trees are in bloom. Nearby, there is a bronze sculpture of salmon moving through a stream. I don't remember the name of this one, but it is located just behind the restrooms.
The salmon are realistically rendered and have a certain elegance about them. Another item that I quite enjoyed was the totem pole outside the recreation building. While a bit more cartoony than traditional totems, it still looks impressive against the afternoon sun. These interesting pieces of art unexpectedly turned a restroom stop into pleasant food for thought. Interesting to find such creativity in the middle of nowhere. I suppose that it is difficult to take in the scenery of the Cascades and not be somehow inspired.
I'm not sure how we found out about the Trail of the Cedars, but we ended up there one afternoon after strolling around the tiny townsite of Newhalem. There is a long history of hydroelectric power in the Skagit River valley, and Newhalem is a power town. Housing a mere handful of employees of Seattle City Lights and the National Park Service, this little one-street berg quietly hides a fun little walking trail. Maintained by the power company, the little trail crosses the Skagit River and winds gently through the forest on the other side.
Interpretive signs teach the history of electricity in the valley, as well as some of the more prevalent tree and plant species. There are even amusing tales from the history of Newhalem, including one about the hollow cedar that once served as playhouse to the area children. One unfortunate day, the children accidentally set fire to the inside of the tree, but it still stands today - alive and well. There is a power facility at one end of the trail where we got a feeling for the awesome energy created by the river. Glass panels allow visitors to peek inside the modern day workings of a pump house still in operation. The trail is very easy and suitable for a gentle stroll. There are plenty of opportunities to stop, rest, and enjoy the scenery, and the car is never too far away. This would be ideal for families, especially those with small children and seniors. It's a fun way to learn a little something about the history and way of life in this small area.
We discovered the Thunder Knob trail by default, really, after a conversation with the rangers at the Colonial Creek visitor center. It was basically the only trail not still under snow at the end of April. As we were travelling light and did not have the equipment to venture into the snowbound areas, we decided to give Thunder Knob a try. The trailhead for the 3.6 mile hike is located on Hwy. 20 not far from the visitor center. We found plenty of parking, especially as it was off season. The trail winds briefly between some wooded campsites and then sort of diffuses out into a broad, rocky wash. We muddled around a bit and eventually found the trail again. It crosses two narrow log bridges and continues through a bit of forest before beginning to climb.
The sound of water is ever-present in the North Cascades, and this trail was no exception. The climb seemed rather easy to us, and is classified as such on the park map. We enjoyed little treats along the way, such as moss-covered rock outcroppings, tiny waterfalls, and a pond with a pair of mallards. We heard a woodpecker long before we spotted it, and had no luck in getting a photograph. The animals along the trail seem fairly wary of humans, which I found refreshing - no tame chipmunks looking for handouts. All along the way we were able to catch little peeks of the surrounding mountains, and each photo op. seemed better than the last. The trail at last opens up to a lovely vista of the surrounding peaks and there are benches for enjoying the view. We chose this point to eat our packed lunches and relax a little. We packed out our trash and the trash of someone less considerate, hoping to leave the spot less disturbed for the next person. Other than that, we did not see any trash along the trail or indeed much sign that many people had recently passed that way.
The hike back down to the car was super easy as it was downhill all the way. By that point, someone had erected cairns in the rubble field to help other hikers locate the trail. I would readily recommend this hike for families and people looking for a short departure from the car. It only takes an hour or two, depending upon your pace, and the views are actually quite good for such a low elevation gain. This trail would normally be below our radar, but I am glad that the weather forced us to give it a try. It was a pleasant way to stretch our legs and enjoy a nice lunch.
San Antonio, Texas
January 1, 2004
From journal Washington National Parks