North Cascades, Leavenworth, and a Few Bumps in the Road

The Road to Mt. baker

The North Cascades have been on our wish list forever. We have travelled around Washington several times, but this area has always eluded us. With more glaciers than any other National Park in the lower 48 states (312), over 500 lakes and ponds, and an impressive 9000 feet of vertical relief,  we were super excited to take it all in! The drive from the ferry to our Baker Lake destination was only a few hours. We made a quick stop over in Burlington for groceries, firewood, and booze, and continued on to Baker Lake. Turning left onto Baker Lake Rd, we scanned both sides of the road, looking for campsites or promising forest service roads. Mt. Baker peeked through the gaps in the mountains on the left while the lake spread out to our right. The area was busier than we expected. Our first choice was a horse camp that was supposedly at the end of Baker Lake Rd, however after trundling up long miles of dirt road, and reaching the end… there was no horse camp. So we recalculated as we have been known to do. We swung the Argosy around and backtracked, at one point pulling over to scout a FS road. We were mulling our options when a car full of teenagers pulled alongside and informed us that they and their friends would be leaving a really nice little campsite on the river in a few minutes. We hurriedly turned the rig around AGAIN, and headed back down the road. After the kids packed up their camp, we tucked the camper up next to the site, unhooked, and began to explore our new digs. As we are known to do, the first order of business was to clean the campsite, and this one was particularly nasty. Pizza boxes, cigarette butts, a pair of panties (eww), old pans, even a beer pong table in the river (which we dismantled and threw on the firepit). What the heck people, clean up and leave it better than you found it!! After throwing away the trash, it was overall a really nice site, and very well situated.
The mosquitos descended as we started dinner and out of the blue we suddenly heard a truck revving
 up and  much to our  confusion it bounced around an alternative route to the river—- through our campsite! They decided to “four wheel” around the river bank and in the river, and brought a party-size amount of firewood to drop off. I gently confronted them on their way out and they asked if we could  “watch their spot for them, we camp here every weekend”…Ha, that was our cue! The next morning we decided to relocate and found a really sweet spot on a spur road of Baker Lake under some wonderful overhanging boughs where no one could camp next to us. We loaded up the  Franks and headed towards North Cascades, there was a slight detour due to last year’s floods, but we eventually made it to the park. We had a hiking trail in mind to tackle, the Diablo Lake Trail, but it was almost entirely ridge line hiking, and the temperatures were soaring at over 100+ degrees. We elected to stay in our vehicle and drive the scenic route with small stop offs at Ross and Diablo lakes.

The park was very crowded. Afterwards we backtracked a bit and had lunch at a small cafe at Marblemount. Frankie was welcome and the food was good, though a bit pricey!  On the way back, doing our research, we noticed a trail on the South side of Baker Lake with great reviews!. We grabbed a few supplies in the nearby town of Concrete, and set out across the Baker Lake dam to the Baker Lake Trail. We were under the assumption that it would skirt the lake, and while it did, it was far up on the banks, deep in the forest. The ferns and atmosphere were incredible! We hiked through the forest until we reached our turning point, a picturesque log bridge over a small waterfall that ran into the lake. Across the lake Mt. Baker loomed majestically.

We tarried a bit and turned back. We took in the setting sun over the Cascade range at the dam just down a large campground operated by the power company. It is easily large enough for most RV’s and is free in the off season. Before we knew it, we were back at our campsite, readying to head to the next one the following morning.

The next morning we packed it all in, and started our journey towards Rainier. We try to not do more than four or five hours of towing on any given day, other than our 1st and last days of a trip. Our layover on the way to Mt. Rainier was going to be near Lake Wenatchee and the nearby town of Leavenworth. The trip over Stevens Pass was beautiful but a little arduous. We had difficulty finding our planned camp site and settled on a small dispersed area near the tiny “airport”. It wasn’t much to write home about. Apparently, the area had a bunch of ohv trails and we were parked directly on one. As a consequence we were constantly buzzed by dirt bikers until the sun went down. Not ideal…

In the morning, we hooked ‘er up and drove into Leavenworth very early to avoid the crowds both for Frankie’s sake and because of the Covids. When we dropped in the night before for supplies the town was packed with tourists. We drove into town (not on Chumstick Highway) and parked at the chamber of commerce. Leavenworth is modeled after a Bavarian style town. Every building looks like it was plucked straight out of the German Alps. The streets are lined with outdoor biergarten style tables (although ironically enough no outdoor consumption is allowed 😂). Our early morning plan was a success. The streets were nearly deserted, and the trash truck was doing it’s rounds. Cate wore her dirndl and paraded frankie  around the streets taking video and pictures. It was a charming and picturesque little town. We plan to return post pandemic  for their beautiful and famous Christmas light display. Soon the people started to emerge and we took our leave. Next stop Mt. Rainier!

Where is the beer?


  1. Having lived here for 40 some plus years, I love reading how other people see this great Countryside. So glad you came and I was only a few miles, as the crow flys, from where you visited. Thank you for such beautiful photos and posts. BTW, Frankie sure loves exploring…

  2. Cate, How did you happen to have such an outfit in Leavenworth, WA? You and Frankie fit right IN!
    Thanks for the great travel story as always!

    1. So thrilled you enjoyed it! Chad writes most of the blogs on our site. To answer your question, ai actually wear them for fun occassionaly. I love dirndls, and started buying them when I backpacked Europe in my early 20s. I knew we would be going to Leavenworth so I made sure to not leave it in storage. 😉

    1. She sleeps in the backseat while we drive. At night she sleeps at the end of our bed. She was potty trained when she was a baby. She can pee on command. As for #2, we have her lay down while inside and that helps curb the urge for goats to poop.

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