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Christmas in the North Cascades


So we live in Washington! But what about the holidays? Well we certainly aren't going back to Pennsylvania this year. We just got here a few months ago and as I'm looking are 500-600+ dollars just to fly in to Philadelphia. We would then have to drive from there for even longer!  Instead we're going to stay in Washington this year, because it's beautiful and...why not?

We don't really go crazy over Christmas. I have my reservations with the holiday season in general with its hyper obligate consumerism and product consumption, but that's for another day. We decided to rent a cabin in the Cascades and chill out for a few days over the holiday weekend. 

Wrangler Cabin at Christmastime
Wrangler Cabin at Ovenells all christmassed up


We decided on a familiar place. A place we stayed in the past as tourists to the area! Ovenell's Heritage Inn is situated on the Double O cattle ranch in Concrete, WA and has some quaint little cabins to stay in and soak in the cascades. On a clear day you can even see Mt Baker! They even allow you to buy their own meats which we tried back in 2022 when we were here as tourists. When we stayed here back in 2022 I loved waking up to cows nearly at our back door! 

Ovenells Cows -- Double O Ranch


We bought ribs and brought them back to our cabin. Good lord was it a disaster. Maybe I'm too much of a 'city slicker'. I struggled to get the charcoal that we had in the cabin lit. A little charcoal fluid might have helped but we didn't have that. Only matches. I decided to move the ribs into the oven determined to make something. We had nothing in the cabin and didn't buy much at the store. I'm not entirely sure why. So I tried to come up with something using ingredients we had on hand to make the ribs more interesting. This involved me melting down the chocolate from Chukar Cherries we had and trying to make a chocolate sauce to put on the ribs. Why am I like this? It was terrible. The ribs turned out terrible. And I settled for eating chips for dinner..... I was determined to do better this time

Holiday Common Area Ovenells Inn
A nice little common area. There's a free library under there too!

The goal this year was to relax, get out and see the Cascades in a winter setting (which we haven't yet), walk the dogs on some simple but fun trails, and cozy up with some barleywines (#BiL) in front of the fireplace at the cabin and watch Christmas movies. Christmas Vacation is definitely a Christmas movie, but is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Because we watched that too? I say yes. The internet says yes. Yes.  We brought our own meats, and made Seattle Dogs and burgers on the charcoal grill. This time we used instant lighting charcoal. I'm no outdoor survivalist...but it got the job done. 


Ovenells In the Morning
Good morning from the cabin!

Baker Lake

Baker Lake South Sign
Baker Lake South

We saw the north face of Mt Baker on our drive in to the Seattle area during our PA to WA roadtrip, so I was interested in seeing the other side of Baker. Conveniently, the road up to Baker Lake was right in Concrete. It's dangerous to assume you'll see anything on a winter day in the PNW, but we went up to the Baker Lake area anyway in hopes of seeing Mt Baker in its glory despite it being a rather fog-laden day. The road up to Baker Lake was paved until you crossed Baker Dam. Then the road became nothing but potholes and washboards. This might be fine for some, but in a hybrid sedan? I dunno brother. My GF was driving, and once we parked, her watch congratulated her on SEVERAL MINUTES OF CYCLING. That's how rough the darn road was, hahahaha. 

Baker Lake South Trail
Beginning of the trail. Crazy how green everything is still in December!

We started the hike, bringing our dogs in tow. We weren't going to do the entire hike, because the Baker Lake Trail is 14 miles long. Instead we were just going to head to Anderson Point which provides a good viewpoint of Mt. Baker over the lake on good visibility days. 


So much greenery on the Baker Lake Trail

UNFORTUNATELY...the recent atmospheric river rains washed away part of the trail. There should be a bridge going over the water allowing you to pass but unfortunately the bridge got disconnected and smashed onto the bank of the creek. If the water were lower and/or we didn't have dogs with us, we might have been able to make a janky pass across the creek waters, but unfortunately that wasn't the case today. 


Hidden crossing

Oh well. I scrambled over rocks and debris from the washout to get to what shoreline I could make it to in an attempt to see anything. I couldn't see Baker, but I did get a cool picture. I scrambled back to find our dog Schatzi anxiously awaiting my return. He wishes he could've come with me but there's simply no way. He's too tiny. We turned around and ended the hike. It's silly how close we were to Anderson Point only to be turned away! 

Anderson Creek at Baker Lake
Definitely can't cross this with two tiny dogs without a bridge. There's Baker Lake in the background.



Baker Lake Views
Well there's what I could see of Baker Lake! Still a cool shot! Not far enough on the trail to see Mt Baker though. I don't think I would've with all of the clouds anyway!


Dog waiting for me to return
There he is. Waiting for me to get back from scrambling to the lake. 


Bridge out and washed away
There's the creek and the creek crossing. And how close we were to our destination. Oh well.

Bridge washed away
Oh there's the bridge! Smashed into the creekside. Yeah that's not going to be back for awhile. Thanks flooding December rains!


The pristine silence of the early winter afternoon was broken only by... near constant gunfire. Baker Lake is in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and as such, most National Forests allow target shooting unless otherwise posted. Today I learned!

North Cascades National Park Complex

Since it's winter in Washington and Big Dark has settled in, there wasn't a crazy amount of daylight left to the day anyway. We made the decision to head up WA Route 20 (The North Cascades Highway!) and see if we could see any semblance of a sunset at the Diablo Lake overlook. That's essentially as far as you can drive anyway, because Route 20 is closed at Ross Dam right up road from Diablo Lake Vista Point. We drove up to the road closure just to see it. Pretty cool to see since we were just up there in August! There was snow on the road as soon as we got to the Ross Dam trailhead parking area and road closure point. Neat sight.

Sunset at Diablo Lake
LOOK AT THOSE COLORS. Sunset at Diablo Lake Vista Point man...

While you can't watch the sun set beyond the horizon due to mountains blocking the view, sunset at the overlook was pretty awesome. The sky turned wonderful hues, and the sun cast its low amber light onto the peaks of the nearby mountains. Really great sight! We headed back to the cabin to fire up the charcoal grill and watch Christmas Vacation! 

Moonrise at Sunset in the Cascades
When the sun sets, the moon rises. Goodnight North Cascades!


The next day we returned to the area. It was much colder on Christmas Eve than the day before, which I didn't realize so I was ill prepared and had frozen hands the entire day. We did a few short walks in the North Cascades National Park Complex, both situated behind the North Cascades Visitor Center in Newhalem which is closed for the season. Kind of eerie seeing it closed and empty! When we were there in August we were fighting for a parking spot and a spot in line for the bathroom!

North Cascades Visitor Center Closed


We did a short...and I do mean short boardwalked walk on the Sterling Munro Boardwalk that ends up at a viewpoint of the Picket Range of mountains! 

Sterling Munro Boardwalk
Yep. That's a boardwalk!



Picket Range from the boardwalk
I'd be sure to pick it! It's the Picket Range!

From there we walked back and caught the River Loop Trail. It's a very easy 2 mile walk that takes you out and briefly along the Skagit River. It can also lead you to the Newhalem Creek Campground. 


River Loop Sign

There was a section of the walk with a lot of burned and scorch trees. I know the area recently had a fire, with the Sourdough Fire, but after combing through the internet it looks like this is probably remnants of the Goodell Fire...back in 2015! 

North Cascades River Loop Goodell Fire Burns
This happened in 2015 apparently!

Colors on the River Loop Trail
The colors on this part of the trail are wild

It was only in the mid 30s and we froze our bones off, especially because this was a light jaunt and not a not a grueling hike. I think the dogs were cold too, even with there new coats they got for Christmas!

On the Skagit River
On the Skagit River! That Glacial Flour Turquoise will never not blow my mind..


Dogs in Coats on a trail
Do they love their coats? I'm not so sure yet. You gotta head down that hill boys...

Dog on the Skagit River
I don't think Schatzi wants to leave though!

Well...We headed back to the cabin after this to warm up, watch some movies, and have a barleywine! And try the river walk on Ovenell's land of course. 

Emergency Escape Window
Only the best security for my cabins



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