Motorcycle Touring: The Cascade Loop, Washington

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The Cascade Loop

Counterclockwise and a few twists

The road leaving WinthropAn excellent two to three day ride through the cascade range is a great trip to take between June and October. Passes can be a little chilly so put the liner in your coat, pack the electric if you've got it and read on with your map.

From anywhere around Puget Sound you'll want to make your way to Monroe which is the unofficial starting point of this ride. Once in Monroe take the 2 East into the Cascades. You'll be passing through towns with interesting names like Sultan and Start Up. As you pass out of Startup you'll encounter the Reptile Zoo, a recommended stop where you'll see many large snakes and lizards and perhaps the reptile man.

As you head into the Cascades you are welcomed by a large Sasquatch on the lright side of the road who is carved from a log and is holding a raccoon cunningly. This makes a great photo op and you'll note the "Big Foot next 4 miles" sign. You are next greeted by the sight of the Skykomish river which winds it's way westward from the cascades and is paralleled by the railroad tracks which often provide the viewer with a train or two. This is the point where wild life becomes more prevalent along the road so keep your eyes peeled.

Climbing further you eventually reach the Steven Pass ski area where visions of winter snow sports dance in your head. From here you'll head down the eastside of the range through some excellent forests with plenty of turns in the road as you follow along the Wenatchee river. After 35 miles you enter the lovely alpine town of Leavenworth, best know for it's Bavarian hospitality and Oktoberfest event each fall. A nice place for stopping, sightseeing and lunch.  If you feel like it, switch out of your riding clothes, into your lederhosen, pull out your accordion, pop a Ricolla, squeeze that box and yodel your way down Leavenworth's main street.

A turbine at one of the dams along the wayDriving east from Leavenworth you make your way toward the Columbia River and as you do you may notice warmer dryer air while you cruise across the Central Washington plain. Within a half hour you reach Wenatchee and head north on 97 toward lovely vacation resort of Lake Chelan. Along the way there are many damns as you look over the Columbia and the Wells damn provides a lookout. In late summer you'll see the many red apples that are grown in orchards along the way.

Once you climb up the hill you'll come upon Lake Chelan. The lake is fifty five miles long and is one of the deepest, longest man made lakes in the northwest. This is a great spot for some r&r and if you're up for some exploration you can take the ferry northwest to Lucerne and Stehekin. If you're doing the trip over three days this would be a good spot to spend your first night, have a leisurely morning and head out early or late afternoon the following day.

Northward to Pateros and then you'll take the 153 exit into the Methow Valley. Now the riding gets fun with a 60 mph speed limit that accommodates the twisties very well. Onward through the cowboy towns of Methow, Twisp and then Winthrop. If you're doing the trip over two days Winthrop is the half way point and there are plenty of places to stay here.

There's a reason why it's better to take this trip going counter-clockwise. As you ascend the valley toward Washington Pass in the morning the sun is behind you illuminating everything in front of you. In late spring early summer you'll be treated a broad range of wild flowers lit up and by late summer early fall sunshine. You'll see the leaves changing as you rise upward. In an hour or less the air temperature can change 40 degrees downward so plan accordingly as you leave Winthrop. The view from the top of the pass is spectacular and if you rest at the viewpoint you can learn a few things about the construction of this highway.

Onward toward the a series of three dams. The Ross, Diablo and Gorge dam's provide much of the electricity to Puget Sound region. In fact if the snow pack is good the dams are drained in the spring in anticipation of the melting snow pack which would otherwise cause them to overflow. Of course this supposedly causes an electricity surplus which is sold to other cities and according to Puget Sound Electric the sales to outside users are credited back to local customers in the summer--so they say. Be on the lookout for wild life. Deer and Bear are common throughout this area and the next.

Enter the land of the Bald Eagle. You probably won't see any during the recommended months, but in late fall and winter Bald eagles like to feed on the chum that run the Skagit river. Many businesses from Marblemount to Concrete pay homage to the bird as you might notice along the way.

When you reach Rockport you may choose to go the set route along 20 out toward Anacortes and down Whidbey, ferrying into Mukiltio and heading home, or you can go option b by taking a left onto 530 and winding your way through the cascades to Arlington or making one more detour on a small road that junctions at Darrington and heads into Granite Falls. The later will give you much more seclusion and a bit more to bite on riding wise.

Ride safe - TM/Summer 99 (revised 2000)

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