Follow by Email

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A new place to stop-off and check-out the lower Skagit River on your way to and from the North Cascades

From Skagit Land Trust comes this good news:
Skagit Land Trust, working in partnership with the Skagit Watershed Council, the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and conservation-minded citizens, has permanently protected 33-acres of land along the Skagit River west of Lyman. Skagit County has agreed to own the land and to create a new public park at this beautiful site. Read all about it in this Skagit Valley Herald article, including a video tour of the new park.

View Larger Map

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Impressions of the North Cascades" now available as free online eBook

"A landscape is a complex entity of physical and cultural dimensions. This piece of Earth has a reality entirely separate from us, preceding our human experience and definition of it by billions of years. Over this immense journey through the eons this particular landscape has changed countless times in ways that we, with our growing body of analytical tools, are only beginning to glimpse and understand."- John C. Miles
We've previously mentioned that the collection of essays edited by John C. Miles titled Impressions of the North Cascades: Essays about a Northwest Landscape is now available in print again on a limited basis. But now the editor has made a special online eBook version available through N3C for FREE!

The whole thing's right here:

Enjoy! Thanks again to John C. Miles for permission and to Randy Payne for the html conversion.

New American Alps Study Area Map released

A new study area map has been released, and published on the American Alps project website, at:

Some changes from the previous version include removal of the Sauk Mountain and South-side Cascade River areas (now part of wilderness proposals by other groups) and a refinement of the boundaries overall. Also the color scheme was changed to give the viewer a clearer idea of what the new expanded Park would look like (blue=Park). Check it out and tell us what you think with the COMMENT feature!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

North Fork Cascade River, May 15-16 2010

Well, it's avalanche season, and while winter finally showed up in April, the lower elevations (below 3.5k feet) are totally devoid of snow. I mention this because the paucity of snow dictated that we camp above the parking lot at the end of Cascade River road. We prefer a location lower in the valley because it offers the best view of all avalanche chutes, and the best opportunity to experience "The Big One" first hand.

[In the 20 or so years I've been searching for The Big One, I've had the pleasure of experiencing two such events (April 1995), with May 2008 bringing four large events, though not quite the same magnitude of The Big One. (TBO event would fill an NFL stadium lower bowl in a matter of minutes). Last year saw one weekend totally quiet, and the next packed with some large and many respectable events.]

2010 has been difficult to get out for avalanche hunting--weather and other personal events finally relented last weekend, so Athena and I headed up with our good friend John Edwards, John's son Zach, and Ola Edwards, a charming woman that has followed in the footsteps of (indeed, inspired by) Joe and Margaret Miller, contributing greatly to our understanding and preservation of flora in mountainous regions of the Pacific Northwest. The lack of snow and avalanche debris at lower elevations is remarkable--we were able to drive to where we normally camp, and saw no evidence of activity in any of the lower chutes on the N side of the valley--not even at Boston/Midas or Soldier Boy creeks.
The upper elevations have a more "normal" snowpack, and as such, towards the head of the valley shows evidence of much greater activity. The debris described in the below photo is what's left from a TBO event--this is only 60% of the total mass that came off the slabs below Triplets and Cascade Peak.

After a nice lunch, Athena and I carried on to our camp and the Edwards' headed out. While we were there--a total of 30 hours, we didn't see too many events, experiencing about two respectable events per hour for each hour on-site, to include some rousing events during the night. The North Fork Cascade River is a wonderful, powerful, restful place to be--a gathering headwaters worth living and experiencing even without big avalanche events. Waterfalls near and far, high and low provide a backdrop of pleasing sounds, punctuated by the occasional roar and rumble as tons of snow cascade down the mile-high relief of this incredible place.
As it pertains to American Alps Legacy Project, we conducted a bit of informal research. Over the past decade, I've noticed a significant increase in the number of people visiting The Valley in Spring. Whereas I/we used to be alone the entire weekend, now there are plenty of backcountry skiers and folks venturing around on snowshoes, enjoying our National Parks.
I have recently become aware of a vocal minority of downhill/backcountry skiers concerned about American Alps, mistakenly believing Park designation will somehow inhibit their ability to access the backcountry. Based on my real-life experiences over the years, and a weekend of watching DOZENS of backcountry skiers enjoying the upper N Fork Cascade Valley, and visiting with many, I can say with confidence that people come to this place BECAUSE it is a National Park!
But this weekend was really about the wildlife, and in particular, the biggest black bear I've ever seen in the Cascades.

I've watched this bear since it was a cub five-plus years ago, and Athena and I have seen it two of the past three years. Last year we didn't see it, but camped on it's heels (literally camped on his tracks). This year, we camped in the same place, and ended up a day ahead of him. During breakfeast, at about 8:45 Sunday, Yogi walked up to the tent, and would have come in. We could hear his footfalls in the snow coming closer and closer. We were hoping he'd stop in recognition of the tent, but it became apparent when he was just 10 paces off that he was not going to stop. We made our presence known, not wanting a breakfast companion--sorry Yogi, three's a crowd at this Sunday breakfast. Besides, it's a two PERSON tent! Yogi was unhappy, and after running about 20 yards away from us,turned and gave us a Sunday growl...

Needless to say, the opportunity to experience wildlife such as this up close is due to the fact the land is designated as National Park. The only way this bear lives, and lives to become so large is because he lives in a National Park. Ironically, hunters stand to gain from American Alps as well: studies and experience show that National Parks (where hunting is illegal) increases numbers of animals, and thus opportunities for animals to migrate out of protected areas.
Of course, there were other wildlife encounters on this weekend as well...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

American Alps Economic Study Released to Media


Jim Davis (Executive Director)
North Cascades Conservation Council

Economic Study Shows Job Creation Potential of North Cascades Park

May 19, 2010 – Efforts to complete the original vision for the North Cascades National Park received a major boost with the release of a report documenting the economic benefits of the American Alps Legacy Proposal. The economic study, conducted by Power Consulting from Montana, found that designating more park land along State Route 20 and adding new family-friendly attractions will create more than 1,000 new jobs in rural communities surrounding the park.

More than 40 years after the North Cascades National Park was created, magnificent mountains, pristine rivers, old growth forests, and wildlife habitats adjacent to the Park remain unprotected. “We have also failed to achieve the potential recreation and economic benefits of the North Cascades National Park,” said former Governor and US Senator Dan Evans. Evans was a key proponent of the North Cascades National Park more than 40 years ago and currently serves on the American Alps Legacy Project Advisory Committee.

The North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the lower 48 states. This wild and nearly inaccessible park receives fewer visitors than Isle Royale National Park in the middle of Lake Superior. Combined visitation to the North Cascades National Park and the adjacent Ross Lake National Recreation Area is still only 1/10 that of Olympic National Park. Low visitation translates directly into low economic benefits for gateway communities.

Conservation and outdoor recreation advocates seek to add more than 300,000 acres to the park, nearly a 50% increase. The new proposal will add low elevation, front-country lands to the park to make it more accessible to visitors. It will also support development of new park visitor centers in gateway communities, 25 miles of new family-friendly trails, new ecotourism sites, expanded campgrounds, and other amenities that will attract more families to the North Cascades. The proposal will affect only National Forest Service lands and Park Service National Recreation Area lands. Private lands will not be converted to national park.

“The economic study clearly demonstrates that bringing the park to the people and creating new attractions for families will dramatically increase park visitation and economic benefits for local businesses,” said Marc Bardsley, North Cascades Conservation Council President.

The American Alps Legacy Project is a collaborative effort of the North Cascades Conservation Council, the Mountaineers Club, Republicans for Environmental Protection, Seattle Audubon, the University of Washington Climbing Club, and other partner organizations. For more information on the American Alps Legacy Project, visit

A detailed proposal for completing the North Cascades National Park will be released later this summer. “The American Alps proposal will provide conservation, recreation, and economic benefits for all Washington State residents,” said Peter Jackson, son of Senator Henry M. Jackson, leader of the original campaign to create the park.

The North Cascades Conservation Council played a key role in creation of the North Cascades National Park in 1968 and wilderness areas throughout the North Cascades (e.g., Pasayten Wilderness, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Mt. Baker Wilderness, Boulder River Wilderness, and Wild Sky). For more information, visit the Council website at

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Seattle’s Wild Backyard: The Middle Fork Valley" with Rick McGuire of N3C

Meet Rick McGuire, N3C board member, wilderness advocate and author of “55 Hikes around Stevens Pass: Wild Sky Country: "Seattle’s Wild Backyard: The Middle Fork Valley" at WWC's Speaker Series on June 9th. Follow the link below to RSVP. Rick McGuire has traveled extensively throughout the Middle Fork Valley and has been one of the foremost activists on the campaign to protect much of this valley through wilderness and wild and scenic river designations. Rick will use slides and anecdotes to chronicle the history of conservation the beloved forested valley northeast of North Bend which has culminated in legislation now moving through the U.S. Congress. The event will begin at 6:30pm and will be held at the WWC offices at 305 N. 83rd St. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Tree Huggers" now available online for free!

Libertary, a web site designed to publish otherwise out-of-print books online for free, has made Tree Huggers by Kathy Durbin, available HERE.

Below is an excerpt from the new Introduction to the Libertary edition. Anyone who wonders "why bother" expanding North Cascades National Park because they see no threat to the forests in the American Alps study areas, needs to read this book! You may not know how lucky we are to still have most of these areas intact today, and how threatened they could easily be again if we don't protect them permanently.
...There had been losses, but most roadless forests in the Northwest had survived the eight-year onslaught orchestrated by the Bush administration and its timber industry supporters.
The Northwest Forest Plan never met its timber targets. But in the intervening 15 years, the timber industry had changed. Few old-growth mills remain.  A collapsing home construction market has plunged the industry into a deep recession.  Private timber is filling a diminished demand.
Change in national policy come slowly. The mantra of the wilderness movement, “Every victory is temporary, every defeat is permanent,” rings true.
Still, in the fall of 2009 it feels as if a new paradigm has taken hold. The prevailing view of what  constitutes the highest and best use of our public lands has changed, perhaps permanently. In the Northwest, the debate has shifted from whether we should enter the last groves of ancient forest to how we can restore forests ravaged by more than a century of logging and fire suppression.
Credit the evolving science of ecology, credit the progressive politics of a new President, credit an urbanized America that prizes the nation’s shrinking islands of wild nature even as they fall to the backhoe and bulldozer.

Credit too that band of tree huggers from the 1970s who, armed with science, passion and a commitment to future generations, refused to give up.

They changed history. This is their story.

From the Libertary edition's description of the author:
A daily journalist with more than 30 years of experience, Kathie Durbin began tracking the ancient forest conflict in 1989 while working as an environmental reporter for The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon.  Her work has been published in High Country News, National Wildlife, Amicus Journal, Audubon magazine, Defenders of Wildlife, The Seattle Weekly, and Willamette Week and has received numerous awards for coverage of education, social issues, and the environment.  She lives in Portland and currently writes for The Columbian in Vancouver, WA.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

North Cascades Highway report from WSDOT

Glad somebody (like us) cares about THE environment, not just the "driving environment?" Thought so.
The avalanche assessment turned into a control effort that successfully brought unstable snow in Liberty Bell #2 and #3 down and confirmed the rest of the chutes they were assessing are clear or stable. Sixteen howitzer shells booming through the 60 degree sunshiny afternoon - during a few 20 minute highway closures - including a little clean up work, should provide the driving environment you expect (until the next round of snow storms!)

Maybe this will get to be the last e-mail update I'll have to send this spring!

Happy May,

Jeff Adamson, WSDOT (509) 667-2815

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

American Alps Adventure to DC

Peter Jackson and I visited Washington DC last week to promote the American Alps Legacy Project. It was a great trip. "Citizen lobbyists off to DC." We did not know what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised at the positive reception.

We visited with several people in the House (Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rogers) and key staff for Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Rick Larsen, and Norm Dicks. We were also able to visit with Senate and House committee staffers (the people who make things happen).

We received no promises, but a lot of interest and encouragement. Fortunately, the North Cascades Mountains are an easy sell. They all wanted to get out sightseeing and hiking in the North Cascades this summer.

Everyone was interested in our American Alps slideshow, maps, fact sheets, and the list of family-friendly amenities we are proposing. The new hot-off-the-presses economic study of American Alps was a big hit (1,000 new jobs and millions in additional income for gateway communities). We will be releasing the full study in the next few weeks and you will see it first here.
All of our contacts said we need to let more people know about American Alps; we need to convince more conservation and recreation groups to sponsor American Alps; and we need to encourage individuals and businesses in gateway communities to support American Alps.
This is your cue to help us make this happen.

Announcing "The North Cascades Challenge," August 8-14!

A good AmAlps meeting last night! The Task Force was there 'in force!' Big news: "North Cascades Challenge" is announced -- how's that for a catchy title? August 8-14! A series of segments from Marblemount to Winthrop, over the North Cascades, passing the baton to raise funds for The Legacy Project! Save the dates!

(Image thanks to Kevin Steffa)

A rough outline of the Challenge route:

  • Bike Cascade River road
  • Day hikers to Cascade Pass
  • Backpackers leave earlier, wait at the Pass for the torch to be passed to them
  • Backpackers to Cottonwood camp
  • Park Creek Pass area
  • Thunder Creek down to Diablo Lake
  • NCI to host a canoe segment on Diablo Lake and a dinner on Wednesday night
  • East Creek trail to Meebe Pass
  • West fork Methow to Mazama
  • Bike Mazama to Winthrop for the...

Press Release - King County resolution supporting American Alps

April 26, 2010

King County Council joins effort to expand North Cascades National Park

Motion calls on Congress to designate new park and wilderness lands

The Metropolitan King County Council today gave its support to a plan to protect federal lands around the North Cascades National Park. The Council unanimously adopted a motion calling on the U.S. Congress to expand the boundaries of the park to include the American Alps Study Area.

“The North Cascades are an important part of the Pacific Northwest environment, and contribute to the natural beauty and recreation opportunities that enhance our quality of life,” said Council Chair Bob Ferguson, who has climbed and hiked throughout the North Cascades. “Now that my wife Colleen and I are introducing our toddler twins to the great outdoors, I appreciate how important it is to preserve this treasured natural resource for future generations.”

“This action will make the North Cascades complete by including lands left out of the original preservation effort begun 40 years ago by citizens and Senator Scoop Jackson,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “An expanded North Cascades Park will be critical for protecting headwaters that lead to Puget Sound, preserving wildlife habitat, addressing climate change, and providing recreational opportunities for our growing population.”

The North Cascades Conservation Council, through the American Alps Legacy Project, is seeking to build support for the effort to expand the boundaries of the North Cascades National Park. At the park’s inception in 1968, its boundaries were significantly reduced compared to the area considered worthy of protection by early advocates.

“The North Cascade Mountain Range is a local and national treasure,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague, a co-sponsor of the legislation. “The Council’s support of this motion is an important step towards preserving areas that are currently unprotected. The value of the North Cascades to our community and to future generations is immense.”

“I have always been an advocate of opportunities to protect and preserve our environment,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “We live in a region rich in natural resources from sea shores to mountain peaks; the outdoors is what makes the Pacific Northwest a sought after place to call home.”

Today’s legislation supports the efforts to expand the park’s boundaries to include the American Alps Study Area, which would provide permanent protection for land with important habitat, watershed, and recreation value. Areas currently outside the park include the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, the Baker River/Baker Lake area, Sauk Mountain, the Cascade River valley, the Liberty Bell and Early Winters areas east of the Cascade ridge, and others. The study area land is currently only protected from development by administrative provisions of the United State Forest Service.

“Protecting these lands will finish the work that began over forty years ago and complete the North Cascades National Park,” said Jim Davis, Executive Director of the North Cascades Conservation Council. “We appreciate the support of the King County Council for our park protection efforts in the North Cascades.”

popular hikes and climbs in the proposed additions to the North cascades Park

The Mountaineers have developed a list of popular climbs and hikes in the New Park Study Area:

The American Alps Legacy Project
Unprotected Recreational Destinations, Potential Additions to North Cascades NP
Cascades Classic Peaks: Black Peak (NE Ridge) 8970’ (#17)*
North Gardner 8956’ (#20)*
Silver Star 8876’ (#24)*
Popular Climbing Peaks: Tower Mountain 8444’ (#63)*
Azurite Peak 8400’ (#72)*
Golden Horn 8366’ (#80)*
Mount Ballard 8340’ (#87)*
Snagtooth Ridge, Big Snagtooth 8330’ (#91)*
Liberty Bell Group 7807’
Kangaroo Ridge 8280’
Wine Spires 8441’
Vasiliki Ridge 8190’
Cutthroat Peak 8050’
Whistler Mountain 7790’
The Needles 8140’
Desolation Peak (Ross Lake) 6102’
Note: * Ranking in 100 highest peaks in Washington State
Rock Climbs Listed in Seattle Mountaineers Intermediate Climbs Guide 2006
Climb Grade
Big Kangaroo/South Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . III 5.9
Big Kangaroo/West Route . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . II 5.5
Burgundy Spire/Corkscrew Rt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . III 5.8
Burgundy Spire/North Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . III 5.8
Burgundy Spire/West Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . III 5.8
Chianti Spire/Rebel Yell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . III 5.10
Chianti Spire/Standard Route . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . II 5.6
Concord Tower/ North Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . II 5.6
Concord Tower/Cave Route . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . II 5.7
Cutthroat/Southeast Buttress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . III 5.6
Cutthroat/South Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .III 5.7 A4
Lexington Tower/East Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . III-IV 5.9+
Liberty Bell/Barberpole . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . III 5.9
Liberty Bell/Liberty Crack . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .IV 5.9 A2
Liberty Bell/North Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . II 5.8
Liberty Bell/Southwest Face (Beckey Route) . . . . . . . . II 5.6
North Early Winter Spire/North Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . .II 5.7
North Early Winter Spire/ Northwest Corner . . . . . . . III 5.9
Silver Star/West Buttress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . III 5.8 A1
South Early Winter Spire/North Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . .II 5.10 A2
South Early Winter Spire/West Face . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .III 5.10
Popular Hiking Trails in 100 Hikes in North Cascades, Third Addition; 2000
No. Description Area
25 Anderson Butte Baker River
29 Shannon Ridge Baker River
30 Baker River Baker River
31 Cow Heaven Skagit River
33 Hidden Lakes Peaks Cascade River
37 Sourdough Mountain Ross Lake NRA
38 Pyramid Lake Ross Lake NRA
39 Thunder Creek Ross Lake NRA
40 Beaver Loop Ross Lake NRA
41 Panther Creek – Fourth of July Pass Ross Lake NRA
42 East Bank Trail Ross Lake NRA
43 Little Jack Mountain Ross Lake NRA
44 Desolation Peak Ross Lake NRA
46 Canyon Creek – Chancellor Trail NCSHwy, Golden Horn
47 Easy Pass – Fisher Creek North Cascades Scenic Hwy
67 Copper Pass North Cascades Scenic Hwy
69 Driveway Butte Early Winters Creek, Golden Horn
70 Abernathy Pass Early Winters Creek
71 Cutthroat Pass NCSHwy, Golden Horn
72 Maple Pass (Heather Pass, Wing Lake) North Cascades Scenic Hwy
74 Golden Horn NCSHwy, Golden Horn
78 West Fork of the Methow River Golden Horn
79 Trout Creek Golden Horn
80 Grasshopper Creek Golden Horn
89 Washington Pass Trail Early Winters Creek
100 Pacific Crest Trail, Rainy Pass to Hart’s Pass NCSHwy, Golden Horn
Additional Hikes in Day Hiking NORTH CASCADES, First edition; 2008
No. Description Area
53 Hozomeen Lake Ross Lake NRA
77 Lookout Mountain & Monogram Lake Cascade River
79 Middle and South Fork of Cascade River Cascade River
81 Thornton Lake and Trapper Peak Ross Lake NRA
84 Diablo Lake Ross Lake NRA
88 Happy Panther Trail Ross Lake NRA
89 Ruby Creek Ross Lake, NCSHwy
90 Crater Mountain North Cascades Scenic Hwy
92 East Creek North Cascades Scenic Hwy
96 Stiletto Peak North Cascades Scenic Hwy
97 Blue Lake North Cascades Scenic Hwy
99 Cedar Falls Early Winters Creek

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Test flight Friday a success!

A task force member arranged a test flight in a small plane over some of the study areas on Friday, to prepare for taking some of our elected representatives to see what we have in mind protecting. Here's a few snapshots!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Trans-Cascade Hike Event!

We're thinking about hiking across the North Cascades-- not now with all the snow, but later in the summer. How about a big EVENT? Let's do a hike-a-thon and show the world some of the beauty in the American Alps study areas! Let's raise funds with pledges by the mile! Hey, want to meet-up soon to do some planning and ...brainstorming? Email our Director, Jim Davis, at! Or enter comments if you have ideas!