Outdoors

Skagit Tours

A dam good time in the American Alps

Attend

More:

WHAT: Newhalem Walking Tours, North Cascades Explorer Tours, Diablo Lake Boat Tours, and Powerhouse Tours with Skagit Tours
WHEN: July 4-Sept. 9 (powerhouse tours are offered less often)
WHERE: Ross, Diablo, and Gorge dams
COST: Costs vary; Newhalem Walking Tours are free
INFO: http://www.skagittours.com

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When I got the press release from Skagit Tours inviting me and a few of my media cohorts to experience four of the upcoming excursions that will be offered this summer, I wondered if I’d be able to gather the fortitude to cram that much sightseeing into one day. I took a deep breath and realized: Of course I could. (I didn’t know then I’d be adding an extra stop that wasn’t even on the press junket.)

It wasn’t until we were about 45 minutes outside of Bellingham that my photographer/chauffeur commented that it appeared to be raining. Hard. We shrugged at the vagaries of the Pacific Northwest weather, and continued on along Highway 20 to our first stop in the tiny, weird town of Newhalem, where we joined representatives from Seattle City Light, the North Cascades Institute, and the National Park Service.

Before leaving Newhalem, we’d learn that the three hydroelectric dams we’d be visiting during the course of the day—Gorge, Diablo, and Ross—supply nearly 20 percent of the electricity for Seattle City Light customers. We’d also discover that the mastermind behind installing the dams, Seattle City Light’s second superintendent, J.D. Ross, was a guy who liked to show visitors to the area a really good time. (For example, those who visited in the mid-1930s could expect to be welcomed by thousands of colored lights and piped-in music coming from speakers and cords hidden among the trees at nearby Ladder Creek Falls.) 

Due to the torrential rain, our Newhalem Walking Tour (number one on the lineup) took place from a North Cascades Institute tour bus. That was O.K., as the small town resembles a place that may have been visited by the apocalypse—you can tell that people are living in some of the houses, but it’s hard to spot anything human.

I’m going to take a deep breath here and realize I can’t possibly share everything that we experienced during the next five hours. I’m going to try, though.

We visited three powerhouses, and got to go inside one and back in time in two. We ate an amazing, locally sourced lunch at the North Cascades Institute and got a short-but-sweet tour of the nonprofit’s Learning Center on the shores of Diablo Lake, which, in addition to being part of the Skagit Tours lineup, also hosts a seasonal roster of classes, excursions and volunteer opportunities focusing on connecting visitors with the natural world in the hope that they’ll want to help conserve it.

But that’s not all. We climbed aboard a boat dubbed the Cascadian to get on the waters of Diablo Lake and take a closer look at Ross Dam. While onboard, we spotted a few of the lower sections of the much-touted “American Alps” and heard about J.D. Ross’s “monkey island”—among many, many other historical tidbits of interest.

I’ve been to the area before, so even though it was raining and the postcard-perfect views were compromised, I know there’s much more to what lies off Highway 20 than what you can see from your car on your way to Eastern Washington. As was pointed out during the course of the day, the area is thick with hiking trails and boating opportunities—and, as we’d find out during our plethora of stops, learning opportunities galore. Plus, even in the rain, the lush, dramatic beauty of the area simply can’t be ignored.

By the time the tours ended around 3pm, I’d divulged to my driver/photographer that I’d never been over the pass to Winthrop. She got a gleam in her eye and told me today was the day. In short order, we got back in her Volkswagen and headed east. But that’s another story.

More Outdoors...
Escape to Blaine
Book sales and bivalves

The roads were wet and rain was threatening as the Lady of the House and I rolled out of Bellingham on an important journey of rejuvenation and discovery. 

Ever since Drayton Harbor Oyster Company moved into their new location at H Street Plaza in Blaine, we’d been plotting a sojourn to…

more »
All Aboard
An Excursion in the San Juans

The sun broke through the clouds as we pulled away from the slip in Squalicum Harbor, Jeffrey snaking the M/V David B between weather-worn fishing boats into the open waters of Bellingham Bay.

We were headed out for a four-day photography trip in the magical San Juan Islands and…

more »
#OptOutside
Action items for the environment

On Black Friday, don’t plan on cramming for Christmas at REI on the search for gifts for Cousin Eddie, Grandma Wilkinson, or your significant other. Across the country, the outdoor retailers’ front doors will be locked, giving its 13,000-plus employees the chance to #OptOutside and make a…

more »
Events
Today
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Holiday Favorites

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Naughty List Market and Cabaret

2:00pm|Broadway Hall

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Songs of Peace with Kulshan Youth Choir

5:30pm|First Congregational Church

Bellwether Premiere Wine Social

5:30pm|Lighthouse Grill

Holiday Party

6:00pm|Camber Coffee

DSA Movie Night

6:00pm|Academic West

Winter Pop-Up with Taylor Shellfish

6:00pm|Aslan Depot

Peaceful Poetry Reading

6:30pm|Village Books

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Storm Music Extravaganza

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Peace, Love, and Ukuleles

7:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Avalanche Awareness

7:00pm|Backcountry Essentials

History Holiday

7:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Good, Bad, Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Tomorrow
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

The Naughty List Market and Cabaret

2:00pm|Broadway Hall

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Connelly Creek Nature Area

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Holiday Craft Bazaar

3:30pm|Lynden Library

Drayton Harbor Shellebration

4:00pm|G Street Plaza

Gingerbread House Making

4:30pm|Ferndale Library

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Photos and Stories with James K. Papp

5:00pm|Gallery Pegasus

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Kids Night Out @ Western

6:00pm|Western Washington University

Lost Feast

7:00pm|Village Books

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Christmastime is Here with Skagit Symphony

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Saturday
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

NSEA Work Party

9:00am

Breakfast with Santa

9:00am|Sedro-Woolley Community Center

Winter Faire

10:00am|Whatcom Hills Waldorf School

Winter Arts & Crafts Festival

10:00am|Pioneer Park Pavilion

Old-Fashioned Christmas Market

10:00am|Friday Harbor Brickworks

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Fairhaven Winterfest

10:00am|Historic Fairhaven

Sumas Book Club

10:00am|Sumas Library

Mastering Wisteria

10:30am|Full Bloom Farm

Award-Winning Book Club

10:30am|Lynden Library

Snow Geese of Skagit

10:30am|Christianson's Nursery

Your Life is a Story Writers Group

10:30am| South Whatcom Library

Saltadena Celebration

11:00am|Saltadena Bakery

Winter Wonderland Gift Gala

11:00am|Carnation Building

Holiday Craft Bazaars

11:30am

Holiday Maker's Market

12:00pm|Terramar Brewing and Distilling

Holiday Joy with Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Holiday Tea and Crafts

1:00pm|North Fork Library

Festive Feasting Reception

1:00pm|Good Earth Pottery

Teen Art Fair

2:00pm|Blaine Library

Big Holiday reds tasting

2:00pm|eifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Shrinking the Worry Monster

2:00pm|Village Books

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

Bowman Bay Holiday

3:00pm|Bowman Bay

Noel Ensemble

3:00pm|Jansen Art Center

A Deep Dive Into Eve Deisher's Psyche

3:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

One Meditation

4:00pm| Boulevard Park

The Nativity

6:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Early Railroads of Whatcom County

7:00pm|Village Books

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Center Into Solstice

7:00pm|Cafe Blue

Holiday History Hi-Jinks

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Winter Solstice Concert with SeaMuse

7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Cidertails with Alexine Langdon

7:30pm|housand Acre Cider House

Heralding Christmas with Skagit Valley Chorale

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

The Kelley World Tour

7:30pm|Lummi Island Library

see our complete calendar »