The American Alps

After more than a year of COVID and travel restrictions, many trips have fallen by the wayside or postponed to who-knows-when. My husband and I have had several trips delayed or rebooked as different trips altogether. In the meantime, while waiting for borders to open and safety protocols to be met, we have not been in the mood to just stay home indefinitely.  Since we live close to many great outdoor opportunities, we have visited Yellowstone, WY and the Olympic National Park in Washington state. They each lie only a day’s drive from us in opposite directions.

But if you have a hankering to visit Europe and COVID or pocketbooks are preventing you hopping a plane abroad, I have a couple other suggestions for you right here in the USA.  One option to see Swiss-like Alps you have probably heard about, Glacier National Park, Montana. Nicknamed the Crown of the Continent, Glacier has many visitors every year. This year most roads leading into the park are under construction however and may limit access to the park’s beauty. You may want to plan a visit at another time. In fact, some of the campgrounds will not be open this summer either. Updates on current COVID alerts or conditions can be found at Glacier National Park (US National Park Service). Also a portion of the park reaches into Canada and the borders are still closed there too.

There is a beautiful drive on Going to the Sun Road which crosses the Glacier National Park however. Construction is slated on it from October 2021to April 2022 but should be open to the public the rest of the time. In order to drive this road, a $2 reservation is required in addition to park fees even if you don’t already have a park pass. They can be acquired online here. Glacier National Park Ticketed Entry, Glacier National Park  The last time I was on that road, we put the top down on the convertible and especially enjoyed the views. You may be splashed by water careening off the roads like in my picture below too.

Another option would be to see a National Park that is generally unsung in the USA.  Listed in National Geographic’s  “10 National Parks You Did Not Know Your Needed to Visit “ (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/10-national-parks-should-need-visit) is the the North Cascades National Park in northern Washington state, often called the American Alps. 

The American Alps in Washington state.

I had the pleasure of living in these mountains during my formidable years of 5th to 7th grade. My father designed two of the main bridges on the North Cascades Scenic Hwy. And whereas you will hear people say they are a city girl or country girl, I will always say I am a mountain girl. To drive through this area, no pass is needed or reservations required. There are two large dams that create gigantic lakes which supply Seattle with their main power source and endless beauty.

My house would have been in the lower left hand corner, in the trees. The schoolhouse was the building in the open area. Now it is a tourist center I think.

As a child, I hiked and biked all over this area. I explored abandoned talc mines (across the bridge, lower right hand corner) and the family would load up the station wagon to watch the bears at the dump (out of range of this picture to the lower left). I attended a four-room schoolhouse that served students first to eighth grade. The town had sweatshirts made saying Newhalem Hillbillies that we wore proudly. It was a great place to have childhood.

There are over 300 glaciers in the North Cascades, more than any other national park except Alaska. Tours out of Seattle bring people throughout the summer. The original pioneers who ventured into this area navigated tough terrain. Alexander Ross, who is the namesake for one of the dams, said “A more difficult route to travel never fell to man’s lot.” But if wilderness and nature-loving is in your blood, you will not let that stop you. The European Wilderness Society says 66% of Germans love the wilderness. Germans love wilderness.

I appreciate those who broke the trail for the rest of us to enjoy. Maybe we will venture back that way on our next trek away from home. You are welcome to visit the American Alps too. Or if that is too far from home, search for National Parks near you.NPS.gov Homepage (US National Park Service)

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