The day that we left the North Cascades Park, we checked into somewhere called the Mazama Ranch. Aimed mainly at wanabee cowboys, we took a room for the night with a beautiful view, cleaned off the dust of five days camping, and hogged the washing machine for most of the night.
The next day we sprang up for the drive to Mount Rainier National Park. We had carefully inspected our National Geographic Road map of the United States, and found a road which, although unpaved, looked like its fifteen unpaved miles would save forty on the highway. Conscious of the need to put the car through its paces, we decided to take this road. Thus began our encounter with the Coloclaun Pass.
We eventually found the relevant road out of Wenatchee, a giant strip town. After heading along this road for about five miles, the tarmac ended, and the dirt road started. A few miles in it began to deteriorate and rise simultaneously. It's actually pretty cunningly designed, so that at each point you think "no point in turning around now". Eventually we found ourselves at the top of the pass, at 5,373 feet. We hadn't seen anyone or anything manmade for ten miles, which had been covered at an average speed of 10 mph. We later found that we'd also achieved fuel "ecomony" of around 5 mpg, as opposed to the usual 23. (our British readers may wish to note that a US gallon is only about 80% the size of the strapping British variety).
By this stage the "road" consisted of an area of the brush notable only because it was covered in fist-sized boulders, giant potholes and had our car on it. So we stopped, to look at the riot of wildflowers and enjoy our usual cheese sandwich lunch. We noticed a small amount of overflow from the radiator, but took little notice as we'd filled it the previous evening. Remember that.
Eventually we emerged three thousand feet lower from the far end of the trail, feeling like a very shaken thing. We had to pause there for twenty minutes to let the brakes cool down - they'd given up the ghost for the last few miles. Remarkably, they recovered fine, and we set off, now well behind schedule, for Mount Rainier.
It was still boiling hot, and another climb to 5,000 feet or more and the radiator overheated. And I mean really overheated. When we eventually refilled it, there was room for 2 gallons of water.
It's a credit to the engineering of the car that with the addition of the water and a quart of oil, the car seems none the worse. And throughout all this the engine itself never seemed even strained.
Eventually we limped into the crummy White Pass motel in the crummy strip where I also ate a crummy hamburger. Still, who knows? Maybe the rest of Naches is a garden city. I, for one, was glad to be in a town rather than stuck in the Coloclaun Pass at 5,000 feet with a car whose engine had given up the ghost and 2 flat tyres. Here's to you Beluga!
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |
The view from Washington Pass, which we travelled through to leave North Cascades
Wild flowers blooming on the pass