On my third day in the North Cascades National Park, I decided to visitt the Newhalem Visitor Center and the nearby areas. The visitor center comprises of a architectural building full of many beautiful, interactive exhibits and a group of trails. It is situated across the Skagit River from the North Cascades Highway 20 near milepost 120 and the town of Newhalem.
When my friends and I reached the visitor center, we were greeted by a friendly interpretive ranger called Paul..He explained us the difference between a black bear and grizzly bear skull. Paul knows everything about the region and surrounding areas. He said he loves outdoor activities and looking to make a career in te field once he graduates from university. .He helped us brainstorm ideas for connecting urban youth to the great outdoors. His recommendations included providing food and transportation. In nutshell we had a great discussion.
After a chat, we started our own to explore the interior of the visitor center. The natural light streaming into the hall through the large skylight at the centre of the building showcased the stunning photographs and paintings that hung on every wall. We then went into a room full of colourful, unique exhibits. There was a cool, super-size slug in the centre of the room. We wanted a ride but were disappointed to learn that the slug is not functional. We had a plan to ride on it and take a quick tour around the park but the hope dashed.
Classic photographs in the hall showcased lumberjacks posing with huge trees. Some photographs also demonstrating the history of timber in the region. We were informed that the park is now 93% designated wilderness, that means that logging is not allowed an more. Three hydroelectric in and around Nehalem cater approximately 15% of the power for Seattle city.
In a corner of the exhibit room there was a fabulous section that demonstrated the impact of natural disasters like forest fires. The audio visual presentation is top class. A lightning bolt strikes in the sky and then a screen showed a growing wildfire. The visuals quickly moved the succession of events that follow a wildfire, including the first-growth trees and the animals that live best in the area. The special effects used in the exhibit are really exciting and it was wonderful to see visitors get engrossed by the visuals. It is noteworthy that a wild fire broke out in the mountain near Newhalem and it took days to douse the flame.
We took help of another expert to visit two special places we had in mind. The first was the Gorge Overlook at the bottom of Gorge dam, where we experience an excellent view of a waterfall. The second place was of Diablo Lake. From the railing, the picturesque Diablo Lake, flanked by several snow-clad peaks, glistened in the sun. The water of the lake has an unusual color because of silt washing out from under glaciers. The wind was strong but we were engrossed in the thrill and took it in our stride.