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My Afternoon Drive Over the Mountain Loop

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My wife usually spends every Sunday at her church with the other parishoners; so, unless I've got a job, I typically vegetate around the house on Sundays.

Today I got bored about noontime and decided to drive up to Marysville to the Navy Support complex to get a haircut. I can't get a decent military cut locally at any of the Super Cuts or anything like that. Every time I try, they dink it all up and try to turn me into one of those American Idol contestants; which is pretty funny with the little bit of hair I've got left.


While I'm sitting there in the BX barbershop waiting to get my hair cut I picked up a magazine and read an article about the mountain loop that runs up around Mt. Baker to Darrington and then cuts over a dirt road and Barlow pass back to Lake Stevens. I figured what the hell and after I got sheared I headed out.

It was a nice sunny drive until I got just past Darrington and the pavement ran out and I found myself on a one-lane mountain road. I kind of loped along taking it easy as I went and eventually found a hummer breathing down my ass. Some assh*le from the city with the pedal down not even bothering to enjoy the drive. I could have easily made his life miserable by speeding up and letting him drive the next 14 miles through that cloud of dust but I figured I'd just enjoy myself so I let him by.

The road meanders alongside a stream. After a while, I came upon a rapids where I took a couple of pics.

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The road continues to wind through the forest for nearly 16 miles. The worst of it was about 300 meters from the end of the dirt section when I began driving through snow that was covering the road. The first patch was about 8 inches deep, the second about 10, the third about 15 inches and the ground underneath was just muddy ruts from where the 4 wheelers had powered through. The baja just laughed at the snow and deep ruts and she went through like there was nothing there. Then, as I approached the turn onto the pavement at the pass, the road angled upward a little more steeply and narrowed to a little cut through an embankment with a snowdrift about 3ft. high across the track. I just steered the baja up onto the 45° bank and rolled around the drift without so much as a slip.

As I turned onto the pavement I discovered a bunch of cars parked there. Folks had come the counterclockwise route and when they'd seen the drift they'd chickened out. Lots of mini vans and family cars. I'm guessing they were some pretty disappointed folks to drive all the way up there and then to be stopped by a few hundred yards of snow. I'd seen the sign in Darrington that said "Closed to Through Traffic" but I'd assumed it was a mistake, 'cuz that road is only supposed to be closed during the winter. I didn't realize that there's still be snow over the road the first week of summer.

After the pass, I continued on for a mile or so until I saw a sign that said Trailhead 2, Scenic Lookout 1. I turned down that road and about a half mile in encountered the Hummer going the opposite direction. A little later on I passed a big Ford 4wd crewcab Pickup with about 6 dudes standing around drinking beer. As I went by, they said something but I didn't hear them; I was too buzy groovin' to a pretty awesome blues CD someone had sent me.

As I continue up the hill, I stopped to take a picture of the mountain up ahead.

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Then I rounded a bend and found that part of the hill had slid down and was partially blocking the road; now I knew what they'd been yelling about. I could see the churn marks where both the Hummer and the big ford had turned around. I sized the gap up and didn't even slow down; just eased her through as closely as I could, snapping off a branch with the left side window pillar as I went through.

Up at the top, I snapped another picture of the mountain.

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And then I headed back down. This time, I took a picture of the slide as I appoached and I got out to snap pictures of my tire tracks and what's over the edge of that road.

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It doesn't look like it in the photos, but that's about a 200ft. drop.

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I took one more shot before I mounted up and drove back down and then drove the other 50 miles back home.

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It was an enjoyable afternoon. On the one hand I felt guilty that my wife missed out on seeing the forest; but on the other hand I was glad she didn't come - if she had she would have made the drive hell. She's terrified of the woods and particularly of heights. She once freaked out while I was driving up the Pacific Coast Highway along the Oregon coast and wouldn't stop screaming until I turned east and cut diagonally across the state in order to get her on highways that she considers safer.

On the way up that mountain her side of the car would have been on the drop off side. I can just see her in my mind's eye, screaming bloody blue murder and scrambling over that console and me trying to get past me out my door and causing me to stray that extra 3 inches to the right and then we really would have been in a pickle.




Sorry about the pics. If I had a fancier photo program I'd clean up the brightness and contrast. They look sort of over-exposed or something. That's pretty weird, 'cuz it was bright and sunny up there.

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