Skagit River Trail at the North Cascades National Park Visitor’s Center

The North Cascades are truly an awe-inspiring sight. The rugged landscape is so raw that it can be intimidating for some people, and many of the trails are too difficult physically and mentally for beginner hikers. The smooth, easy 2-mile-long Skagit River Trail, however, proves that the difficulty of a trail doesn’t always correlate with its overall quality.

The Skagit River Trail starts at the parking lot of the North Cascades National Park Visitor’s Center. I’ve got the location pinned to the map at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to see it. If you just park in front of the center you’ll find an outdoor station with a map showing how to get to the trail head.

I hiked the Skagit River Trail on the same trip during which I did the Diablo Lake Trail, and while the Skagit doesn’t have views anywhere near as grand as Diablo Lake, I have to say I enjoyed it more. Really, I can’t pinpoint why. That little stretch of woods just has a very soothing, relaxing energy about it.

The Skagit River Trail is short, and much of it intertwines with portions of the Newhalem Campground, but the woods are still nice and silent. They have a sort of homey feel about them.

In a couple places, the trail leads out into the Skagit River. The wide tree canopy blots out the sun and, while I’m sure there are periods where the sun hits the spots, I don’t think they’d make realistic sunbathing areas. I could be wrong, though. I went there in the early morning.

Either way, the view from the shore is beautiful, with the Skagit at your feet and the soaring North Cascades in the distance. I definitely plan on hiking this little trail again next time in the area. I’d also like to check out the Newhalem Campground, as my guess is that that spot makes for some terrific sleeping.

Hiking the Diablo Lake Trail at North Cascades National Park

You’d be hard pressed to find any place in Washington state more rugged than North Cascades National Park and its surrounding area. The mountains jut straight up out of the earth, no foothills or gradual incline to speak of. The dramatic landscape makes many of the area’s trails among the most challenging you’ll find. Luckily for those not looking to set their thighs on fire or to take a mallet to their feet, the 7.5-mile-long Diablo Lake Trail is an easier option that nevertheless leads to some beautiful views.

Note that I said “easier” here, not “easy,” which is what some other sites designate the Diablo Lake Trail as. I disagree with that designation, and I base that disagreement on the fact that most of the people I came across on the trail were sweating heavily and asking how much farther they had to go.

Diablo Lake as seen from Diablo Lake Trail.
Diablo Lake as seen from Diablo Lake Trail. You come across this view within the first couple of miles of the trail.

I’m just getting back into hiking shape myself, but I’m not THAT far out of shape, and the trail certainly didn’t feel “easy” for me, just “easier” than the other trails I’ve done in the North Cascades. It’s no Storm King, but it’s no Box Canyon Loop, either.

I’m more apt to lean towards a classification of “moderately difficult” in terms of strenuousness. The Diablo Lake Trail is straightforward, though, and doesn’t have any river crossings or climbs or anything that will test one’s outdoors skills in any serious way (assuming that you don’t sustain some kind of injury, of course).

The trail takes you up the mountain and then down the other side to the shore of Diablo Lake. The lake is artificial, created by Ross Dam, which you can also see while being down by the lake. So, if you’re looking for a feeling of escaping civilization, this trail might not be for you.

Ross Dam as seen from the Diablo Lake Trail. A crane is working on top of the dam.
Ross Dam as seen from the Diablo Lake Trail. It’s somewhat intrusive and maybe an unwelcome reminder of human civilization, but the dam is actually kind of cool looking in and of itself. Quite a feat of engineering.

If you’re just interested in a nice, easier hike with some pretty views, the Diablo Lake Trail is a good choice. It’s not as as easy (and not nearly as short) as something like the Skagit River Trail, however, so there may be better options if you’re looking for something extremely quick and easy.

The trail leads through the base of  a boulder field that offers some interesting views. Another section of the trail leads over an extremely steep slope that drops off and leads a long, long ways down to the water at the bottom of the mountain. The trail is plenty wide at this spot, but people who don’t like heights might find it frightening.

North Cascades National Park is one of the lesser-visited parks in the Pacific Northwest, but its spectacular, rugged scenery shouldn’t be missed. The Diablo Lake Trail is a good starter hike to get to know the area and to get a feel for what it has to offer.

New Maury Island Incident Film Sheds New Light on an Old Legend

For me, one of the highlights of the UFO/Paranormal Conference at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino was their showing of The Maury Island Incident.

The film, now being shown on select dates around the Pacific Northwest, dramatizes one of the most fascinating events in Washington state history, and one of the most significant UFO events (or hoaxes, depending on where you stand on the issue) ever.

That event is known as the Maury Island Incident, and it just happened to be the event that spawned the “Men in Black” myth.

The event took place on June 21, 1947, just off the shore of Maury Island (same location as Point Robinson Lighthouse), which is just off Vashon Island, which itself is a short ferry ride from Tacoma‘s shore.

During the event that would come to be called the Maury Island Incident, Fred Crisman and Harold Dahl were working on a harbor patrol boat when six UFOs appeared in the sky.

One of the doughnut-shaped objects emitted a lava-like substance onto the boat. The impact of the substance killed the dog on board and broke a man’s arm. The men initially spoke about the event, but eventually the official story became that it was all a simple hoax cooked up to win the pair a spot in Fantasy magazine.

The new Maury Island Incident film, however, uses newly declassified FBI documents to make the case that the hoax claim was a lie made out of fear after Dahl and Crisman were harassed by unidentified men wearing black suits.

These “men in black” appeared to be unrelated to the FBI or the Air Force personnel also sent to investigate the situation. No one’s really sure who they represented.

If they were real, though, they managed to frighten two hardy Pacific Northwesterners enough that they destroyed their own reputations and said they’d been hoaxing everyone the whole time.

My purpose in this post isn’t to give away the new information contained in the film nor to fully recap the whole Maury Island Incident story, but instead to encourage readers to check out the film and the rest of the story.

The film is half-an-hour long and very well made, so much so that it can be enjoyed purely as a fictional movie, if the reader is not a UFO believer at all.

In the short space of 30 minutes, the movies packs in a whole lot of intrigue and emotion. I felt connected to the characters despite the relative brevity of the film and the broad scope of the events packed into that short time frame.

It’s well worth checking out, whether you’re a devout believer, a devout non-believer, or just someone interested in one of the most fascinating, iconic events in Washington state history.

 

A Visit to Point Robinson Light

Point Robinson is the Kind of Place People Call Cute

Listen, friends, I do not use the word “cute.” As far as I’m concerned, such a word has no place in any self-respecting nomad’s vocabulary. However, as I visited Point Robinson on Maury Island, I was fully aware it was the kind of place that many people, most of them women, would happily call “cute.”

That’s fine and good, by the way. Nothing wrong with “cute.” It’s just not a word I’d use, so I’m saying it through saying what other people would say. Dig?

Point Robinson: it’s cute…but I’m not the one who said it.

For my two cents, Point Robinson is interesting and relaxing. This is an easy trip and an opportunity to see a lighthouse up close, as well as to learn a little history.

Point Robinson: Providing Light Since 1885

Point Robinson has been operating since 1885. It’s located on the east shore of Maury Island, which is itself located just off Vashon Island, which can be accessed by ferry at Point Defiance Park. You drive from Vashon onto Maury, so no further ferrying is required.

In addition the “cute” (as others would call it, not me) lighthouse itself, Point Robinson has hiking trails, a long and walkable sandy beach, saltwater marsh (for the bird lovers), and woods. This also happens to be the spot at which I witnessed some of the biggest banana slugs I’ve ever seen.

A short walk from the lighthouse are the Keeper’s Quarters, which is basically the house in which the lighthouse keeper used to live (the lighthouse was fully automated in 1978). You can also rent boating supplies there.

According to Point Robinson website, they give ours mid-May to mid-September. I have never taken those tours myself and so can’t offer any personal information to you, dear readers. However, I can also say that I see no reason to doubt their proficiency!

I’m embedding a Google Map to lead you to the site if you choose to check it out. Robinson is a nice little day trip, and a good addition to any visit to Vashon Island, which is a place so charming that it’s unofficial motto is “Keep Vashon Weird.”

Weird…I can deal with that. “Cute,” on the other hand, I’ll leave to the good graces of others.

UFO/Paranormal Summit at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino

On my way out of the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino after day 1 of the 2018 UFO/Paranormal summit, a young casino employee jokingly warned me to be careful. “Don’t get abducted on the way to the car,” he said with a snicker and a wink at his coworker.

I didn’t take the mockery personally, because I was there as a tourist of the UFO/Paranormal world, not a true member. It was a taste, however, of what “experiencers” (the name used to designate those that have directly experienced UFO contact) and general paranormal enthusiasts alike have to put up. And you know what? It’s a bunch of crap. Those UFO/Paranormal “nutters” are some of the best people you’ll ever meet.

The truth of the matter is that I went to the summit hoping to see a bunch of weird, eccentric people. The truth is also that this article would be sure to get more “likes” and “claps” and shares if I pretended that was the case and exaggerated the people I met and made fun of them. I’m not going to write that, though, not only because it’s not true but also because, after hearing what they had to say, I’m one of them, damn it.

The people I met at the UFO/Paranormal summit were some of the friendliest, most curious, down-to-Earth (pun intended) people I’ve ever met. It was a pleasure to share the conference room with them.

UFO Summit menu, with picture of alien wearing a chef's hat.

I didn’t meet any fanatics. Really, considering the current political climate, where formerly rational people fly off the handle at anyone who slightly disagrees with them, these people were refreshingly open-minded and moderate in their views.

They also were unafraid to laugh at themselves. Stuffed aliens, a big cardboard cutout where you could put your face in the face of an alien in a disco suit, and funny images such as the one seen to the left were all over the conference room. These people know damn well how they’re perceived by the outside world, and they accept it. In fact, I’d say most of them seemed proud to have the courage to explore outside the mainstream. That’s the kind of folks I met.

The lectures and presentations were fun and fascinating. Wildlife biologist Joe Hauser, who also runs the Montana House of Mystery, was my personal favorite presenter. He discussed energy vortexes and the possible connection they may have to paranormal phenomenon, of which UFOs are now widely considered to be another part of. It’s a view that was also supported by Portland, Oregon science teacher and bigfoot researcher Thom Powell.

This is complex stuff that is too complicated to go into at length here, but I strongly recommend that anyone interested check out the fellows mentioned above, as well as physicist Jacques Vallee. The general idea they all play with is that there are porous spaces in the fabric of reality in certain places around the world, and the things we call “paranormal” come through these porous spaces occasionally.

If that hypothesis is right, then UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts, fairies, and all the myriad of other things we call “paranormal” are all actually part of the same phenomenon.

Some of the other presenters stuck with subjects that were more nuts-and-bolts types of things–the kind of simple “grey biological beings in metal spaceship” stuff you see in the X-Files.

Maureen Morgan, Washington state’s MUFON director, presented a very well-researched case to challenge the legitimacy of the recent government UFO disclosures. Morgan was passionately erudite in her presentation, slinging out referenced facts and biographies at breakneck speed. She practically had to be dragged off the stage, so caught up was she with this urgent need to get out what she had to get out.

Watching her, I decided that (1) she did indeed present some compelling information, and (2) she was the kind of person I wanted to hang out with, no matter if he ideas were right. She had real, earnest passion for her subject. How often nowadays do you find somebody like that? It was inspiring, to say the least.

So, I’m not going to give an extensive recap of the whole event here as it would take a few thousand words to do so. What I will say is that I had a great time at the UFO/Paranormal Summit, and I really look forward to hanging out with that crowd again.

In the meantime, I’ve got some research to catch up on. There be Bigfoot in them there hills, and the Northwest Nomad intends to find them.