Opinion Columns & Blogs

Opening day eve and on North Cascades Highway, there's 5.5 miles to go

Whatcom and Skagit county anglers seeking the most direct route to their favorite Okanogan trout waters will have to settle for either a longer road trip or just visit a lake closer to home on the Saturday, April 26 kick off of lake fishing season 

For opening day fishers here bent on heading east, Stevens Pass, U. S. Highway 2, will be the nearest trans-mountain route available for trouting forays to Eastern Washington.

As of Friday, April 25, about 5.5 miles miles of snow-shrouded mountain byway separated east and west Washington State Department of Transportation crews clearing State Route 20, the trans-North Cascades route connecting North Puget Sound with the Okanogan.

On the west slope, the WSDOT crew was reported to have reached milepost 156, about 1.5 miles west of the Rainy Pass summit, while the east crew's heavy equipment had cut through the five Liberty Bell Mountain avalanche build-ups, pushed over 5,477-foot high Washington Pass and had reached the Blue Lake Trailhead at MP 161.5.

Besides the seasonal pack snow on the pavement, there now remains only the avalanche zones on the south flanks of Whistler Mountain in the vicinity of milepost 159 left to be cleared.

Highway workers reported the weather this past week reverted to less hospitable conditions including freeze/thaw temperature fluctuations and off-again, on-again snow showers that piled up enough white stuff to trigger aggravating, minor slides onto a number of the already cleared sections of State Route 20.

Given vagueries of mountain weather conditions, equipment endurance, drainage enhancement and repairs, WSDOT officials have not wavered from their original mid-May opening date for the 35-mile closed section of the North Cascades Highway. They do say this spring's clearing effort is on pace with those of past years with similar snow-packs.

Spring trout fishing opens in many lakes across Washington Saturday, April 26 including a host of seasonal waters in North Central Washington. To plan for early May fishing forays to the dry side once the highway opens, check the latest profiles on 22 greater Okanogan lakes in the outdoors column in the Sunday, May 4 Herald Sports section.