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The high life
The Cascade Range may have been named for its countless waterfalls, but its true calling card has to be its rugged, crumpled peaks—the Liberty Bells, the Seven-Fingered Jacks, the Steamboat Prows—all rising abruptly from deeply carved valleys and cleaving the Far West into Farther and Farthest. They divide the edge of the continent into wet and dry too; the lush Pacific side can see 1,000-plus inches of snow in a winter, while the eastern fringes make sagebrush and ponderosa feel right at home. And though the Cascades technically and geologically start in Northern California and extend north to southern British Columbia, it’s in Washington that the granite swath reaches its climax. Here’s the gracefully hulking volcanic cone of Mt. Rainier. The alpine lakes that glitter sapphire, turquoise, and aquamarine. The 300 glaciers of North Cascades National Park—the most anywhere in the country outside of Alaska, enough for the range to warrant being dubbed the “American Alps.” The wilderness is crisscrossed with thousands of miles of trails. But between the fanglike high points? The Cascades are an outdoorsy circus for berry pickers, car-camping families, weekend warriors, and anyone who loves fleece and Gore-Tex. It’s laughably easy to find world-class fishing in cold, clear rivers like the Methow. Winding state routes like 706 and 20 climb to cliffside viewpoints that leave your heart pounding just a little bit harder. And pretty much every homespun gateway town is stocked with fresh huckleberry pies, produce stands, and enough great Northwest coffee to fuel a rocket to the moon. Or at least to the next stunning curve in the road.
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