The cabins are located in a rural area of the western foothills of the Cascade Mountain range of Washington state. The area is not “touristy”, yet attracts thousands of visitors due to the scenic and outdoor recreational attractions. Whispering Waters, Sky Beach Cabin and Mountain View are vacation rental cabins in Baring, Washington close to Highway 2, a National Scenic Byway winding through the beautifully rugged Cascade Mountains with numerous waterfalls and crystal clear rivers along the way. In addition to the abundance of conifer trees there are many native evergreen plants that keep Western Washington green year round. The air is fragrant with the smell of cedar and orange-scented fir. US hwy 2 is also on the southern limb of the 440 mile scenic Cascade Loop Highway and the south fork Skykomish which is a Washington State Scenic River. Partly because of the protections provided by these desinations and partly because of the ruggedness of the land, development has been limited which makes it a great place to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains. The Baring/ Index/ Skykomish area is about half-way between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker (as the crow flies), and about half-way between Seattle and Leavenworth, so can be a base from which to visit other areas.
Magnificent 6,000 ft Mt. Baring towers over the unincorporated town of Baring with approximately 300 full-time residents, with the Baring General Store/deli/post office the hub of socialization where locals gather for coffee & breakfast. Like most of the towns in the Sky valley, Baring began as a logging and mining town in the early 1900′s along the Great Northern rail line. There aren’t any operational mines now, nor much logging; but the trains still rumble through and logging trucks are a common sight on US highway 2.
The cabins are on the “outskirts” of the town in semi-private locations and two of the cabins are within walking distance (less than a mile) to the store. Even though there are other cabins around, they are not part of a planned community and trees and other features provide privacy. Two of the cabins, Mountain View and Sky Beach Cabin are accessed via a historic one-lane wooden suspension bridge. The bridge is regularly maintained by the county bridge crew and is very safe. The roads to the cabins are in good condition-no need for 4WD, except ocasionally in winter.
The closest grocery store is in Gold Bar, 13 miles west of Baring, which is on the way to the cabins when coming from the west. Gold Bar also has four restaurants. There is also a deli and small convenience store in Skykomish 9 miles east. It is an easy drive (90 minutes if you avoid rush hour traffic) to Seattle for sightseeing. Leavenworth, a Bavarian theme town with unique shops and good restaurants in a beautiful mountain setting is 60 minutes in the other direction on the east side of the Cascades.
Local Activities: This area is known for its abundance of outdoor recreational activities during all seasons. The cabins are located on privately owned land within Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Hiking is fantastic in this beautiful area, and there is a wide variety of closeby hiking trails – easy family walks through the woods to strenuous climbs for the more athletic. You can hike to waterfalls, trout lakes with crystal clear water surrounded by wildflowers, historic lookout towers, old growth forests, and to spectacular mountain top viewpoints. The normal hiking season is about June through October, but even during the winter there are some low elevation trails usually accessible and there is a list of these in the area information book available for your use while staying at the cabins. Hikes to higher elevations (4000ft & above) are usually snow-free by the end of July, but most of the trails will be hiked long before then by eager hikers who pack the snow down. All trailheads can be reached by 2WD vehicles once the roads are snow free. A parking pass is required at forest service trail heads and can be purchased at many local stores (daily $5, annual $30) and at the ranger station in Skykomish. Many of the Area Photos were taken on hikes. More hiking photos on Flickr.
For rock climbers there is the 500 ft Index Town Wall, featuring some of the most technical rock climbing in the state. For those who don’t climb, it is interesting to go watch the climbers and then hike a steep trail to the top of the wall that offers a fantastic view of Index and the north fork Skykomish River.
Rafting/kayaking A little further west is Boulder Drop, class IV rapids, on the main Skykomish River which thousands of rafters and kayakers conquer yearly. Spring and early summer are best for rafting, as the water level is usually too low by mid to late July, depending upon snow pack and current rainfall. There are also gentle family floats on parts of the Skykomish River. Bring your own equipment or sign up for a trip with one of the local rafting companies: Alpine Adventures 1-800-RAFT FUN 1-800-723-8386, Outdoor Adventures http://outdooradventurecenter.com/ in Index 425-883-9039.
WARNING: There are 3 sets of dangerous falls – Eagle, Canyon and Sunset Falls – 3, 5 & 7 miles downstream of Baring. These are not in the immediate vicinity of the cabins but ask for locations before floating downsream on the south fork.
Skyland Ranch in Gold Bar provides 1-2 hr guided Horseback riding trips along the Skykomish River. 360-793-2611 for reservations.
Local Railroad History: For railroad buffs, the 7.8 mile Cascade Tunnel can be viewed on the way to Stevens Pass, and wheelchair accessible Iron Goat Trail retraces the path of the original railroad grade, avalanche sheds and the original 3-mile Cascade Tunnel at the site of Wellington, the worse train disaster in US history.
There is an interesting history of turn-of-the century mining endeavors in this area, and the location of some of the mines can still be visited.
Sking: Stevens Pass Ski Area is 23 miles east of Baring, approximately 30 minutes if road and traffic conditions are good. AWD, 4WD or chains are required at times and good traction tires are always recommended. Miller River Road, half-way between Baring & Skykomish, is a good cross country skiing and snowshoeing destination when the snow level is 2,000ft or below. Snowshoes and ski equipment can be rented at the Nordic Center (Thurs-Sun) east of the pass. The closest snowmobile area is Foss River Road east of Skykomish – no rentals available.
Fishing: The fishing season is June 1-Nov. 30 for most game fish; but due to the falls (Sunset, Canyon and Eagle) there is limited fishing until the fish elevator goes into operation, usually late July through October, bringing up native steelhead and spawning salmon for catch & release. Bait and barbs are not allowed, and native steelhead and salmon must be released. The fishing season west of Sunset Falls ends Feb. 28, so a short drive will get you into more lucrative fishing waters. There is rainbow, cutthroat and bull trout in the river system, and the best fishing is usually mid-July through October after the spring snow melt and the water level is lower. Almost all of the river can be waded except after heavy rain or during snow melt that sometimes lasts into early summer. You can fish downstream of Sunset Falls (6 miles west) anytime during the season (usually June 1-Feb 28). Lake fishing opens the last Saturday of April. Most of the alpine lakes in this area require hiking, except Lake Elizabeth and Evans which are accessible once the roads are snow free, usually in July. A WA fishing license is required and there are frequent rule changes. Contact WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/ for more information and license purchase. Fishing licenses can also be purchased in Monroe at Fred Meyer & Sky Valley Traders 360-794-8818 both on Hwy 2, and Sultan Chamber of Commerce Main Street one block off Hwy 2. Drift boat fishing guide Scotty Landis 206-295-3221, and Ray Vermillion.
Biking: Abandoned logging roads make great mountain biking and 4-wheeling roads. A bike park at Stevens Pass opened 2012 with two expert trails with plans for further trail construction. Reiter Foothills between Index and Gold Bar is currently being renovated for off road vehicles, biking, and hiking.
Woodinville Wine Country Woodinville 35 miles (45 minutes)southwest is about half way to Seattle with two large wineries, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia, as well as numerous “store fronts” of first class wineries closeby. Washington State produces some very good wines. Redhood Brewery & Pub is also in the same area as the wineries. Chateau St Michelle offers a good outdoor summer concert series.
Boeing Everett Tour: During the tour of the world’s largest building by volume (472,000,000 cubic feet or 13,385,378 cubic meters), visitors will see airplanes being built. (Sometimes you will see airplane bodies being transported through Baring on the trains.)
Relaxing: Even with all these activities to participate in, some say the best thing about the area is the serenity. It’s very relaxing to just sit and watch the river flow by and chairs are strategically placed for this purpose. During the summer chairs are on the beach at Sky Beach Cabin and Whispering Waters.
Weather: At 775ft elevation Baring has limited snowfall; but snow is not unusual. If the forecast calls for a snow level of 1000 ft or below, it will be snowing at the cabins . The average daytime temperature in winter is usually low-30′s to mid-40′s with the temperature dropping at night to mid-low 30′s. Snow removal on Hwy 2 is usually excellent. Stevens Pass, 23 miles east of the cabin, is occasionally closed for avalanche control and sometimes chains are required, so please come prepared for winter driving conditions, especially if you’re planning to ski or drive to Leavenworth. The pass road report may be obtained by calling 800-695-7623.
Spring conditions often start in late February and continue usually through June with gradually warming, but still cool temperatures and frequent rainy days. April and May are the best months for wild spring flowers at this elevation, but you will see spring flowers as late as July at the higher elevation due to later snow melt. The river is usually highest in May-June when the mountain snow is melting.
Summer temps are usually very pleasant, with day temps in the 70′s to low 80′s, occasionally high 80′s-low 90′s. Anything over 80 degrees is considered insufferable by the locals, and that’s when we grab our chairs and tubes and head for the 50 degree waters of the river to cool off. As soon as the sun sets the temperature drops to mid 50′s at night which is great for cooling off the cabins (natural air conditioning). There is often a burn ban from late July until fall due to dry conditions and high fire danger, but the metal fire pits can be used unless there is a stage II burn ban. The rain that western Washington is famous for usually continues intermittently through June, with July and August the driest months of the year.
Fall colors begin in late August when the vine maples start turning bright red at the lower elevations. The best fall colors are usually the entire month of October with a succession of trees turning. The gold leaves of the big leaf maples are spectacular against the backdrop of the rugged Cascade Mountains. September and October are transitional months, weather wise, ranging from sunny and warm (60- low 70′s) to rainy and cool (50′s). The heavier rains and snow accumulation on the mountain tops usually start early November.