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April 15, 2013 at 11:33 AM

North Cascades Highway set to reopen on Tuesday

north cascades

Crews are clearing the North Cascades Highway for an expected reopening Tuesday. Their quirky mascot, a plastic flamingo dubbed Pink Floyd, reminds them of avalanche danger. (WSDOT photo)

The North Cascades Highway is set to open  Tuesday at 1 p.m., barring any last-minute surprises from Mother Nature, say state officials. But bicyclists eager to pedal  the newly-cleared mountain highway, one of the most scenic in North America, likely will slip beyond the gate at first light Tuesday for an epic ride without cars.Crews have been working for weeks to clear the dozens of miles of  mountain highway which are closed  every winter, usually around Thanksgiving,  because of heavy snow.

“The weather will make the call,” said Jeff Adamson of the Washington State Department of Transportation on Monday.  Avalanche danger could force a last-minute delay, but travelers can check the road  status online  or by calling 5-1-1.

DOT officials usually look the other way when bicyclists start up the road early, said Adamson.  But motorists will line up behind the highway gate, especially on the west side near Rockport, for the 1 p.m. opening.  The 90-something Tootsie Clark, matriarch of the Skagit River Resort in Rockport,  should be there to wave them on their way, said Adamson.  She started coming with her dad for the opening day of the highway back in 1973, said Adamson, with cinnamon rolls and coffee, and has continued the tradition.   

The reopening of the road, part of Highway 20 , is always a boon for the Methow Valley, the central Washington outdoors mecca to which it leads. Last year the highway didn’t reopen until May 10.

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