For years I’ve been curious about the town of Diablo, reached via one of the few roads that branches off Highway 20 through Washington State’s North Cascades. But until this week I was never curious enough to make the turn. On Wednesday I set out to assuage my curiosity and explore the tiny settlement.
Diablo is perched on a rare piece of flat ground in a largely vertical landscape, facing the turquoise water of Gorge Lake and just downstream from Diablo Dam. Its main feature is a cluster of old-fashioned houses with a sturdy presence that suggests a government works project (as is indeed the case–those houses were built to house Seattle City Light workers in the 1920s). There are some recreation facilities, including an indoor swimming pool, which I wondered at…just how much use can that pool have gotten, sitting across the road from a gleaming and forest-fringed expanse of open water? There’s a tennis court, too, and a carefully-fenced replica of any early water wheel that provided power before dams were built on the Skagit.
Diablo is a peaceful spot, in spite of its curious name–a pick-up and drop-off site for hikers, and home to two trailheads and a campground. I saw little activity the day I was there; houseplants in windows and a variety of outdoor decor lent an air of settled domesticity. Though the townsite piques my interest as a cultural landscape, it’s also a window on a rare way of life, sequestered in the mountains and immersed in breathtaking scenery that must account for at least some of the peace I felt when I finally took the time to visit.