See Skagit: Diablo Lake Boat Tour

This summer, see the many places and meet the many faces of Skagit.

Tre on the new Alice Ross IV boat

Meet Tre Nabstedt. He’s one of three boat captains that takes you aboard Skagit Tour’s Alice Ross IV boat for an unforgettable cruise on Diablo Lake. This summer will mark his second season showcasing the incredible splendor of the area—from the distinctive turquoise color of the glacier-fed lakes to the architectural marvels of City Light’s Diablo and Ross dams. Tre recently sat down with us for a quick chat about Diablo Lake Boat Tours and what he enjoys most about working in the heart of Mother Nature.

Can you tell us a little about the Skagit Tours on Diablo Lake?
“Right from the beginning, people can expect to see a really nice glimpse of the natural beauty that lives here in the North Cascades. You get out on the water, see different wildlife and learn some fun facts about the lake, the surrounding mountains and glaciers, along with the fish and river ecosystems.

The tour also provides a more in-depth look of the natural systems and fascinating history of how the hydroelectric project was built and operated from the start of J.D. Ross’s vision up until today. It’s a pretty rewarding experience.”

A unique view of Ross Dam, one of three power generating developments at City Light’s Skagit Project

What type of wildlife is typically spotted?
“We see a ton of bald eagles, a lot of different species of ducks. You’re likely to see fish jumping out of the lake. You may see a deer, a black bear, or a mountain lion…there is SO much life up here.”

You never know what you’ll see in the North Cascades. This black bear was spotted during a Diablo Lake Boat Tour.

Who usually joins the tour?
“There’s always a great mix on board. Everyone from newlyweds and families to tour groups and retirees. Occasionally, folks will return to the tour and bring someone they want to share the experience with. It’s a great thing to give as a gift. We’ve also had a few multi-generational groups where grandparents bring grandchildren, which is always fun. It’s an easy day trip that pleases everyone.”

What are the common reactions people have when cruising the lake?
“I would say awestruck. People are completely amazed by the beauty. They’re generally very captivated. I never see bored faces.”

What attracted you to this job?
“By nature, I’m a mountain AND an ocean lover. We’re not on the ocean, but we’re still surrounded by this incredible water. I feel pretty lucky to spend my summers in Skagit…on a boat…up in the mountains. I love it.”

A stunning vista of Diablo Lake

Thank you, Tre, for providing a sneak peek of the “Skagit Magic” one can expect aboard! Seattle City Light has been offering the popular Diablo Lake Tour for more than 80 years, educating the community about the utility’s Skagit River Hydroelectric Project which provides clean, low-cost, renewable power to Seattle. To learn more or to book the tour, click here.

Seattle City (spot)Light: John “Mark” McGee

For the past seven years, Mark McGee has dished out happy smiles and full stomachs as cook at the Gorge Inn at City Light’s Skagit project. A retired Navy Air Traffic Controller, Mark was in the service for 22 years. In fact, it was his assignment to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island that made him want to stay in Washington state.

Today, Mark resides in Newhalem with his wife where they’ve lived since 2007. Together, they enjoy life in the mountains which consists of outdoor adventures like backpacking and car camping. They also share a great love for—you guessed it—cooking.

  John “Mark” McGee at the Gorge Inn

“I like exploring the back country. This area (Skagit) is a perfect jumping off point for that. As soon as you leave the trailhead, you’re pretty much on your own. My wife and I go out together. It’s fantastic,” said Mark. “I’ve hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Highway 20 to Hart’s Pass which is just drop dead gorgeous. There’s a place up there called Snowy Lakes which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I still can’t believe it’s not a part of a national park. I also enjoy Panther Creek.”

“I’ve always cooked. My mom taught me. When I retired from the Navy, I enrolled at Skagit Valley College. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I interviewed with the head of the culinary department and decided to change my major to culinary arts. My very first course was baking, and I had never baked a lick in my life. Baking is a science—in cooking you use recipes, but in baking you use formulas. I just fell in love with it and got my degree in culinary arts in hospitality management.”

“One recipe I learned from my mom was Maryland fried chicken. I still make it a couple times a year. My wife and I have fun cooking together. She makes a good gumbo. I love to cook Italian food like prawns Puttanesca or a nice Arrabiata sauce. In a way, cooking is like air traffic control in that there’s instant gratification. On the other hand, there’s also instant knowledge of making a mistake or knowing that someone hates your food. So, there’s instant feedback, good or bad, which I like.”

“I’m a classically French-trained chef. I’ve worked in fine dining, and I think when retirement comes, that I’d like a part-time job in a fine dining restaurant. That would be fun—to just focus on the food. The Herb Farm in Woodinville is a fantastic fine dining experience. Loulay is also excellent.”

“Here, we’re famous for the Dam Good Chicken Dinner. People love it. The menu’s been updated with a nice green salad and fresh green beans, but the chicken recipe is exactly the same. The recipe has to be from the 1930s—coming up on 100 years!”

“We especially like to take care of the line crews. They work hard…10, 12, sometimes 14 hours a day. The last thing they want to think about is cooking. They always support us. When the crews come up, they’re first in line and first in our hearts. We get to know them very well. They’re great folks. We’re like a family up here.”

“I’d also like to acknowledge my co-workers; Debbie Martin, Cindy Aldridge and Tara Benjamin. Without their support and help the Gorge Inn could not function as effectively it does. The Skagit cookhouses now and in the past, are not and could never be a one person show. It’s all about team effort.”

Thank you, Mark, for your service to our country and for all that you do to feed our appetites!