Seattle City (spot)Light: Kathy Hunter

Kathy Hunter’s City Light career began in June of 1990 when she joined the utility as a Cook Camp Service Aid for Skagit Tours. In her time at the utility, she’s taken on various roles from cooking and backing for the tours to other jobs as a Janitor, Laborer, Food Service Supervisor and Store Clerk. In 2013, she became a full time Administrative Specialist II starting at Ross Powerhouse, also filling in at Diablo Powerhouse. She now works out of the Skagit Office in Newhalem.

Kathy lives in the town of Marblemount with her husband of 36 years. Together, they have two children and three grandchildren. “We live near the Cascade River,” Kathy said. “We like to take our grandkids down there to walk along the trail. Gardening is another hobby of ours. Right now, our peas are starting to bloom!” Kathy also volunteers in Marblemount and has been a member of the Board for ten years, serving as president for the past three. In this week’s (spot)Light, Kathy recounts her days of Skagit Tours and shares her love of the outdoors.

Kathy Hunter at Skagit

“My first job at City Light was with Skagit Tours. I was hired as a camp service aide and worked at the cook house during the tour season. Back then, we worked out of Diablo at the old cookhouse and had three tours a day. The incline was also part of the tour. Guests would ride it up, get on the boat and ride it back down after the tour. We used to serve the Dam Good Chicken Dinner when they returned. I did that for about ten years. Eventually, I was brought on as an admin for the team at Ross Dam. That’s actually what started my career as an admin for the Skagit which is where I am today.”

“You can imagine what it was like to work up at Ross Dam. Getting there was a little adventure. There used to be a big crew boat that would transport us to the office. They do it differently now, but it was still kind of neat at the time. Occasionally, we would see something interesting during our boat ride. One time we saw a bear. Another time we saw a little two-seater amphibian car skirting across the lake. That was pretty funny.”

“One thing I really enjoy about my job is the location. Who can drive to work every day and just look at the scenery? There are very few folks who can. I love the country and its quietness. I just truly enjoy the outdoors. My dad was a farmer so I grew up on a farm. We had raspberries, but also chickens, pigs and cows. I even talked my dad into a horse. Those are some of my favorite memories. It was just amazing to grow up that way and have that kind of lifestyle.”

“Being at the Skagit is kind of like family. I love everyone I work with up here. When it’s time to retire, it’s going to be hard. Working with these folks for so long has been truly special.”

See Skagit: Dam Good Chicken Dinner

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

Chris is a culinary force of the Gorge Inn at City Light’s Skagit Project

Meet Chris Gochenour. He’s part of the culinary team behind Skagit’s hottest dinner reservation—the immensely popular Dam Good Chicken Dinner. When he’s not cranking out chicken for hungry visitors, you can catch Chris serving up meals at the Gorge Inn, a dining hall in Newhalem that caters to City Light employees and workers. Chris recently sat down with us for a quick chat about cooking, chicken and tradition.

What attracted you to working in Skagit?
“Working at a national park. I used to work at Denali National Park as a head chef at one of the park’s lodges. I’ve always liked working in this type of environment so here I am.”

Can you share a little bit about the history of the area?
“There used to be a train that came up here in the early 1900s which allowed folks to see the landscape up here and enjoy the mountains. It also helped to promote the Skagit Hydroelectric Project and educate people about the dams.”

The Gorge Inn is a fixture at City Light’s Skagit Project

The Dam Good Chicken Dinner is longstanding tradition here at the Gorge Inn. Tell us about that.
“The dinner is a signature stamp of the Gorge Inn. It’s a tradition that goes back to the 1930s. When we cook this meal, we’re recreating the magic of the dinner that was served back then. A lot of people have passed through these doors JUST for this dinner. It’s cool to be part of its history—to serve a historic meal. It’s only featured in the summer so it’s in demand when the season comes around.

Dam Good Chicken Dinner is made especially at City Light’s Skagit Project

“The chicken itself is oven baked, but somehow, some way it looks like regular fried chicken. It’s breaded, buttered and cooked at a high temperature. It’s a recipe that has been passed down for generations. The dinner comes with a side of mashed potatoes which are cooked with rosemary and garlic. We also infuse thyme into the cream. Fresh green beans and homemade gravy complete the entrée.

Freshly baked Apple Blueberry pie—a specialty of the Gorge Inn

“Then there’s dessert. We bake a fresh pie each dinner. Our usual flavors are peach and apple blueberry—all locally sourced ingredients. We’ve also served other flavors; it just depends on the season.”

Tell us about the people who attend the Damn Good Chicken Dinner.
“A lot of people from the nearby campgrounds will plan the dinner as part of their trip. We have a lot of families. Other folks have heard about it in Seattle and make a little road trip out of it. Then, of course, there are those who book it as part of the Ladder Creek Falls tour, which makes for a great evening here.”

Can you describe the vibe of the Gorge Inn on these dinner nights?
“It’s friendly—a communal atmosphere. A lot of folks talk to one another. They meet new people sitting at their tables, talk about similar interests and learn what they might have in common. It always happens that a group will meet hiking on a trail and then they unexpectedly run into each other at the dinner.  Everyone is generally pretty happy by the end of the meal.” T

hank you, Chris, for providing a sneak peek of the “Skagit Magic” one can expect when visiting the Gorge Inn, an historic part of Seattle City Light’s Skagit River Hydroelectric Project which provides clean, low-cost, renewable power to Seattle. To learn more or to secure your reservation for the Dam Good Chicken dinner, click here

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.

Skagit Tours: New and Improved for 2016

Today marks the beginning of the season for City Light’s Skagit Tours, and the experience for guests is better than ever this year. A new vessel, the Alice Ross IV, is making its debut on the Diablo Lake Boat Tours.

The new Alice Ross IV on a test run in April 2016

As it name implies, the Alice Ross IV is the fourth vessel to show visitors to the North Cascades the wonders of Diablo Lake. The Alice Ross boats have been in service to the public for more than 80 years. They are all named in honor of Alice Ross, the wife of J.D. Ross, the man who helped make hydroelectric energy generation along the Skagit River a reality.

The Alice Ross I on Diablo Lake in 1935

The Alice Ross IV is 55 feet long and has a capacity of 49 passengers and crew. It has an air-conditioned and heated cabin, an open aft deck and an onboard head. Best of all, it has large glass windows all along its cabin sides and roof, making for an excellent viewing experience—even from inside the boat.

Guests can stay dry and comfortable in the temperature-controlled cabin of the Alice Ross IV.

Located about 128 miles northeast of Seattle, Diablo Lake is a reservoir created by the Diablo Dam, one of three dams built in the last century on the Skagit River by Seattle City Light. Lake Diablo is a beautiful jade-turquoise color due to the glacial flour found in the waters that feed it.

 An aerial view of Diablo Lake looking south

City Light offers two different types of boat tours on Diablo Lake: a full tour that begins in the morning and ends in the afternoon, with a snack and lunch provided, or a shorter tour later in the afternoon. Both options provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about the unique history of the lake, the amazing biodiversity of the surrounding habitat and its wildlife. And, of course, views of the snow-capped mountains and jade waters are even more enjoyable from the cozy cabin of the new Alice Ross IV.

The 2016 Skagit Tours season closes in September 2016, but you should book today if you’d like to embark on his adventure. Dates are filling up quickly!

Book a Diablo Lake Boat Tour here.

Seattle City Light Testing New Skagit Tours Boat, Alice Ross IV

Testing the Alice Ross IV on Padilla Bay.

Construction is complete on Seattle City Light’s new tour boat, the Alice Ross IV, and sea trials are underway to test the boat before it begins service for Skagit Tours on Diablo Lake this summer.

City Light is replacing the Alice Ross III, which spent years providing Skagit Tours visitors rides across Diablo Lake. The new boat was built by Rozema Boat Works in Mt. Vernon.

The new boat is 55 feet long with a 16-foot beam. It has a rated capacity of 49 passengers and crew and is Americans with Disabilities Act accessible. The cabin uses as much glass as possible, including in the roof, to allow for the best outward visibility possible. A heating and air conditioning system, as well as an onboard head, will increase passenger comfort over the previous boats. The heating and cooling system has the capability to be powered from shore while docked, so the boat can be warmed or cooled before a tour without the need to run the engines.

A 14-foot open aft deck also allows for passengers to enjoy the tour from outside. The boat is powered by twin 500 hp John Deere diesel engines, which turn Hamilton jet drives.

This is the fourth tour boat named for Alice Ross, the wife of City Light’s second superintendent.

The Alice Ross IV was launched Dec. 30 on Padilla Bay, east of Anacortes, for its trial runs.

“It was a very cold, but beautiful, day with calm water, perfect for our first tests of the boat,” Sr. Capital Project Manager Josh Jackson said. “Overall the boat performed really well.  It’s smooth and has plenty of power, while still being relatively quiet.  We were able to get up to about 28 knots at full RPM. The target is 12 at cruising RPM — no problem.”

Testing will continue all week, including engine tuning and a visit from Washington State Labor and Industries representatives to witness the stability tests.

This is the fourth Skagit Tours boat to be named for the wife of City Light’s second superintendent, J.D. Ross, who led the development of the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. J.D. Ross is often referred to as the father of Seattle City Light.